Contemplating Nature: An Exploration of Representation of Landscape and the Environment

This project involves developing syllabi for two courses, an introduction to American Studies and an English Department senior seminar. It focuses on nature writers-not only literary authors, but natural and social scientists-who are also contemplatives: Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Barry Lopez, Gary Snyder, Richard Nelson, Terry Tempest Williams, Linda Hogan and others. Themes explored in these texts include dwelling, home and universe, comparative traditions, science, travel, the lessons of history, embodiment, ecofeminism, green movements and environmental justice, and imaginative versions of landscape by the privileged juxtaposed to the lived experience of the disempowered.

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Reading and Writing Women’s Lives: Personal Essay, Autobiography, Biography, Autoethnography

”Reading and Writing Women’s Lives” is a course designed to introduce students to genres of writing that involve personal and lived experience about and by women: personal essay, biography, autobiography, and autoethnography. Not only will students be reading these forms as well as theories about writing and women’s experience, but they will also try a hand at producing them.

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The Contemplative Spirituality of Toni Morrison

A webinar with Linda-Susan Beard,
Associate Professor of English, Bryn Mawr College

Lectio divina is an ancient Christian monastic practice associated with more than 1500 years of Benedictine prayer and preparation for prayer. It moves “reading” beyond the search for knowledge to an attentive and interactive appreciation for what rests beneath the text and in our own souls. Though usually used in working with sacred texts, lectio easily adapts itself to a wide variety of meditative approaches to texts–from poems, novels, or cultural critiques to the soul-chilling daily headlines of the local newspaper. This is a method of “reading” that also teaches us how to listen, with the whole self, to what a word or phrase speaks directly to or intimates about our lived experience. Prof. Beard uses this technique in classes on African and African American literatures, especially in a course aptly named “Toni Morrison and the Art of Narrative Conjure.”

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