Instructor: Carlson T/Th 12:30pm – 1:50pm
BoK: HU – Humanities
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air.
How did the “environment” and “ecology” get invented? The idea of a holistic earth in which humankind is just one species among many dates from the Romantic period (1780-1850). Erasmus Darwin (Charles’s grandfather) coined the term “economy of vegetation” for it. William Wordsworth wrote of a world where humans were “rolled round in rocks and stones and trees.” John Clare described the life of birds with an intense scrutiny that was unprecedented in
poetry. John Constable and JMW Turner made clouds and light, instead of gods and goddesses, the heroes of their paintings. Byron, seeing the destruction of nature by capitalist greed, predicted climate change and mass extinction. We will explore, in their social and scientific contexts, the writings and visual art that brought environmental consciousness into being and that also popularized radical ways of experiencing the environment, such as the journals of Dorothy
Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge describing the new leisure activities of nature walking and mountain climbing. The legacy of these pioneers in contemporary environmentalist thinking will also be considered in discussion of writers and artists such as Diane Ackerman, Bill McKibben, Barry Lopez, and Andy Goldsworthy.