Environmental Humanities: Argument as Art/Art as Argument

Winter 2017 quarter

Taught by

fiction, nonfiction, and contemporary literature

Discourse in environmental governance, law, and policy consists almost entirely of argumentative writing. But how does art make arguments? Insofar as effective art and literature provoke feeling and reflection by invoking uncertainty and ambiguity, what do they have to do with argument? By what strategies do artists and writers communicate the transformation of their own point of view, their own movement from ignorance to knowledge? And what might we learn from them about how to translate our insights, persuade others of the validity of our perspectives, and teach new ways of seeing and knowing to myriad audiences? This creative and critical writing class will explore and experiment with argument as art, and art as argument.

We are often urged to think about audience when we compose arguments. Who are we trying to convince, and why? What should our attitude be towards (the question of) audience? How can we better understand the mutable and contingent relationship between writer and audience (readers, listeners, interlocutors)? How can we use our imagination to help clarify form, content, tone, and mode of address? The study of artists and writers concerned with environmental issues can help us think about our audiences and the most effective ways of engaging, challenging, educating, or motivating them.

The course will entail weekly readings and occasional screenings that exemplify artistic approaches to arguments concerned in a range of ways with environmental questions. Course readings will serve as models of argumentation as well as objects of analysis and inquiry. Creative and critical exercises will help students develop their academic writing and their ability to communicate effectively with diverse audiences.

Program Details


Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

6-10p Mon

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning