Critic Raymond Williams once proposed that the word “nature” might be the most complicated in the English language. This class is about how writers have used imaginative literature to examine those complexities. How have such writers defined “nature”? What relationships do they construct between human beings and the natural world? How are conceptions of nature, the human, and their interaction inflected by cultural assumptions and concerns, including ones about race, gender, and imperialism? Who possesses knowledge about nature? What constitutes such knowledge? We’ll address these questions while reading literary works by Amitav Ghosh, Barbara Kingsolver, Zakes Mda,and others; we’ll put these texts into dialogue with work on ecology and environmental history by Rachel Carson, Bill Cronon, and Rob Nixon. Our readings will be supplemented by field trips and lectures that may complicate our ideas about nature by revealing how it shapes even New York City, the quintessential urban environment. Assignments will include response papers, a blogging activity, formal analytical essays, and a chance for students to develop creative projects that respond to environmental issues.