English 233-1 - Winter, 2020

Problems in American Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 55543
Time: M 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier American
Focus: Interdiscipline, Method


    Water: An Environmental Humanities Seminar

    This team-taught interdisciplinary seminar will introduce students to the field of environmental humanities, exploring changing connections between peoples and the natural world as they are reflected in materials drawn from literature, history, the arts, philosophy, anthropology, geography, ecology, and the social sciences. We will focus our attention on the uniting concept of freshwater, including such topics as the cultural dimensions of drought, irrigation and drainage, fisheries, river engineering, hydropower, water quality, flooding, glaciology, sea level rise, and littoral studies. (Very limited attention will be given to oceanic studies.) Given the training of the instructors, the bulk of the materials will relate to North American locales, but there will be significant attention paid to water issues from across the globe.

    Students from all disciplines who are interested in environmental history, environmental justice, ecocriticism, science studies, and geography are encouraged to participate.

    Note: Open to graduate students from any UCD program. Cross-listed as ENL 233 and History 202H; students may enroll through either department for credit. Students should sign up for whichever version works best with the requirements of their particular program. For English graduate students, the course fulfills the method requirement (historicism, environmental humanities) and may fulfill either the early or later national requirement, depending on the subject of the final paper. For History students, the course fulfills American history seminar requirements. Seminar paper instructions will be tailored to the home discipline of the student.

    Please note that the texts listed below are illustrative. Instructors will post a finalized list of readings one month before the beginning of the winter quarter.


    Participation: 50%
    Final Project: 50%


    The Invention of Rivers, Da Cunha
    The Hydrologic Cycle and the Wisdom of God, Tuan
    The Conquest of Nature, Blackbourn
    Liquid Landscapes, Navakas
    Hazardous Metropolis, Orsi
    Beyond Chinatown, Erie
    Practical Water, Hillman
    The Water Knife, Baciagaluppi
    Nature, Incorporated, Steinberg
    A WA Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Thoreau
    The Organic Machine, White
    Seeking Refuge, Wilson
    Flint Fight Back, Pauli
    Our History is the Future, Estes
    Haunts of the Black Masseur, Sprawson