Reading Landscapes: Earth Science and Literature
Spring 2014 quarter
This introductory program is dedicated to understanding the back and forth between the physical environment and the written word. How do texts shape what we are able to see in the physical environment? How does one's understanding of the physical environment shape ways of writing and understanding the world? How do we describe it? What do we read into it?
In 1815, William Smith produced the first geological map of Great Britain. His investigations were a product of a new way of seeing his physical world. Rather than assuming the earth to be a stable object which remained unchanged since Noah’s flood, Smith drew on his observations, and began to see the earth as a dynamic physical entity. His discoveries came in a time when Enlightenment thinkers were questioning the order of the world, the role of religion and the value of science and industry. The modern science of geology can thus be said to have arisen from a new way of seeing: William Smith was able to read and write about the Earth not only through observations, but because of the set of cultural changes that changed his frame of mind. Importantly, Smith's observations came at a time when poets, novelists and political philosophers were beginning to actively investigate the influence of the natural world on humans and human behavior.
We will consider the frames through which we read and write our physical world, through an introduction to foundational concepts in geology and literary study. We will consider how geologists investigate and describe the physical world, and examine concepts including geologic time, plate tectonics, earth materials and the evolution of life. We will consider how writers investigate and describe the natural world in the works of 18th- and 19th-century literature, as well as contemporary literature about the Pacific Northwest. We will read works of poetry, fiction, political philosophy and travel writing. Program texts may include works by John McPhee, Simon Winchester, William Wordsworth, Daniel Defoe and others.
Students should expect to participate in lecture, lab and seminar, write critical papers and take examinations. There will also be field trips to locations of geological interest as well as cultural venues.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day
|March 19th, 2014||This introductory program now accepts students of all class levels (Freshmen through Seniors).|