ENGL 367 "American Ecofeminism: Intersections between Environmentalism and Feminism" Wednesday 2-5pm Krista Comer <kcomer@rice.edu>

This course surveys American women's efforts during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to define and practice what we term today a "pro-environmentalist" policy toward the natural world. Its method is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing from literature, women's history, literary criticism, feminist biology, and race and social justice theories. We begin with the literatures written by female settlers like Caroline Kirkland (1830) who counseled westward-moving women in the arts and dangers of frontier survival. We consider the rise of scientific discourse in nineteenth century American culture and its influence on political thought. We also consider the "peace wing" of the nineteenth century Woman Movement, which shapes later feminist philosophies as varied as those of the 1920s and 30s Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and well as the 1980s Women's Pentagon Action. We enter the twentieth century by way of a look at Mary Austin, Zitkaka Sa, Rachel Carsen, and Fabiola Cabeza de Vaca, and the evolving differences, between these thinkers, as to what constitutes environmental feminism. After mid-century a definable "ecofeminist" wing emerges from within especially cultural feminism, and links itself to peace advocacy, feminist spirituality (including paganism and witchcraft), vegetarianism, local toxic waste clean up, etc. Here our readings include social movements theorist Noel Sturgeon, environmental feminist Val Plumwood, biologist Ann Fausto-Sterling, feminist environmental historian Carolyn Merchant, as well as current writers like Terry Tempest Williams. Issues of race, class, and first/third world differences, figure largely in this section of the course, and in our own efforts to define environmental justice. We also repeatedly take up a question about which American women have long been both skeptical and approving: that of the claim that women are "closer to nature" than are men, and therefore constitute "natural" environmentalists. Two essays, a midterm, and a journal.