Faculty Profile

Ashton Nichols

Professor of English and Environmental Studies; Walter E. Beach '56 Distinguished Chair in Sustainability Studies (1988)

Contact Information


Kaufman Hall Room 192


His fields include 19th- and 20th-century British literature and contemporary ecocriticism, with an emphasis on Romantic poetry and American nature writing. He also regularly teaches courses in nature writing. His current research focuses on Romantic natural history, 1750-1850 and urbanatural roosting.


  • B.A., University of Virginia, 1975
  • M.A., 1979
  • Ph.D., 1984


  • Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, 1992-1993. Ganoe Award for Inspirational Teaching, 1993-1994

2018-2019 Academic Year

Fall 2018

ENGL 101 Environment, Culture & Values
Cross-listed with ENST 111-01. Henry David Thoreau's Walden is the foundational document of American nature writing. We will begin with a careful examination of this new genre. We will then work to understand connections between Henry David Thoreau and the tradition of environmental writing that he began. This focus will allow us to engage important questions confronting students and scholars interested in the tradition of environmental literature in America, its sources in wider American culture, and the impact of that tradition on our current environmental movement, nationally and internationally. Writers studied may include: Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, and E. O. Wilson, and more. From the preservation of wild lands to debates about global warming, from the desire to conserve and protect animal species to the need to make use of natural resources for the betterment of human life, we will explore ways that "nature writing" and "environmental literature" have played a crucial role in the development of these ideas. Two essays, final exam.

ENST 111 Environment, Culture & Values
Cross-listed with ENGL 101-03.

ENGL 403 Frankenstein and Others
Frankenstein is perhaps the first truly modern myth. Mary Shelley, at the age of 18, penned this powerful tale as her entry into a ghost-story writing contest with her lover-–and soon to be husband--Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the superstar poet Lord Byron. It was the cold and rainy summer of 1816 in Europe, after the eruption of Tambora, one of the largest climate-changing volcanoes in history. Frankenstein, the story of a man who created a being approximating human life, begins a series of nineteenth-century tales that have had a powerful influence on the last three centuries of myth-making and horror-story telling. Other Romantic monsters we shall examine may include: The Mummy! (1827), Edgar Allan Poe’s Stories (1830s-40s), Carmilla (1871), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Dracula (1897). Students will write one short diagnostic essay (8-10 pp.) and one major research essay (15-20 pp.) which may or may not form the basis for their senior thesis in English 404. Our research during the term will prepare students for the spring thesis-writing semester of English 404.

Spring 2019

MEST 200 Contemp Poetry from Mid East
Cross-listed with ENGL 321-02.

ENGL 321 Contemp Poetry from Mid East
Cross-listed with MEST 200-04.

ENGL 404 Senior Thesis Workshop
A workshop requiring students to share discoveries and problems as they produce a lengthy manuscript based on a topic of their own choosing, subject to the approval of the instructor. Prerequisites: 300 and 403.