ENG199H1F - L0101

First Year Seminar: Tree Stories


Thursday, 10 am - 12 pm

Instructor Information

A. Ackerman

E-mail: alan.ackerman@utoronto.ca

Course Description

Trees are all around us. We climb them, tell stories about them, write on paper, at desks, in homes made from them. But most people take them for granted. This course examines how we imagine trees in works of art and what trees can teach us about our own place in the world. We will study stories, essays, poems, and artistic representations of trees, as well as exploring trees around campus and the environment we share. Much class-time will be outside. The seminar will introduce students to methods of close reading, ecocriticism (interdisciplinary study of literature and the environment), ethnobotany (cultural use of plants), plus theories of wilderness and colonialism, histories of settler-indigenous relations, global warming, and ways of healing a damaged planet

Required Readings

  • Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
  • Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree
  • Grimm Brothers, “The Old Woman in the Woods”
  • Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees (TVO documentary)
  • Joyce Kilmer, “Trees”
  • Howard Nemerov, “Learning the Trees”
  • Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
  • “Birches”
  • Emily Dickinson, “Four Trees”
  • Henry David Thoreau, “Wild Apples”
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
  • Leanne Simpson, “Plight"
  • Joy Harjo, “Speaking Tree”
  • Charles Chesnutt, “Po’ Sandy”
  • Selections from Gilgamesh and King James Bible
  • Selections from Sumana Roy How I Became a Tree
  • Other authors may include Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Michael Pollan, Martin Buber, Aldo Leopold, Peter Wohlleben, & William Cronon.

First Three Authors/Texts:

  • Selections from Myths of Mesopotamia (Quercus)
  • The Book of Genesis (Quercus)
  • The Odyssey of Homer

Methods of Evaluation

  • Informal discussion posts (15%)
  • Participation (15%)
  • Two short essays (10% each)
  • Two brief quizzes (5% each)
  • Final essay (40%)