ENGL 365 (cross-listed as CHID) | Autumn 2016

Reading and Writing the Marine Environment

Credits: 5

Instructor(s): Richard Kenney


his is offered as part of the Marine Biology Quarter in Autumn, 2016.

Inspired by writers, artists, scientists and naturalists who have taken the sea for their subject, this is a marine-minded literature and writing course intended for readers and writers from all disciplinary backgrounds, engaging both creative and critical processes.

Q: What book is an unparalleled extravagance of literary ambition and style, a firsthand observatory of sea and life at sea, a serious natural history of cetacean mammals, an apparently bottomless mirror for American philosophical self-reflection, at once a mythic quest and a white-knuckle adventure story?

A: Moby Dick, our principal quarry. Chasing the White Whale, we’ll net other specimens from the literatures of the sea, contemporary and ancient, verse and prose. In all cases, this will be reading from a writerly perspective, considering the technical aspects of literary art, asking in a practical way how this work is done.

Q: Or, in a broader sense, how does a mind move from sea to seascape—from Nature to its representation—in any medium? Consider “the marine environment” in paint, verse, field note, and mathematics: do representations in each of these modes have anything in common? What are their various intents and purposes? How does nerve by language nudge the world and come away with an impression?

A: That’s the class. Our conversation will draw courage from large questions like these and others we may wish to bring to the table. Meanwhile, our principal considerations will be practical: reading for joy, conversing together, and testing our thoughts in an experimental spirit at the point of a pencil.

All welcome: no previous experience in creative writing or literary study is presumed.
UW students earn “VLPA” credits in this course. No textbook is required for this course.