[From the editor: Doug Sackman has contributed a syllabus on the environmental/cultural history of California and the West. We have only had a couple submissions so far and would appreciate anything list members might have to offer.]

History 144G
Nature in California & the American West: A Cultural History, 1893 to the Present.

[taught at UC Irvine, Summer and Fall 1995]

Instructor: Doug Sackman

In this course, we will examine the ideas, institutions and practices that have made nature what it is today in California and the American West. We begin by considering and interrogating the assumption that "culture"-through literature, images and other forms of representation-constructs "nature" in real and significant ways. Students will have an opportunity to develop their own critical understanding of how cultural representations of nature relate to the economic and ecological dimensions of the West's modern transformation. Important literary interpreters of the Western and California landscape-Norris, Muir, Austin, Steinbeck, Silko, Snyder-will be read in the context of new interpretations of this same terrain written by environmental historians. Students will write 5 short (2 pg.) papers and one research essay (8-10 pgs.) exploring the relationship between literary representation and historical reality in constituting the "culture of nature" and the "nature of culture" in California and the American West.

Week 2: Ideas of Progress in the West
Tu (10/3): Discussion: Turner, Cronon, Williams

Week 3: The Intersection of Human and Natural Economies: Transforming Nature into Commodities
Tu (10/10): Lecture: Scale, Scope & Culture: Indians, Fishing and Capitalist Transformation
Th (10/12): Discussion: Norris & Cronon Second Paper Due

Week 5: Women, Nature and Ecology: "Home Economics" as Metaphor for Management/Preservation
Tu (10/24): Lecture: Progress, Abundance and Loss, Take 2: The Gendered Landscape
Th (10/26): Discussion: Smith, Austin, Muir, Merchant

Part III (Weeks 6-8): Land, Water, Agribusiness and the Emergence of a "Social Ecology" in the Depression

Week 6: The Culture (and Nature) of Consumption, the Dust Bowl and the New Deal Response
Tu (10/31): Lecture: The Pastoral Idyll, Agribusiness and Sunkist: Reinventing Nature for Consumer Culture Th (11/2): Dust Bowl, Depression and the Erosion of Nature and Culture: Films: Pare Lorentz, The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936);The River (1937) H.P. McClure, The New Frontier (1934)

Week 7: Re-Visions of the relationships among land, technology, nature and justice
Tu (11/7): Film: King Vidor, Our Daily Bread (1934) Th (11/9): Discussion: Worster, Cronon, Vidor

Week 8: Social Ecology in the Cultural Politics of the Depression Tu (11/14): Lecture: Documentary Expression and the Erosion of Nature and Culture
Th (11/16): Discussion: Steinbeck

Part IV (Weeks 9 & 10): Modern Fallout: New Dangers & the Emergence of New Environmental Movements & Ideas

Week 9: Technology, Race, Environmental Justice and Alternative views of Nature
Tu (11/21): Lecture: The Petro-Chemic-Atomic West: Bombs, Reactors, Dams, DDT and a New Day for the Earth

Week 10: Crossing the Next Meridian: Reinventing and/or Reinhabiting Nature Tu (11/28): Discussion: Silko, Solnit, White Possible Film "The Navajo Weaver"

Th (12/8) : Research Essay Due

There is no set format for the presentations. You will need to do some library research, locating one or two sources of information; please feel free to ask me for suggestions for sources. You must sign up for a presentation by Thursday of the first week. You may wish to present on a topic that is not listed below: if so, please speak with me after class on Thursday so we can decide on which day it would be appropriate to make the presentation. It may happen that you wish to write your research on some issue that involves the subject of your class presentation; in other words, your research paper can grow out of your presentation.

Possible Topics include:

John Wesley Powell
The Donner Party
Lewis & Clark
Buffalo (Bison)/Buffalo Bill
California Indians and their Creation Myths Charles Lummis (California Booster)
Charles Nordhoff (California Booster)
Giant Sequoia or "Big Trees"
Frederick Remington (Western painter)
Charles Russell (western painter)
California Condor
Ansel Adams
Los Angeles River
The Sacramento River
Hoover Dam
Rachel Carson (Science, environmental writer) Valdez oil spill
United Farm Workers, Cesar Chavez and the Grape Boycott Northern Spotted Owl
"Nature" in A John Ford Western (film)
David Brower (eco-activist)
Hanford Nuclear Power Site
Aldo Leopold and the "Land Ethic"
Wallace Stegner (nature writer)
Earth First!
Edward Abbey (nature writer)
Rachel Mills (eco-activist)
Terry Tempest Williams (nature writer)
Barry Lopez (nature writer)
California Desert Protection Act
The "Wise Use" Movement (anti-environmental movement) California Condor
Wilderness Act of 1964
Endangered Species Act
"Deep Ecology"
Ursula Le Guin
"Nature" at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum "Nature" at the San Diego Zoo
"Nature" at Disneyland
"Nature" at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary Greenpeace
Bambi (Walt Disney Film)

doug sackman
uc irvine

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