Faculty Profile

B Ashton Nichols

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

Contact Information

nicholsa@dickinson.edu

Kaufman Building Room 192
717.245.1660
http://users.dickinson.edu/~nicholsa/

Bio

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.

Education

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

2015-2016 Academic Year

Fall 2015

ENGL 101 Environment, Culture & Values
Cross-listed with ENST 111-01.Perhaps no genre of literature is as uniquely American as American nature writing. No genre can tell us as much about our environment, environmental culture, and the values that derive from and depend upon our natural environment. We will also work to define "nature" and to understand the complex connections between humans and the nonhuman environment they inhabit. Our guides will be Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, and others. The course will be a study of metaphor, poetic and prose styles, and the link between literary and naturalistic observation. Our texts will be literary; our contexts will be environmental, cultural, and ethically ecological. Are humans a part of the natural environment? Do we see ourselves as distinct from nature? Is our environment beautiful and benign (sunsets, daffodils, puffins) or ugly and destructive (hurricanes, cancer, death)? We will examine the current importance (as well as the controversial aspects) of evolutionary ideas, and we will emphasize the role played by literature in the development of our own environmental assumptions and values. Two essays and a final exam.

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

ENGL 329 Ecocriticism
Ecocriticism is a recent form of literary and cultural interpretation that has emerged out of emphasis on the relationship between humans and the natural environment. Ecocritics emphasize the role played by nonhuman nature in a wide range of texts, literary and otherwise. They also interrogate the ways that human interactions with nature (plants, animals, geology, landscapes) have affected human life and the natural world. Many ecocritics have environmentalist or preservationist agendas; others are more interested in the philosophical and cultural implications of human understanding of and impact on the natural environment. We will set literary works in dialogue with scientists and nature writers of the past two centuries and will examine the current importance (as well as the controversial aspects) of ecocritical ideas. We will emphasize the role played by literature in the development of our own assumptions and values. The course will also focus attention on critical approaches and literary methods and will help students to develop more sophisticated research skills as they move toward the senior seminar year.

ENGL 500 Independent Study

Spring 2016

ENGL 101 Small Poems, Big Ideas
Poems are like diamonds and atoms, full of contents under remarkable pressure, often containing astonishing energy in very small spaces. The course will look at short lyric poems that are long on ideas. Our survey of poets will range from Sappho to Shakespeare, through Spenser and Shelley, to Stevens and Sting (a former English teacher). Genres studied will include the ballad, the sonnet, the song, the sestina, the Romantic ode, even haiku and zen phrase poems. We will study dozens of lyric poems over the course of the semester; several short poems will be discussed during each class period. Students will be expected to read as carefully and as closely as is humanly possible. Students will also present poems for class discussion and will write several short essays as well as one long essay. As one of the poems we will study has it : "Words fail. / Mind fails."

WGST 300 Romantic Women/Victorian Men
Cross-listed with ENGL 360-01.This course in 19th-century literature will use gender as a lens through which to view this revolutionary era. How did male authors talk about female subjects in these works? How did female authors invest authority in male and female voices? What current stereotypes about gender can be traced to Romantic and Victorian literature? How do these texts resist our efforts to make simple generalizations about men and women? Do lyric poems pose particular problems for gender and biographical forms of interpretation? Is the importance of the novel in the nineteenth century related to the gender of authors or readers? Our class will address questions like these; we will stress textual issues, contextual details, and gender relations in the works under study. What authors will help us? Among others, Blake will tell us that the two sexes are actually one. Percy Shelley will write beautiful love poems, and his wife Mary will tell us that the love he describes does not exist. Dickens will offer us strong women and weak men. Christina Rossetti will claim that goblin men sell a dangerous fruit that women often buy. Hardy will call an out-of-wedlock mother "a pure woman," and his society will damn him for that description. Our class will also seek to understand contemporary critical interest in and scholarly discussion of these authors and texts from a variety of critical perspectives. Study of these works will provide a basis for independent exploration of these and other Romantic and Victorian writers. Two essays and a final exam.

ENGL 360 Romantic Women/Victorian Men
Cross-listed with WGST 300-06.This course in 19th-century literature will use gender as a lens through which to view this revolutionary era. How did male authors talk about female subjects in these works? How did female authors invest authority in male and female voices? What current stereotypes about gender can be traced to Romantic and Victorian literature? How do these texts resist our efforts to make simple generalizations about men and women? Do lyric poems pose particular problems for gender and biographical forms of interpretation? Is the importance of the novel in the nineteenth century related to the gender of authors or readers? Our class will address questions like these; we will stress textual issues, contextual details, and gender relations in the works under study. What authors will help us? Among others, Blake will tell us that the two sexes are actually one. Percy Shelley will write beautiful love poems, and his wife Mary will tell us that the love he describes does not exist. Dickens will offer us strong women and weak men. Christina Rossetti will claim that goblin men sell a dangerous fruit that women often buy. Hardy will call an out-of-wedlock mother "a pure woman," and his society will damn him for that description. Our class will also seek to understand contemporary critical interest in and scholarly discussion of these authors and texts from a variety of critical perspectives. Study of these works will provide a basis for independent exploration of these and other Romantic and Victorian writers. Two essays and a final exam.

ENGL 500 Independent Study