Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
ENG 230
Course Title:
Environmental Literature
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Introduces texts that explore the relationship between people and their environments, both natural and built. Examines historical trends that have shaped thinking, understanding, and feelings about how humans and the natural world interact. Explores literary writings on issues of sustainability, environmental justice, ecological literacy, and a sense of place. Prerequisites: WR 115, RD 115 and MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course with a C or better, students should be able to:

  1. Identify, define, and evaluate kinds of environmental literature.
  2. Identify and explain the strategies which poets, novelists, essayists and other writers have used to address environmental questions.
  3. Use the methods of literary analysis and literary history to identify changing trends in environmental tropes and concerns.
  4. Apply an understanding of environmental literature to explain the interconnected environmental effects of everyday decisions we make as individuals and a culture.
  5. Critically examine the complex and interconnected relationship between human behavior and  the environment through a lens of sustainability and the €œtriple bottom line€ of people, planet, and profit.

Course Activities and Design

Class meeting time may include lecture, videos, discussion, small-group discussion, in-class writings, and perhaps guest speakers. Students may post blogs or messages and comment on other students€™ postings. Out-of-class activities may include field trips to local manifestations of the content of the readings; regular observations of a particular outdoor environment throughout the term; and a service-learning project engaged with the environment.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Instructors vary on methods of assessment, but generally instructors employ some combination of quizzes, exams, essays, reading notebooks, and observation journals. Students who miss more than a week's worth of class may not receive an A; those who miss two weeks' worth of class may not pass the course. The final grade is generally based upon the quality and extent of students' understanding of the course readings and discussions, as demonstrated in writings, discussion in class, and conferences.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)


  • Relationship between people and landscape
  • Sustainability
  • Environmental justice


  • Bioregion
  • Ecosystem
  • Nature
  • Natural resources
  • Nature deficit disorder
  • Ecological literacy
  • Dwelling in Place
  • Topophilia
  • Edges
  • Liminal character
  • Garden
  • Pastoral
  • The commons
  • The frontier
  • Savages
  • Manifest destiny
  • American exceptionalism
  • The built environment vs. the natural environment
  • Economic centralization vs. decentralization
  • The Great Economy
  • Secondary lands
  • National sacrifice zones
  • Ecofeminism
  • Peak oil
  • Climate change