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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Can Literature Save the Environment?

Instructor(s): Michael Marx, English

How can we save the world from the destruction of the environment as we know it? Do we legislate new laws and regulations? Do we protest in the streets? Do we pray for salvation—the earth's as well as our own? One often overlooked but powerful solution is literature: the power of the written word. In "Can Literature Save the Environment" we will examine the influence that literature (broadly interpreted) has played in shaping our understanding and response to the environmental crises we face in the twenty-first century. The seminar will examine the relationship between literature, politics, and social action, focusing our attention on the relationship between literature and the environment. We will begin with reading selected essays of John Muir, the founding inspiration for the Sierra Club, and then consider Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which started the worldwide environmental movement; Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang, embraced by Earth First! as the source of its radical eco-defense; and The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, which, in 1971, introduced environmentalism to children. We'll conclude our examination of the power of words with an analysis of Al Gore's 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, that awakened us to the realities of global warming.

Course Offered