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Literature: Nature Writing and Ecocriticism

Nature writing has long been a critical force in our understanding of and responses to the environment. Ecocriticism is the scholarly field of studying nature writing and related texts.

The following information was taken in spring 2004 from the website of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment: For the most current listing, see that website.

See also: resources for graduate students:

Note: programs change over time. Check current websites to get up-to-date information.

Graduate Programs

The information on schools and programs was initially gathered in a survey of the ASLE membership conducted in Fall 1993. This information was updated for the second edition published in 1996. Although the colleges and universities included in this listing provide a useful starting point, they should by no means be considered the only schools whose programs are receptive to scholarship in literature and environment.


Prominent Programs

The following six programs were most frequently recommended by ASLE scholars. Each program offers strong faculty interest in and support of studies in literature and environment. The six programs, listed in alphabetical order, are featured partly because of their distinctive strengths: outstanding scholars in the field, a wide web of faculty support for the study of literature and environment, opportunity for formal or informal degree emphasis, and/or numerous graduate students already studying literature and environment.

AntiochNew England, Keene, New Hampshire

Graduate Admissions: 603-357-6265

Program: Environmental Studies

Faculty Support: Mitchell Thomashow (Director of Doctoral Program in Environmental Studies), and Ty Minton (Associate Director of Doctoral Program in Environmental Studies). Other faculty associated with Antioch New England as instructors and mentors but affiliated with other institutions include John Elder (English, Middlebury College), David Orr (Environmental Studies, Oberlin College), and David Rothenburg (Philosophy, New Jersey Institute of Technology).

Profile: Antioch New England is a private graduate school with approximately 1,400 full-time students. A student may pursue a Master of Science in Environmental Studies, Master of Science in Resource Management and Administration, or a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Studies. The Doctoral Program in Environmental Studies admits fifteen students per year to its rigorous, interdisciplinary, research-oriented program. Students accepted to the program are required to have five years of professional experience in an environmental or related field; the program "specializes in training mid-career environmental professionals" (Doctoral Program in Environmental Studies 27). Although all students are required to complete course work in four "domains"--environmental science, field ecology and environmental biology, environmental policy, and professional practice--a student's research focus may include environmental education, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, sustainability, environmental history, resource management, green politics, and so on. Fellowships and grants are limited and therefore competitive.

University of Arizona, Tucson

Graduate Admissions: 520-621-3132

Program: Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies

Faculty Support: Larry Evers, Richard Shelton, Peter wild (English); Annette Kolodny, Barbara Babcock (CCLS); Marvin Waterstone (Geography and Regional Development); Ofelia Zepeda (Linguistics).

Profile: A student interested in pursuing a PhD (CCLS does not grant many Masters as terminal degrees) in Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies creates a program based on a small core of required courses, two self-selected discourses, and one minor. The graduate program in Comparative and Literary Studies is interdisciplinary, permitting students to "design a course of study with emphasis on any aspect of literature and environment studies". According to Annette Kolodny, "students can work with nationally prominent faculty in literature, anthropology, American Indian Studies, arid land studies, geography, folklore, etc." Other disciplines working with CCLS include medicine, law, and media arts. Barbara Babcock, director of CCLS, says that the strengths of the program rest not only with the wealth of faculty who work with CCLS, but with Tucson's distinct borderlands region. Graduates of UA's Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies program have pursued careers in academia, publishing, and outreach organizations. Limited Graduate Teaching Assistantships are available.

University of California, Davis

Graduate Admission: 916-752-0650

Program: English

Faculty Support: David Robertson, Gary Snyder, Jack Hicks, Kari Lokke (English); Robert Tourance, Scott McClean (Comparative Literature); Steven Crum (Native American Studies); Ben Orlove (Anthropology); Lenora Timm (Linguistics).

Profile: U.C. Davis's single greatest strength, says English professor David Robertson, is the presence of Gary Snyder on campus," and according to Robertson, "he's quite accessible to students." Interdisciplinary and multi-cultural classes are regularly taught, including Robert Tourance's "Nature Writing Through the Centuries," Gary Snyder's "Buddhism and American Literature," and David Robertson's "Bioregions," team taught with professors from the sciences. At UCD, Robertson notes, there is great "cooperation and camaraderie between students/faculty in English, Comparative Literature, and Ecology" and support for interdisciplinary work between the sciences and the humanities. UCD is an "excellent program. Strong offerings in the sciences; outstanding library" (John P. O'Grady). A student can pursue the MA and/or PhD usually with financial support. 50% of first-year students receive funding, and the majority of graduate students are financially supported from years 2-6.

University of Montana, Missoula

Graduate Admissions: 406-243-2572

Programs: Environmental Studies and Environmental Writing Institute

Faculty Support: Louise Economides (English); Henry Harrington (EWI); Tom Roy (Environmental Studies); Deborah Slicer (Philosophy).

Profile: The Environmental Studies Program is interdisciplinary and self-designed, leading to the terminal Master of Science. The program, which "requires that all students have activist experience prior to applying," trains people to work in environmental organizations in different capacities (Henry Harrington). Those students who develop a degree focusing on writing tend to go into communications and publication; Harrington's goal is to help students become "independent writers." The Environmental Writing Institute, run by Harrington since its creation in 1989, is a nationally competitive program which admits one or two students a year--usually students with onsiderable writing experience. Both programs are particularly friendly to creative writers, and Missoula has a rich community of environmental activists, scholars, philosophers, and writers, including William Kittredge. Deborah Clough and Don Snow publish Northern Lights. University of Montana is the site of ASLE's 1997 conference.
2014 update: UM English Department is launching a new undergraduate track in Literature and the Environment and a new Master's option in Ecocriticism.

University of Nevada, Reno

Graduate Admission: 702-784-6869

Program: English

Faculty Support: Kathleen Boardman, Michael Branch, Morris Brownell, Cheryll Glotfelty, Scott Slovic, Ann Ronald (English); Stephen Tchudi, (Rhetoric and Composition); Elizabeth raymond (History); Paul Starrs (Geography); and Peter Goin (Art).

Profile: UNR is the first university to offer a terminal degree in literature and environment.The MA and PhD in literature and environment prepares students for jobs as writers, teachers, scholars, and professionals in the publishing industry. A student in either of these degree programs fulfills a core requirement in ecocriticism and takes a number of courses in English and other departments across the disciplines. The Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities (CEAH), which has become a "focal point for interdisciplinary research and teaching" (Scott Slovic), receives campus-wide faculty support. CEAH, founded in 1995, organizes discussion groups, interdisciplinary colloquia, features visiting writers and speakers, hosts the Interdisciplinary Wilderness Conference every other year, and supports numerous other conferences. Scott Slovic is the editor of ISLE: nterdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, published by the University of Nevada Press. Faculty, librarians and archivists at the university are developing a significant collection of nature writing. Faculty are energetic, accessible, and committed to various aspects of literature and environment studies. Another strength: a "lively and friendly group of graduate students" (Cheryll Glotfelty).

University of Oregon, Eugene

Graduate Admission: 503-346-5129

Program: English, Environmental Studies

Faculty Support: Louise Westling, John Gage, Suzanne Clark, James Crosswhite, William Rossi (English); Garrett Hongo (Creative Writing).

Profile: U of O maintains an Environmental Studies Program, the Institute for Sustainable Environment, and an "English Department commitment to ecocriticism and six faculty members doing research and teaching in the field" (Louise Westling). The Geography and Philosophy departments are sympathetic to interdisciplinary study in literature and environment, as is the Landscape Architecture Program. Many graduate students in the English department also work closely with scholars in Environmental History. Interest in literature and environment manifests itself in various ways. The Mesa Verde Colloquium is a discussion series designed as an ecocritical forum for students and faculty. Classes in Ecocriticism, Science and Literary Culture, Literature of the Wild, and Landscape and Literature have and will continue to be offered. The program is distinct, says graduate student Peter Blakemore, not only for its strong course offerings, supportive faculty, and enthusiastic students, but also for its physical proximity to forestry issues. Local concerns regarding forestry and land use inform student scholarship at U of O. Because of this marriage of ecocritical schaolarship and community activism at U of O a student would be "unlikely to find a more enthusiastic and supportive community of scholar/activists than we have in Eugene" (Laird Christensen).


Notable Programs

The following Notable Programs are listed in alphabetical order by state. Often location and geography become a prospective student's primary criteria when choosing a school. Prominent programs either offer formal degrees or emphasis in literature and environment or are especially receptive to the creation of such n emphasis within various departments. Notable programs, on the other hand, may not have formal support for a student of literature and environment, but may offer other benefits. These programs are included for a variety of reasons. They may, for example, have a faculty member active in ASLE. Perhaps they offer course work of interest to the student of literature and environment; maybe support for interdisciplinary study is strong. The possibilities for study in literature and environment exist in varying degrees at these schools--it is up to the student to seek out information regarding course work and faculty support.

Note: Faculty may be transient - check current university websites to confirm faculty are still there.


University of Alaska, Anchorage

Graduate Admissions: 907-786-1493
Notable: Gretchen Legler (English and Women's Studies)


CaliforniaPolytechnicStateUniversity, San Luis Obispo

Graduate Admissions: 805-756-2311
Notable: William M. Alexander (emeritus); Robert Gish (Ethnic Studies)

University of California, Berkeley

Graduate Admissions: 415-642-7405
Notable: Carolyn Merchant (Natural Resources); Robert Haas (English); strengths in the sciences.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Graduate Admissions: 805-893-2278
Notable: Roderick Nash (emeritus, History); Mark Schlenz (Writing Program); strengths in the sciences.

University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Graduate Admissions: 213-743-5175
Notable: Environmental Studies Program; Ronald Gottesman (English).

Stanford University, California

Graduate Admissions: 415-723-4291
Notable: Albert Gelpi (English); Deborah Satz (Philosophy); Sonia Winter (Modern Thought and Literature).


Colorado College, Colorado Springs

Graduate Admissions: 719-389-6344
Notable: Richard Beidleman, Jack Carter, and Joseph Gordon, all emeritus but teaching; Ann Zwinger (English). Interdisciplinary major in Southwest Studies.

ColoradoStateUniversity, Fort Collins

Graduate Admissions: 970-491-6817
Notable: SueEllen Campbell, John Calderazzo, Carol Cantrell (English).

University of Colorado, Boulder

Graduate Admissions: 303-492-7401
Notable: Patricia Nelson Limerick (History); Linda Hogan (English); Center of the American West.


WesleyanUniversity, Middletown

Graduate Admissions: 203-347-9411, ex. 2390
Notable: Richard Slotkin, Annie Dillard (English)

District of Columbia

Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Graduate Admissions: 202-687-5974
Notable: (Masters degree only); Randy Bass, Hugh Cloke, Lucy Maddox (English).


BoiseStateUniversity, Boise

Graduate Admissions: 208-385-3903
Notable: John P. O'Grady, Jim Maguire (English); Nicholas Casner (History).


Indiana University, Bloomington

Graduate Admissions: 812-855-0211
Notable: MFA; Scott Russell Sanders (English).


Kansas State University, Manhattan

Graduate Admissions: 913-532-6191
Notable: Christopher Cokinos, Elizabeth Dodd, Carolyn Sigler, Anne K. Phillips, Naomi Wood (English); James Sherow (History)

University of Kansas, Lawrence

Graduate Admissions: 913-864-2700
Notable: Donald Worster (History); G. Doug Atkins (English); Hall Center for the Humanities.


University of Southern Maine, Portland

Graduate Admissions: 207-780-4141
Notable: Kent Ryden (American and New England Studies).


Harvard University, Cambridge

Graduate Admissions: 617-495-1000
Notable: Lawrence Buell (English).


Michigan State University, East Lansing

Graduate Admissions: 517-355-0300
Notable: American Thought and Language (MA and PhD); Karla Armbruster, Tom Dean, Paul Tidwell (ATL); George Cornell and James McClintock (English)

WesternMichiganUniversity, Kalamazoo

Graduate Admissions: 616-387-2000
Notable: John Cooley and Tom Bailey (English).


University of Mississippi

Graduate Admissions: 662-915-7474
Notable: Ann Fisher-Wirth (English)


University of Missouri, Kansas City

Graduate Admissions: 816-235-1111
Notable: Interdisciplinary PhD program including study in geography, English, foreign languages, etc. Randall Roorda (English); Steven L. Driever (Geography).

New Hampsire

Dartmouth College, Hanover

Graduate Admissions: 603-646-2106
Notable: Noel Perrin (Environmental Studies)

University of New Hampshire, Durham

Graduate Admissions: 603-862-3000
Notable: Diane P. Freedman and Melody Graulich (English).

New Jersey

Princeton University, Princeton

Graduate Admissions: 609-258-3034
Notable: William Howarth (English); The Princeton Environmental Institute.

New Mexico

New Mexico StateUniversity, Las Cruces

Graduate Admissions: 505-646-2834
Notable: Interdisciplinary PhD in Rhetoric and Professional Communication.

New York

StateUniversity of New York, Brockport

Graduate Admissions: 716-395-2751
Notable: William Heyen (English).


Kent State University, Kent

Graduate Admissions: 216-672-2660
Notable: Sanford Marovitz (English).

Union Institute

Graduate Admissions: 800-486-3116
Notable: Serves professionals in mid-career; individually designed doctoral programs; PhD only; John Tallmadge (Comparative Literature).


Oregon State University, Corvalis

Graduate Admissions: 503-737-4881
Notable: MA in Interdisciplinary Studies; Program for Ethics, Science, and the Environment; David M. Robinson, Chris Anderson (English); Peter List (Philosophy); William Robbins (History); Court Smith (Anthropology); Lori Cramen (Sociology).


Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana

Graduate Admissions: 724-357-2222
Notable: Opportunity to do comprehensive exams in ecocritical theory and environmental literature; Jim Cahalan.

Rhode Island

Brown University, Providence

Graduate Admissions: 401-863-2600
Notable: Program in American Civilization; Barton St. Armand (English).


Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos

Graduate Admissions: 512-245-2581
Notable: Mark Busby (English).

University of Houston

Graduate Admissions: 713-743-9090
Notable: Terrell Dixon (English).

University of North Texas, Denton

Graduate Admissions: 817-565-2383
Notable: Max Oelschlaeger and Eugene Hargrove (Philosophy).


Middlebury College, Middlebury

Graduate Admissions: 802-388-3711, ext.5685
Notable: Environmental Studies; John Elder, Jay Parini (English).


University of Virginia, Charlottesville

Graduate Admissions: 804-924-0311
Notable: David Levin (emeritus, English); Alan Howard, Harold Kolb, Stephen Railton (English); Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change; extensive research library.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and StateUniversity, Blacksburg

Graduate Admissions: 703-231-5645
Notable: (Masters degree only); Len Scigaj and Gyorgyi Voros (English); interdisciplinary possibilities in English, forestry, environmental history.


Washington State University, Pullman

Graduate Admissions: 509-335-3535
Notable: American Studies with Literature and Environment option; Susan Armitage (Women's Studies).

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