Essay: Literature and the Environment

Due Dates

03 April 2014: Introduction & Conclusion. Post to blog by 5:00 PM (Post #5)

10 April 2014: Outline and Body Paragraphs. Post to blog by 5:00 PM (Post #6)

14 April 2014: Final paper due as .pdf uploaded to blog


Analysis driven, argument essay 1500-1800 words long, posted as a .pdf to a blog post with a abstract (headnote). For full credit the essay must include:

  • At least three in-text citations from one or more of the following: The Tempest, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,” and/or “Rhetorics of Engagement.” Remember the success of your claim lies in your interpretation of the in-text citations you chose, so be sure to close read the passage for form and theme.
  • A three to five sentence abstract (headnote) in the blog post to which link/upload the .pdf. The abstract should, very briefly, sketch out the goal of the argument and the evidence used to fulfill that goal
  • MLA format for in-text citation, works cited, margins, headings, footnotes, page numbers, and block quotes.


For this paper you are required to generate your own arguable claim in response to one of the following prompts:

Shakespeare and Slow Violence:

How does William Shakespeare “craft emotionally involving stories from disasters that are slow-moving and attritional, rather than explosive and spectacular” (Nixon Par. 1)? In other words, how does Shakespeare render “slow violence”? To generate an argument in response to the question, choose one of the following tropes and track it throughout the text you chose: shipwrecks, ghosts, monsters, redemption, utopia, or wilderness.

Comparative Rhetoric:

What does The Tempest bring to light about environmental issues that audiences would rather not think about? In other words, what kinds of rhetoric does either the poem or the play draw upon to express change, disaster, and/or redemption? What does environmental fiction do that nonfiction cannot? Does either the play or the poem provoke audiences to an insight into environmental issues in a way that rhetoric of activism cannot?

GLOBAL Warming

Are “humans” more powerful than “nature,” or is “nature” more powerful than “humans”? A fully developed response to this question will take into account the complex status of the terms “nature” and “human.” Think about ways The Tempest puts forth complex definitions of these terms, and you are also welcome to draw on critics we have read so far this semester. You may also want to address, though you are not requited to do so: to what extend does Shakespeare show that those least likely to have caused environmental destruction are most likely to experience the negative effects of the damage?


As always your peers and I are your primary audience, yet please also keep an ever expanding, global Internet audience in mind for this paper. What style, tone, and vocabulary choices will you have to make to suit both the audience, and the subject matter for each project? Explain quotations and images do so as if your audience has never read the texts you discuss.

Grading Rubric

While you are writing, please understand that the following will be used to grade your assignment:

  1. Does the paper fulfill the requirements of the assignment-does it make an arguable claim that shows a relationship between ideas and challenges assumptions?
  2. Does the essay actively interpret passages and images used as evidence in support of the claim?
  3. Does the paper use textual evidence to define terms, contextualize, and provide evidence in support of the claim? Does the paper define key terms and employ them consistently?
  4. Does the first paragraph introduce the topic/claim of the paper? Does the rest of the paper develop the topic/claim? Does the paper make use of strong topic sentences and transitions? Does your conclusion raise new ideas?
  5. Are the tone and the style consistent through out the paper? Are tone and style appropriate to the audience and subject matter?
  6. Does the structure of the argument contribute to ease of reading? Are the paragraphs organized around focused or complete topics?
  7. Does the layout of the text in relation to images on the web page contribute to ease of reading?
  8. Does the essay make use of appropriate word choice and syntax? (i.e., action verbs over “to be,” active voice over passive, parallel sentence structure, etc.).
  9. Is the paper acceptably free of mechanical errors? Are all citations in MLA format?


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