Exciting Opportunities in the English Department:

Environmental Literature with Matt Hooley


Clemson’s English department offers a multitude of different courses for English students to take. An example of one of these courses is English 4340: Environmental Literature taught by Professor Matt Hooley.  This course leads students through answering the question, what happens when we describe the world beyond ourselves? 

Hooley offers  many different topics of discussion that reflect on different issues regarding race, gender and the historical and scientific frameworks used to describe the environment. One piece of literature students have the chance to read is written by Dr. Suzanne Simard. Students read the collection of poems she created after conducting and transcribing interviews with different trees. Students are then given the opportunity to interview trees in Clemson and create their own pieces of work. This area of study dives into discussing the limits of language and students learn how to describe something nonhuman using a human narrative. 

Matt Hooley

Hooley came to Clemson in the fall of 2017 to teach this course to educate students on how to think critically about describing where they are and the places they go in material and historically accurate terms. Hooley’s goal for this course is to give students the tools they need to ground themselves wherever they are. 

This course also addresses the history of Clemson University and the fact that environmental issues in the Clemson area are tied to questions of power, coloniality and race. Hooley explains how important it is to address these issues in order to be able to critically analyze and understand the history of all places. “When we confront the legacy of Clemson,” states Hooley “It is not about just criticizing Clemson. Clemson is just one place in the world. We have to learn how to address issues here so we can do it elsewhere.”  

English 4340: Environmental Literature is taught through interactive assignments and discussion lead through excited class conversations. Students have a chance to connect what they learn in class to their lives, and there are many opportunities for students to situate themselves in the course and relate to the material being taught. Students also have the opportunity to share the knowledge they gained throughout the course by creating various projects that can be displayed for students on campus; such as interpretations of the landscape around Clemson University. 

Students in this course learn valuable skills thinking about the environment and the narratives used to describe their surroundings. “In our life, the environment is not a subcategory,” Hooley explains. “It’s the basis of everything.” 

Along with learning how to communicate through environmental issues in a sensitive and historically accurate way, English 4340: Environmental Literature taught by Hooley guides students through an analysis of how we access the histories that have since been erased or beyond us. In other words, how do we gain full understanding of the experience of others knowing it has been translated through someone else’s voice or even government testimonies and archived away. 

In addition to Hooley’s course, the English department offers other courses that challenge students to think deeper on a slew of different topics. For example, English 3490: Technology and the Popular Imagination taught by Professor Maria Bose evaluates the digital revolution and how Internet-based business models and systems of distribution have influenced popular media. The media covered in this course ranges from novels to television to video games. 

Another course offered, English 4590: Special Topics in Language, Criticism, Theory, specifically covers sexual violence and white supremacy in African American literature. Many questions about the history and ethical portrayal of violence are covered in this course including, how does our history confront the issue of justice?     

Clemson’s English Department offers students the opportunity to study these various topics through courses offered each semester. Through these different courses, English students will develop a better understanding of the relevance of studying literature to society today.

Written by: Gabrielle White

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