Spring 2024

Reading Land, Writing Waters

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-355  |  English, as ENGL-352


Lisa Brooks (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 352 and AMST 355) In this course, we will leave the classroom and get out on the land. The class begins in winter, a time when many people huddle indoors. We will instead go outside and read the winterland, beginning with a tracking workshop. Readings will include Robin Kimmerer’s influential essay, “The Language of Animacy,” which uses the lens of Indigenous languages to reconsider the boundaries of personhood. We will discuss how language shapes the ways in which we categorize other beings, such as animals and trees, as well as other humans. Our close reading of land and texts will enable us to see how our “reading practices” are shaped by language. Spring will take us to local waterways, including Amherst College’s Wildlife Sanctuary and the Quabbin Reservoir, where we will read William Cronon’s classic essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness” in relation to these built environments. Lauret Savoy’s Trace will lead us to consider our embodied experiences and histories in relation to the places where we live. Throughout, we will grapple with critical questions. How are concepts like “nature” and “culture” intertwined with constructions of race and gender? How has the conservation of “wilderness” been entangled with colonial dispossession and removal? Even as we spend much of our class time on the ground, we will cultivate the craft of writing as a deliberative, interactive process, with frequent informal writing, collaborative workshops and creative nonfiction.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Brooks.

How to handle overenrollment: Students will be asked to send a short writing sample and/or a statement about why they want to take the course.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Outdoor education, including close attention to landscape, moderate hiking, cold weather, snow, mud. Immersive learning. Emphasis on reading, written work, group work, field trips, visual analysis, kinesthetic learning, aural learning.


Other years: Offered in Spring 2022, Spring 2025