Jun 18, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

ENG 234 - Beyond the Single Story


“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. …When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”  - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This course features in-depth study of a complex text that provides multiple avenues for students to venture beyond the “single story,” direct their own learning and research, and explore new ideas, perspectives, and questions. Its first iteration will focus on Richard Power’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, ‘The Overstory’ (2018).  

Variously described as “an environmental epic,” “an expansive allegory,” and “a gigantic fable of genuine truths,” ‘The Overstory’ tells the story of the “forgotten kinship” between humans and trees, asking us to recognize trees as protagonists whose fates are entangled with our own. Each of the nine main characters has a connection to a particular tree, and in the course of the novel, their individual story lines grow together and cross fertilize, like tree roots. Combining botany, dendrology, mythology, history, technology, ethics, and environmental activism, ‘The Overstory’ provides rich terrain for students to explore topics of interest and connect issues raised in the novel to their own lives, while gaining deeper understanding of the relationship between human and nonhuman worlds.

As they read the novel, students will keep a reading log, which will be syndicated to a centralized course website. They will use tags to locate common themes and issues, and reply to each other’s posts, thereby generating an organically expanding, interconnected, communal response to the novel. The reading logs will enable students to leaf out from the buds of new ideas, one of which they will choose to branch out and to pursue a topic or issue in greater depth through a research, experiential, or investigative project of their own design. Students will also adopt a tree and keep a handwritten journal, and compose a final reflection about their own overstory, in which they envision their ideal relationship to the nonhuman world and identify means and practices for achieving and sustaining it.

Satisfies English major and minor requriement.
Satisfies Literary Studies, Creative Writing and Rhetoric requirement.
Satisfies Justice, Equality and Community requirement.