What does it mean to read ecologically? How does literary ecology transform notions of literary history, reading, and place? This course explores environmental writing in Canada through the innovative methodology of “habitat studies.” As developed by Laurie Ricou in The Arbutus/Madrone Files: Reading the Pacific Northwest, and Salal: Listening to the Northwest Understoryand, more recently, Daniel Coleman in Yardwork: The Biography of an Urban Place, habitat studies extend practices of reading to engage deeply with the non-human species and spaces with and in which we live. An introduction to ecocriticism will help us to situate habitat studies within a history of environmental approaches to literary criticism. From there, we will explore and co-create our own “wordy ecologies,” or literary histories of species that may include plants (berries, grasses, trees…) as well as animals (bears, bison, coyotes, birds…) that are part of our ecological “mesh” (Morton).
As is the practice in habitat studies, readings will be drawn from a wide array of sources that students will be expected to supplement and expand with their own research. Assigned readings will draw chiefly from ecocriticism and an array of Canadian and Indigenous texts.