“Literature and the Environment” Do Yourself a Favor. Take it.

You’re a freshman at UW-Madison. You need a 3-credit literature course. The word “literature” sucks the life out of you. Walls of text haunt you in your daydreams. (Daymares?) What to do?

Fortunately, at UW there are some great Lit courses. I hit a bullseye with Environmental Studies/English 153: Literature and the Environment with Dr. Heather Swan. The description reads: “An introduction to literature in English about the natural world and humankind’s relationship with it…”


Dr. Swan is a stellar human being and an inspiring lecturer. There’s nothing stuffy or unapproachable about her. The first thing she does to greet nearly 300 students is to call off a few random names, allowing for applause for the students that showed up.


The course content is diverse. Non-fiction and fiction works guide students through a variety of perspectives on the environment. And you get more than the environment. The books we read were: “Into the Wild”, “How the Dead Dream,” “Through the Arc of the Rainforest”, “A Small Place”, and my favorite, “Oryx and Crake”.

Fun fact: Dr. Swan wrote a book called “Where Honeybees Thrive.” which wasn’t part of the readings, but I read it anyway. Check it out!

Unfortunately, 153 isn’t offered this fall. Spring is a great time to take it anyway. Watch the icky brown remnants of winter’s wrath fade while the earth comes back to life. Protip: take your book and notebook somewhere off the path on picnic point. Enjoy the speed of nature.

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