As we continue to pollute the environment with development and energy exploitation, and conquer nature with genetic engineering, have we lost the ability to see nature as magical and spiritual, as a mysterious “other?” We will trace the evolution of humans’ relationship to nature from the Egyptians and Greeks through Aristotle, the Enlightenment, the Romantic Era, into industrialization, and the contemporary era, analyzing how humans have viewed nature as cruel, god-like, maternal, indifferent, refreshing, dangerous and fearful, or inert matter to be categorized and conquered. We will study how writers such as Mahfouz, Aristotle, Rousseau, Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Frost, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Nabakov, Silko, and Orhan Pamuk have personified elements of nature. In addition to critical analysis, students will do creative writing, (prose, poetry, essay, or drama) in which they personify an aspect of nature.
Professor Keefer is currently writing a novel/screenplay Huguenot Street, narrated by the voice of the Shawangunk conglomerate rock. In her last novel, How to Survive as an Adjunct Professor by Wrestling, (published in 2006) non-human narrators included the “depressed” Quantum Chromodynamic Force, and the “manic, ebullient” Electroweak Force.