Spring 2023 - ENGL 202 D100

The Environmental Imagination (3)

Class Number: 4273

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We, Fr 9:30 AM – 10:20 AM
    AQ 3003, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    12 units or one 100-division English course.



Explores how literature and language imagine the natural world and engage with environmental and ecological crisis. Topics may include ecocriticism: eco-poetics; approaches to the natural world; local, imperial, and Indigenous ecologies. May be further organized by historical period or genre. Breadth-Humanities.


The Ecopoetics of the Colonial River

In this course we will explore the environmental imagination as it is activated in contemporary poetry. In the texts we will be reading, conceptions of the natural world are of course central, but so are social and historical relations and issues related to colonization, decolonization, climate justice, and the very nature of the human/more-than-human relation. Our readings will cluster around the motif of water—especially rivers, which (geographically and metaphorically) run through the heart of most of our course texts. This will lead us to visit the Stó:lo (Fraser) River together on a class walk, in order to better understand the way our texts explore site-specific understandings. We will also consider the concept of the Anthropocene, a term suggested by earth scientists to name the new geological era human activity has now pushed our planet into. We will both examine and critique the way the human relationship to our lived environment is framed by this concept, and how it differs from traditional definitions of “nature” and “ecology”—especially as these have been articulated in a long-standing body of literature. In addition to the required texts, several other poems and essays will be provided by the instructor.


Gain understanding of the ways contemporary poetry explores the natural environment and the human/more-than-human relation.
Improve writing skills in a variety of modes.


  • Participation 20%
  • Reading journal 30%
  • Creative response 20%
  • Essay 30%


Participation will be evaluated both in terms of attendance and in terms of your informed and constructive contributions to classroom discussion. All students are expected to attend class having done the required readings, and prepared with comments or questions on those readings as well as the substance of the course lectures.

The reading response journal should include entries for at least six of our course readings, including the essays and poems distributed via Canvas. Your journal response should not take the form of point-form notes, but rather paragraphs through which you develop your impressions of and ideas about the texts you are reading. Journal entries should be between 300-500 words for each. Your reading journal will be handed in twice during the semester, at weeks 5 and 10. In both cases you will receive some feedback, and are invited to work this feedback, where appropriate, into your final essay.

The creative response could take the form of a poem (or series of short poems), a personal essay (drawing upon your own history and experience with rivers and water), or short story. You may write in conversation with/response to any of our readings, and you are also encouraged to use our class visit to the Stó:lo as a “prompt” or instigation for this creative response. 800-1200 words.  

The essay will be an argumentative essay (1500 words) focused on one or more of our course texts; you may incorporate material from your journals and feedback given.



Students should order the required readings through local independent bookshops (such as Massy Books or Iron Dog Books), or on-line.


Jordan Abel, NISHGA
ISBN: 978-0771007903

Cecily Nicholson, From the Poplars
ISBN: 9780889228566

Erin Robinson, Wet Dream
ISBN: 9781771315876

Fred Wah & Rita Wong, beholden
ISBN: 97817720121181

Matthew Weigel, Whitemud Walking
ISBN: 9781552454411


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html