Jump to: 2018-2019 courses | Fall 2017 | Jan Plan | Spring 2018 | Other courses

New courses supported by the Environmental Humanities Initiative


EN115H: English Composition: Environmental Imagination
Four credit hours. Fall 2017. Burke

Considers the environment and understanding the ways in which it is represented, imagined, constructed, and manipulated by humans. We will start with a historical foundation in literature, and add examples from the visual arts, music, philosophy, religion, and the built environment, asking the question, what do our imaginative products reveal to us about our relationship to the non-human? Students will engage with the Maine environment on several occasions, including two field trips to the Maine mountains and seacoast.

SP397: Jesuits and the Origins of Environmental History
Four credit hours. Fall 2017. Millones

The Jesuits’ observations on nature during the Early Modern period can be found in a variety of texts and images produced from anywhere the members of the Society of Jesus established their missions or explored new lands. We will study the Jesuits’ narratives about the geography and natural world of the Americas and their thoughts about the changes in the biological and physical environment. Students will engage with environmental humanities by analyzing the Jesuits’ contribution to environmental history, including hands-on experience with rare book editions and a digital platform. Environmental humanities lab. Prerequisite: A 200-level Spanish course.

HI248: Nuclear Visions, Environmental Realities
Four credit hours. Josephson

This environmental humanities course will examine the environmental history of nuclear power, peaceful and military. Using a variety of materials from a variety of disciplines and genres of human expression, students will consider the impact of military and civilian nuclear technologies on the environment, including human, machine (nuclear technology), and nature interactions. They will, in a strongly interactive approach using such primary sources as films, maps, archival documents, political cartoons, letters to the editor, beauty pageants (“Miss Atom!”), and photographs, engage questions of energy, nature, landscape. In addition to writing assignments, students will engage “Nuclear Visions” via a blog or webpage, endeavoring to produce and disseminate knowledge beyond print media. Their hands-on, project based learning efforts will be stored at the Colby digital commons site.

Fall 2017

AR347: Art and Maine
Four credit hours. Sheehan

This humanities lab explores Maine’s important role in American art. In 2017-2018, it focuses on three case studies from the late 19th and 20th centuries: the landscapes of Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley, and the Wyeth family. Themes include Maine’s representation as a natural resource, as an embodiment of local, national, and international values, and as an artistic origin or refuge. Research and writing assignments incorporate firsthand study of objects in the Colby Museum, Portland Museum of Art, and Farnsworth Art Museum as well as fieldwork at Prout’s Neck and Allen Island. For their final project, students contribute to the regeneration of the Archives of Maine Art, first established at Colby in 1963 and now housed in Special Collections.

AR265: Sculpture I: Architecture and Site
Four credit hours. Borthwick

This introductory sculpture studio focuses on topography modeling, the siting of architecture, and the dynamic material of wood. Students learn about the principles of concept building and 3-D design and apply them to the fabrication of sculptural works. Students learn the fundamentals of design and studio safety, while producing works of individual interest. Two major projects are supported by sketchbook entries and the creation of models and maquettes.

AM228 Nature and the Built Environment
Four credit hours. Lisle

Nature and the Built Environment Built environments order human experience and action, shaping people’s sense of themselves and the world. We examine how the built environment has influenced and expressed Americans’ relationships with nature. We track how ideas about the natural environment emerge in different historical and geographical settings and consider the material and environmental consequences of these beliefs. Topics include park design, suburban development, environmental justice campaigns, and green building. In this reading-intensive discussion course, students develop abilities to interpret material, spatial, visual, and historical evidence.

AM297: Art, Community, and Ethical Urban Development
Four credit hours. Lisle

We explore how buildings and neighborhoods can be platforms for art, culture, and community. How might we ethically redevelop urban spaces, constructing sustainable places that value beauty and resident rights over narrow profit logics? We examine particularly Waterville and Washington Park, on Chicago’s South Side, as case studies. In this interdisciplinary humanities lab, foregrounding experiential and community-oriented learning, we will partner with a course at the University of Chicago being taught by artist Theaster Gates and visit Chicago once.

AY365: Space, Place and Belonging
Four credit hours. Tate

Examines the origins of human claims to belonging in particular places and landscapes. We consider embodied space, as well as how place produces and is produced by gender, race, and other social identities. Our analysis spans spatial scales, with a particular focus on the Americas. We examine the social processes of community formation, enabling connection even as they generate exclusions and boundaries; the infrastructures of place and community, their material deployment and how they enable particular forms of belonging; and how mobility in the contemporary moment contributes to the emergence of new identities as well vulnerabilities. Origins theme course.

EN233: Data and Literature during the Scientific Revolution
Four credit hours. Hanlon

Examines the origins and history of data in its epistemological context, focusing on the ways that literary texts contributed to Enlightenment notions of data and on how literary texts provide data. Combines histories, imaginative literature, philosophy of science, and theories of data and data science to critically assess the relationship between data and meaning. Fulfills English C and E requirements.

EN/ES 283: Environmental Humanities: Stories of Crisis and Resilience
Four credit hours. Walker

What can literature teach us about nature and environmental
justice? Do the humanities and environmental studies share a vision of a sustainable future? Is it possible to understand climate change without telling stories about its uneven global impacts? To address these and other questions, we will examine how the environmental humanities implicitly respond to the ?two cultures? debate. We will then investigate the relationship between environmental justice and western societies’ extractive logics, economies, and management of nature. From within this theoretical framework we will analyze novels, poetry, and environmental films.

EN297B: Science Fictions
Four credit hours. Ardam

Introduces students to the diverse genre of science fiction, a genre that imagines the possibilities and limitations of human experience, thought, and worlds. Topics will include alien encounters, time travel, artificial intelligence and post-human life-forms, and environmental apocalypse. We will read short stories and novels by Wells, Asimov, Dick, LeGuin, Butler, Gibson, Ishiguro, Chiang, Whitehead, Mandel, as well as explore science fiction in film (Blade Runner, Arrival) and television (The Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica, Orphan Black). Fulfills English C requirement.

EN382: Environmental Writing: Writing on Place
Four credit hours.

A creative writing course that uses the workshop method to teach students about the principles, strategies, and achievements of writing about the relationship of human to nonhuman. Focus on the role that place plays in that relationship. Students study professional models, draft exercises, workshop their peer’s writings, and produce finished essays and narratives for a final portfolio.

ES233: Environmental Policy
Four credit hours. Nyhus

A comprehensive and interdisciplinary introduction to the process and challenges of developing, implementing, and evaluating environmental policy. The roles of costs and benefits, uncertainty and risks, science and technology, and attitudes and ethics are explored. Historic and contemporary case studies are used to examine major institutions and actors, laws and regulations, incentives and enforcement approaches, and their role in addressing our nation’s most pressing environmental problems. Students complete a semester-long research assignment. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 118.

ES276: Global Change Ecology
Four credit hours. Bruesewitz

Provides an interdisciplinary introduction to the principles of climate, ecosystems, and biogeochemistry needed to understand human impacts on the natural environment. Students will study the impacts of climate warming, our changing atmosphere, land-use change, altered hydrologic and nutrient cycles, and other global changes. We will examine key elements of global ecosystem function and investigate how human activities have altered global ecosystems since the Industrial Revolution. We will critically assess scientific evidence for anthropogenic changes, and consider both impacts and solutions to the challenges of global changes. Relies heavily on reading of primary scientific literature and group participation and discussion. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 118 and one college-level science course.

ES319: Conservation Biology
Four credit hours. Nyhus

Concepts of conservation biology are examined in detail. Topics include patterns of diversity and rarity, sensitive habitats, extinction, captive propagation, preserve design, and reclamation of degraded or destroyed ecosystems. Interdisciplinary solutions to the challenges of protecting, maintaining, and restoring biological diversity are discussed. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 118 or 271 or Biology 263, and sophomore or higher standing.

ES364: Climate Change, Justice, and Health
Four credit hours. Carlson

Examines the impacts of changing climate dynamics on human livelihoods, rights, health, and well-being. Through interdisciplinary readings, class discussions, research projects, and innovative communications, students will engage deeply with data from the natural and social sciences about human impacts, adaptations, and vulnerabilities, as well as explore climate justice activism. Key learning goals include improved information literacy and written and oral communication skills and increased understanding of the ways climate change is impacting the world in which we live. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 118.

HI394: Ecological History
Four credit hours. Webb

A seminar on major issues in ecological history. Topics include the relationship between ecological science and environmental history; the early impact of the agricultural revolutions; the “collapse” of early civilizations; processes of deforestation and desertification; the rise of the conservation movement; ecological costs and benefits of technological efforts to engineer nature; biological innovations and chemical controls; the paradox of population growth; and the contemporary crisis of modern agriculture and diet. Prerequisite: Sophomore or higher standing.

HI397: US Environmental History
Four credit hours. Reardon

U.S. Environmental History Examines the complex interplay between nature and culture throughout American history, illuminating humanity’s evolving relationship with the natural world and the ways the environment has shaped human history. Following a survey of Native peoples and the changes brought about by European colonization, we will tackle themes associated with the Western frontier, industrial expansion, conservation, and the emergence of ecological thinking. Lastly, we will explore the historical roots of large-scale social and political movements including progressive era conservation, 20th-century environmentalism, and more recently, sustainability.

IS126: The Green Cluster
Eight credit hours. Carlson

Students explore central questions in environmental philosophy, ethics, and politics, and learn the history, theory, and practice of environmental activism as they pursue their own activist projects. See Environmental Studies 126, and Philosophy 126 for course descriptions. Satisfies the First-year Writing (W1) and Social Science (S) distribution requirements.

RE312: South Asians and Global Literature, Film, Art, Environmentalism
Four credit hours. Singh

Explores South Asians in their diasporic and transnational context. What contributions are Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Jews, and Sikhs from the South Asian subcontinent making to contemporary global literature, film, art, and environmentalism? How do tradition and modernity intersect in their works? How do they negotiate religion, gender, sexuality, race, class, environmentalism, medicine, and globalization? Includes writings by Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Hanif Kureishi, Bapsi Sidhwa, Amrita Pritam, Atul Gawande; films by Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta; art by Siona Benjamin, Anish Kapoor, M.F. Husain, Arpana Caur, Singh Twins; and the environmentalist works of Vandana Shiva and Maneka Gandhi. Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing.


Jan Plan

AR/ES 218 Architectural Design Workshop
Three credit hours. Lock, Pratt

In this intensive introduction to architectural design, students work on an active architectural site with a professional in the field. They become familiar with the vocabulary and techniques of architecture and implement them within a local, real-world context. In 2018, focuses on sustainability as an integral and organizing principle. Materials cost: $100.

AY119: The Anthropology of Utopias
Three credit hours. Hriskos

Examines classic utopic and dystopic literature, philosophy, anthropology, art, and film from Plato to the present. Utopian literature involves anthropological reflection about the range of possibilities for human community and related anthropological themes of human social and cultural variability, conflict, and cooperation. Critically explores different utopian and dystopian discourses as vehicles for thinking about a world in crisis and its possible futures, as well as the effects these have on contemporary debates about politics and governance, citizenship, new technologies, media, family, and more.

AY297: Of Beasts, Pets and Wildlife: What Animals Mean to Humans
Three credit hours. Menair

Explores human-animal relations in cross-cultural and historical perspective to view the centrality of animals to human existence. Considers the social, symbolic, and economic uses of animals in a variety of contexts, from cockfighting in Bali to the corporate culture of Sea World to central Maine farms. Examines the history and philosophies of the animal rights movement from the anti-vivisection campaigns of 19th-century England to contemporary animal rights protests in the United States. Concludes with an analysis of human animality and animal subjectivity to arrive at a deeper understanding of both human and non-human animals. Prerequisite: Anthropology 112 or Philosophy 113 or 114.

BI282: Extreme Climate Change in the Gulf of Maine
Three credit hours. Countway

The Gulf of Maine has undergone extreme climate-related changes, resulting in changes to marine population structure and instances of harmful, toxic, or otherwise undesirable species. We will explore the causes of, impacts of, and potential adaptations to climate change in the Gulf of Maine. Includes a weeklong experiment at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences using indoor seawater mesocosms to simulate rapid ecosystem change and to investigate the biological response of marine microbes. Students will be introduced to traditional and modern oceanographic data collection techniques for estimating the impacts of climate change. Prerequisite: Biology 164.

EN237: Postcolonial Pastoral: Ecology, Travel, and Writing
Three credit hours. Roy

A critical examination of the pastoral as a literary genre from a global postcolonial perspective. Conducted in Kalimpong, India, enables students to work with Shiva’s outreach center on biodiversity, ecology, and wilderness. Students combine their interest in civic engagement with a critical study of traditions relating to land, food, ecology, sustainability, and community, emerging in the global south. Students reflect on and write about their experiences of land and community from the perspective of informed observers, participants, and travelers. Fulfills English D requirement. Cost is $3,900. Prerequisite: Any W1 course.

EN243: Plants, Animals, and (Almost) Humans
Three credit hours. Ardam

Investigates the relationship between humans and our others: first plants and animals, and then androids, aliens, and clones. From HD’s harsh sea roses to the carnivorous Venus fly trap of Little Shop of Horrors, from London’s narrating dog to Wallace’s sentient Maine lobsters, from Butler’s sensuous Oankali to Ishiguro’s clueless clones, these “others” confront us with the radically dissimilar and uncannily familiar and ask us to reimagine our rigid categories of plant, animal, self, and other. Incorporates 20th-century texts from various national traditions and includes poetry, drama, fiction, comics, essays, film, and video art. Fulfills English C requirement.

ES151: Landscapes and Meaning: An Exploration of Environmental Writing
Three credit hours. Mackenzie

An exploration of the works of selected 20th-century environmental writers and how their life experiences contribute to a sense of connection with and action on behalf of the Earth. Through readings, film, writing assignments, group discussion, and journaling, students will develop critical thinking and communication skills while reflecting on their own personal relationship with nature.

ES297: Creative Environmental Storytelling
Three credit hours. Williams

Explores the roles of awe, mindfulness, and active imagination in environmental writing. Students will be encouraged to access their “inner hermit” and explore how, as biological beings, we can create effective storytelling to envision a future where all life thrives. Students will explore the writings of others and practice writing their own stories. Introduces the idea of the evolutionary body and how it can relate to effective engagement for positive environmental change.

ES397: Elephants and Environment in Sri Lanka
Three credit hours. Nyhus

An interdisciplinary field course introducing Sri Lanka through the theme of elephants. Students will gain experience with wildlife behavior and ecology, conservation policy, and the interaction of religion, culture, and environment. They will meet scientists and practitioners, undertake research, and complete a field journal. Students will meet at Colby for preparatory activities followed by three weeks in Sri Lanka. Includes visits to national parks, communities, and areas of cultural, economic, and environmental importance. Cost is $3,700. Financial aid is available for qualified students.

Spring 2018

AR265: Sculpture I: Architecture and Site
Four credit hours. Borthwick

This introductory sculpture studio focuses on topography modeling, the siting of architecture, and the dynamic material of wood. Students learn about the principles of concept building and 3-D design and apply them to the fabrication of sculptural works. Students learn the fundamentals of design and studio safety, while producing works of individual interest. Two major projects are supported by sketchbook entries and the creation of models and maquettes.

EN200: Introduction to Literary Study: Water
Four credit hours. Gibson

We’re made of water and can’t live without it. We’ll trace the idea of and the social realities of water. Water carried the transatlantic and global slave trades. It is the element that connects us, and yet a disappearing resource in a drowning world. We’ll start at the medieval “Seafarer” and its modernist transformation with Shakespeare’s Tempest and then follow the threads through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to Kim Stanley Robinsons’s just published futurist climate novel New York 2140. A highlight of the course will by Robinson’s visit to our class in March. As part of our maritime journey, we’ll explore key literary terms and topics, think more clearly about genre, and write together.

ES/EN337: Climate Fiction
Four credit hours. Walker

Investigates contemporary literature, film, and media in the developing genre known as “climate fiction.” We will situate these texts within the environmental humanities, an interdisciplinary field that combines scientific-cultural discourses about the environment with humanistic concerns for justice. We will ask how cli-fi narrates disaster on a global scale, but also strives to imagine more just futures that combine environmentalism and social equality. These texts will be paired with philosophical and eco-critical writings that will aid our development of the humanistic methodologies needed to analyze this new genre. Fulfills English C requirement.

ES118: Environment and Society
Four credit hours. Bruesewitz, Nyhus, Walker

An interdisciplinary study of human relationships with and impacts on the environment. Examination of important local, national, and global environmental issues by exploring causes and methods for investigating these pressing problems, as well as possible solutions, from scientific and public-policy perspectives. Students explore important literature and ideas in the field to complement the lectures; conduct an original, semester-long, group research project; and complete several writing assignments.

ES346: Global Food Policy
Four credit hours. Reynolds

Examines the emergence and development of global food systems and food policies starting with the earliest agricultural societies and continuing to the present day. We explore the economic, nutritional, and environmental justice implications of agricultural systems and critically analyze the intended and actual outcomes of food policies for nations and agricultural communities. Case studies, films, and independent research further highlight the role of food and food policy in degrading the environment, exacerbating ethnic tensions and social inequities, and even spurring conflict. Prerequisite: Environmental Studies 118 and sophomore or higher standing.

GM298: Environmental Humanities in German Studies
Four credit hours. Bradley

This seminar will focus on conceptions of the natural world and on the relationship of human beings to the Earth in German literature and philosophy from the Enlightenment to the present. Our readings will consist of literary works (prose and poetry) and philosophical writings by well-known authors such as Goethe, Rilke, and Kafka, as well as less commonly-read and contemporary authors connected to the German tradition. Units will include: German Romantic philosophies of nature, narratives of industrialization, other-than-human consciousnesses, and the reemergence of Romantic thought in contemporary eco-philosophy. Conducted in English.

HI398: Waterways and Watershed Moments in North American History
Four credit hours. Reardon

Beneath the surface, rivers offer stories of human interaction with the natural world. We will consider human impacts on river systems over time as well as the way rivers are woven into the social, cultural, and economic fabric of North American History. Humans have altered the very shape of rivers in clearing valleys of trees and vegetation. Dam projects flood river valleys and drown existing channels underneath massive reservoirs. Organisms that thrive in, or have disappeared from, these aquatic environments also offer evidence of human activity. Students will engage with scholarly literature from the humanities, social sciences, and environmental sciences.

IT298: Noisemakers. Tracing the Origins of Modern Music in Italy
Four credit hours. Ferrando

We will explore the history of noise and its impact on 20th-century Italian music. In a multimedia environment that fosters an atmosphere of creative collaboration and encourages creative confidence, students will produce digital soundmaps of the city of Waterville and the Colby campus. Sources will include music, sound/noise clips, manifestos, poetry, short stories, essays, city plans, historical accounts, scholarly works, and online archives as well as other digital humanities projects. The lab will travel to Harvard for a conversation with the Harvard Group for New Music. Origins humanities lab. In English. No prerequisites.

PL216: Philosophy of Nature
Four credit hours. Peterson

Ancient philosophers contemplated the natural world, modern philosophers and scientists sought to instrumentalize it, and recent thinkers are gaining an appreciation of nature’s often unruly complexity. As they consider varied historical and current accounts of nature, students will also engage with the questions how, by whom, and under what conditions knowledge of nature is produced, providing opportunities to question their own fundamental beliefs about nature. Readings range from Aristotle to current philosophy, history, and social studies of the sciences.

Other Courses

AR454: American Art and Science: Picturing Nature (Spring 2016)
Four credit hours. Sheehan

This Human/Nature Humanities Lab explores interactions between science and visual culture in the United States from the 18th century to the present. In spring 2016 focuses on efforts to visualize the natural world. Major topics include the scientific basis of American landscape art, natural history displays, and the visual culture of environmentalism. Students are expected to complete writing assignments, deliver oral presentations, conduct original library research, and engage with visiting artists/scholars. They will study art at the L. C. Bates Museum, Colby College Museum of Art, and Colby Libraries Special Collections. Prerequisite: Any American Studies; Art; or Science, Technology, and Society course.

EN282 Environmental Literature: Reading through the Ecocritical Prism
To be offered Fall 2018.
Four credit hours. Burke

Using literature to understand the complicated relationship of humans to the nonhuman is one of the important innovations in literary studies of the last 30 years. Students see the ways by which we perceive and articulate values we hold about the environment, our relationship to other animals and landscapes, and our place in the ecosystem. Works considered will range from the canonical and expected (Thoreau, Muir, et. al.) to modern works from other continents and authors we do not ordinarily think of as environmental writers. Prerequisite: Any W1 course.

IT397: City of Water. Uncovering Milan’s Aquatic Geographies
To be offered Fall 2018
Four credit hours. Ferrando

In this Humanities Lab, students will explore the cultural history of water in Milan, Italy’s self-described ‘city of water,’ in a multimedia environment that fosters an atmosphere of creative collaboration and encourages creative design. Students will turn from consumers of information into producers of cultural artifacts by generating searchable, annotated, thick maps of Milan and disseminating them outside the classroom. Primary sources will include photographs, maps, poems, short stories, essays, graphic novels, comics, manifestos, music, city plans, and historical accounts. Secondary sources will comprise scholarly works, online archives as well as other digital humanities projects. In English. Prerequisite: Italian 141.

EN314 17th-century Literature and the Natural World
(Human/Nature theme course fall 2015, offered again soon)
Four credit hours. Sagaser

How did major seventeenth-century writers understand, represent, and inquire into the natural world? How were playwrights and poets influenced by discoveries in natural philosophy (science before the term ‘science’ gained currency) during the century of Galileo and Newton, and how did literature disseminate new ideas? Studying a range of texts, including a late Shakespearean tragedy, unconventional poetry by Philips, Behn, and other women, and Milton’s influential Paradise Lost, students examine shifting uses of the terms/concepts “nature” and “natural” and the tensions between old and new sources of knowledge and authority in the seventeenth century, and they discover how these examinations illuminate representations and controversies about the natural world today.

EN297 Poetry and the Nature of Being
(Human/Nature theme course Jan. 2016, offered again soon)
Three credit hours. Sagaser

Poets and biologists are closer kin than you might know. Many great poems are rooted in unflinching, patient, penetrating observation and fearless inquiry into the nature of things. Poets and natural scientists (called “natural philosophers” in earlier centuries) have also shared alertness to form, pattern, rhythm, complexity, and the constancy of change–“never-resting time” and “interchange of state” in Shakespeare’s terms. Reading poems by poet-naturalists from the Renaissance to the present, we will explore ways poetry and myriad biological sciences have inspired each other in the past and might inform each other in new ways in the future. Science majors welcome. Prerequisite: A W1 course is strongly preferred.

EN115F English Composition: Voices in Medical Ethics
(offered Spring 2016 and 2017; to be offered again soon)
Four credit hours. Sagaser

Students develop critical reading, writing, research and discussion skills by entering into conversations about a range of ethical issues confronted by medical professionals and policy makers today. Topics may include genetic testing and technologies, neonatal dilemmas, euthanasia, organ donation and markets, stem cell research, and public health policy. The course emphasizes understanding audience, strategizing for different genres of writing (reflection, explanation, and argument), reading and listening as essential to the writing process, and using secondary sources responsibly and effectively.

ST215: Weather, Climate, and Society
Four credit hours.

A scientific introduction to the Earth’s atmosphere and historical and social issues related to weather and climate. Topics include the atmosphere’s composition, structure, and dynamics; air pollution; ozone depletion; natural disasters; and climate change. Includes lectures, an exam, quizzes, short essays, and a group project to be presented in a final poster session. Prerequisite: Concurrent registration in Science, Technology, and Society 132.