Guiding Principles & Outcomes

Purpose Statement

By framing literary studies with sustainability, this book aims to uphold culturally and ecologically relevant learning experiences to honor learner agency and to ensure engagements with and inquiries of works of literature, inquiries to address how social and environmental justices intersect. These inquiries also address real world problems, such as unsustainable forms of violence, forms that environmental humanist Joni Adamson describes as “the objectification of violence of the body of Mother Earth”(Adamson 148); meaning, violence toward the human body and the body of all life on Earth, the nonhuman. The curriculum supports learners to use ecocriticism to enhance the development of textual analysis and critical thinking skills in literary studies that is ecologically informed, which prepares them for an end-of-term group-led sustainability problem-solving project. Ecocritical learning experiences also serve as platforms for further research on literature and collaborative multidisciplinary problem-solving projects through International Virtual Exchange (IVE) and COIL partnerships.

For example, learners can engage in close reading and  literary approaches that identify the poetic forms involving injustices in the poem Harlem (1951) by Black Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. Learners witness a dream deferred into a metaphor to learn about nature and racism, when the speaker asks, “What happens to a Dream Deferred?,” and responds with an inquiry.

“Does it dry up / Like a Raisin in the Sun?” (Hughes’ Poem)

Through figurative language, injustices are expressed through “Raisin.” As a simile, “Raisin” refers to the status of Black Americans at the advent of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Also, “Raisin” can be  read literally, denotatively, to address an actual crop, agriculture. Figuratively, “Raisin” also suggests slavery, due to the subject of the poem – Black people and their role in agriculture.

Several injustices emerge: 1) Racism in America in the present and in the past, and 2) Labor and land exploitation. These multiple meanings form ambiguity in the poem, which challenge new ways of working through possible and varied meanings. A double entendre of “Raisin” is established by its multiple meanings. And in doing so, through figurative language, the poem correlates several injustices. This correlation is called an intersection. Learners who are interested in each topic engage in further inquiries; on each one separately. A textual analysis of Hughes’ poem OER on “Harlem” by Langston Hughes.

In conclusion, learners approach literature to learn about how injustices and nature intersect by:

  •       Engaging with texts to identify social injustices
  •       Engaging with texts to identify representations of nature
  •       Exploring how an injustice and representation of nature intersect in literature
  •       Exploring intersections in light of sustainability, which is explained by UNSDG

Overall Key Questions

  • How do literary studies enrich definitions of literature?
  • How do literary studies enrich the roles of literature in our community?
  • How do literary studies help us to address sustainability challenges, like equality and climate?


Two Guiding Principles

Two overall principles guide the curriculum of this book. The first principle is that human interaction with nature is inescapable – that we are all part of a complex and intricate ‘web of life’, one that is dynamic and interdependent that interacts, responds, and alters. The second principle is that learners can [re]discover their own intricate connections with the web of life through works of literature. In doing so, they learn about their own interactions with their communities and surroundings to innovate and contribute to our sustainable future for generations to come. In addition to literature, coinciding initiatives by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) also assist learners in this journey. These two principles support creativity and ingenuity in literary studies at a time in history when our global communities collaborate on basic necessities, such as “food, shelter, clothing, transport, communication, and recreation, instead of constant innovation (and proliferation) in the supply of goods and services” (feminist philosopher Kate Soper 2023).


Overall Outcomes

Select the arrow for expanded explanations.

1) To explicate & close read a variety of genres (drama, film, poems, short stories, and nonfiction)

Close reading skills allow you, a reader of literature, to slow down to witness its style, and more importantly to focus its form:

  • On the use of metaphor, character, for example
  • On the form of a specific genre: poem, story, or film

To ‘close read’ to paraphrase a specific part to grasp its elements:

  • On word choice, or what is known as the role of diction
  • On the reliance of imagery
  • On the use of figurative language –  like a metaphor –  and mood
  • On the mood, known as tone is established by all of its parts

To understand a scene from a film, film students, like on

  • The use of lighting, the position of characters and props
  • The use of costume and make
  • The use of dialogue between characters

To practice reading skills from your composition courses college, students

  • Engage in close-reading explanations to understand key passages
2)  To identify the conventions of literary terms and movements in a piece of literature
  • Throughout this book are opportunities to work with terms key to literary studies and its related fields, which are also listed at the end of the book’s glossary.
  • Literary terms are helpful to identify and learn about to understand the ‘ingredients’ of works of literature.
  • It is best to learn the literary terms of chosen works to base assignments on, to engage with the aesthetics of the work and its merits.
  • In this literary studies book, while terms are important, they serve to learn about relevant aspects of a literary work that inform on both social and environmental injustices.
3)  To negotiate the aesthetics of the literature – via elements of fiction, poetic devices, theme, for example

To negotiate the ‘literary merit’ of a work of literature is to not only learn about literary terms but to also identify how the poet or writer uses them. What are their roles?

  • This gives ‘literary terms’ a purpose beyond simple identification.
  • In this book the presentation of gender, ethnicity, and aspects of nature – the nonhuman operates ‘symbolically’ in an allegorical story, for example.
  • This means that readers must negotiate how this representation is presented and how it operates to learn about gender, race, and environmental injustices, for example.
4) To demonstrate basic methods of literary analysis

The basic methods of literary analysis are those that ask a learner and student writer – you – to offer insights and thoughts on a particular text. This means that you do not simply describe, summarize, or paraphrase, but offer insights, to begin to ‘understand’ how a text makes meaning.

  • Engage in a textual analysis on the roles of identified key passages & literary terms
  • Engage in analysis through short writing assignments to initiate and practice  literary investigations of a certain topic or theme from one or several sources
  • Engage in a degree of ‘interpretation’. To analyze a work of literature means to engage in a ‘critical reading method’ to understand an aspect of the literature
  • Engage with a critical method – like ecocriticism to gain insights
  • Engage through an analysis to understand relevant topics and themes, such as on the representation of nature, the nonhuman
5) To apply interpretative methods in the literature like ‘ecocriticism’

This book shows ways to apply interpretative methods to offer critical perspectives on humanity and nature; to succeed

  • Read to build on initial analysis on human and nonhuman representations
  • Rely on an ecocritical approach to explain your insights in literary studies
  • Show how an ecocritical approach informs injustice and environmental exploitation
  • Incorporate diverse readings in your short papers on a sustainability goal, like those laid out by the United Nations (UNSDG)
6) To engage in research methods for significant pieces of literature

A skill set that builds on college composition courses is practiced to enhance your literary studies learning experiences, and this includes a research small group project. In this course a wide array of recommended readings is provided at the end of each chapter to assist all learners in conducting independent and relevant research on literary studies and topics important to social and ecological justice.

Research methods include the following:

  • Focus on a topic from the UNSDG.
  • Focus on the topic by one author from Part 1, 2 or 3 of this textbook.
  • Identify an intersection between one of the following themes: gender, race or ethnic, institutional inequality and the representation of nature.
  • Build a works cited document on the intersections and ecocritical readings on featured topics:
    • Write out a ‘plan of action’ with works cited for approval of a research project.
    • Once approved, write an essay outline with a question to address the intersections of your topic and sustainability. *Samples of research projects are provided at the end of Part 3.

Below is one example of an activity from an IVE learning community between literature students at Northern Essex Community College and Business Procurement students at Université Paris-Saclay, France. This is a multiple-disciplinary collaborative. Students from both countries worked on a UNSDG goal to present their projects at the end of the term. Short activity serves to inspire innovative ecocritical ideas and perspectives to guide and inform student learning on final projects:  Activity to Engage Students on Sustainability Topics.

7) To locate reliable sources on critical receptions

In addition to recommended sources in each chapter on its featured literature and ecocriticism, another major skill set is to conduct independent research in this literary studies course. Accepted online sources are OER articles, references, and academic-scholarly publications. For contemporary news sources only reputable periodicals will be accepted. A valuable resource is our library’s databases.

8) To write lucid, organized essays with a clear thesis (argument), support (analysis of primary and/or secondary texts), and proper MLA style documentation

The composition of literary studies papers in this class consists of short papers on selected readings and literary concepts and devices. The purpose of these short papers is to practice the content of each chapter and to prepare for the end of semester research project.

An example of this assignment is below:

  1. Concept map that shows how two concepts ‘interrelate’: Samples of correlated topics in ‘concept maps’,
  2. Assignment: Sustainability Group Project, in groups, &
  3. Slide outline for presentations: Presentation Outline for Final Project.
9) End of term small group project: On the UNSDG and an intersection between social justice and representations of nature, with a clear thesis (argument), argument (analysis), and evidence – quotes, images, and or video

End-of-term projects in a literary studies course should offer opportunities for students to work in groups. This ensures skills in team management and collaboration on sustainability topics, and its  intersections. Due to the scale of this project, group work ensures multiple perspectives on a chosen topic and supports student learning.

Sample artifacts of an activity:


By the end of the book

  • Learners practice and refine learning outcomes in literary studies that build on previous English classes on literary works by traditions around the world.
  • Learners walk away more informed on the roles of literature and better equipped to identify and work through intersections on different forms of injustice, between humans and nature – nonhumans.
  • Learners are prepared to work collaboratively with peers within literary studies and with those in different disciplines and fields – to work on common interests and concerns to collaboratively contribute toward a more just and sustainable culture, including topics reflective of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG).
  • Students and educators come away from this book with a stronger sense of community as problem-solvers-to continue to think critically as independent contributors who experience literature as a platform to engage and share common goals and challenges, and, in turn, to continue to connect with people and environments from different geographic regions, where the integrity of ecosystems and people’s heritages, cultures, identities, gender, worldviews, and religious doctrines are celebrated and valued while collaborative work continues.


All contributions and efforts throughout this course are appraised by:

  1. Engagements with readings of preliminary information and following chapters. To show active engagement, I recommend 1) Reading and taking notes. 2) Annotating key concepts, examples provided in featured skills, ‘drag and drop’ activities on key terms, and end of chapter short ‘informal’ writing assignments. 3) Preparing for an end of term research project in small groups that is appraised in the process of completion, where feedback is offered at each stage of final presentation – from choosing a sustainability focus, collecting ideas and planning out strategies to drafting an outline of the presentation and offering a final reflection video on the whole process.
  2. Here is a sample of learning about sustainability in literary studies and the real world: One Literary Studies Strategies & Sustainability



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