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Teaching Environments

Ecocritical Encounters

Edited By Roman Bartosch and Sieglinde Grimm

The essays in this collection seek to bring together current developments in ecocriticism and the pedagogical practice of teaching English at all levels, from primary schools to Higher Education. They cover theoretical and practical discussions of the nexus between the sciences and the humanities and maintain that the notion of the two cultures be refused for good, they argue for the inclusion of particular texts or theoretical perspectives, and they suggest ways to teaching environments on different levels of language competence and in the context of historical and transdisciplinary encounters with ecology, nature, and animals. Despite this variety, they share some common threads and engage with questions that are highly relevant for teaching in general and have acquired even more relevance in our rapidly changing and posthumanist teaching environments: How do we raise consciousness without preaching? What kind of critical attitude is required for the empowerment of our pupils and students? How do we actually imagine encounters between the sciences and the (post)humanities, and which texts, what kind of texts, and which approaches will prove most fruitful?
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The Case Against Agenda

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Pamela Swanigan (Connecticut)

When the organizers of the Cologne symposium on “Teaching the Environment” asked for papers that discussed “how the tenets of [various] academic fields can be incorporated into the daily practice of teaching the humanities and arts—without either breaching the topics’ complexity, falling into the mode of environmentalist propaganda or succumbing to warnings and claims to catastrophic urgency which are hard to reconcile with an ethos of critical and democratic pedagogy,” they posed, in effect, the same question that John Parham asked 11 years ago in his introduction to The Environmental Tradition in English Literature: “[H]ow, pedagogically, do we teach ecocriticism and to what end? [...] Should it be more didactic and aim to teach environmental values?” (xv). Keynote speaker Greg Garrard echoed those questions when he named as a crucial ecocritical task that of identifying the desired outcomes of ecocritical pedagogy.

I feel that we may have moved with too little discussion from the question of “whether” to teach from an environmentalist agenda to the question of “how,” with some assumption that the “should we?” part was rhetorical or token. My own answer to Parham’s second question would be “No.” No, we should not be more didactic and aim to teach “environmental values,” whatever those may be. No, we should not entertain the idea that a desired outcome would be, as David Mazel suggests in “Ecocriticism as Praxis,” to turn our students into “more thoughtful and effective environmentalists” (3). No,...

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