Great Books and Bad Weather
ENG 2040 Spring 2016
Great Books & Bad Weather (an Inspire Course)
Instructor: Dr. Crystal B. Lake
Email: (the best way to contact me)
Twitter: @theinspirelab
Instagram: the.inspire.lab
#greatbooksbadweather, #inspirelab

Course Description: What can literature tell us about climate change? What can literature do about climate change?

This course is inspired by the recent critical furor over the term “Anthropocene:” the new, proposed geological epoch that records – for presumably the first time in history – human effects on the global climate and the earth’s environment. Although there’s much debate around dating the advent of the Anthropocene, one prominently proposed beginning is the year 1784. Taking its cue from this dating, this course explores representations of weather in novels, poems, and nonfictional works published in the long eighteenth century: the period, roughly, from 1660 to 1837. This course experiments with using literature to think historically and aesthetically about climate and weather as sites of empirical data and as moods or feelings: phenomena humans observe, try to understand, explain, engage and – increasingly – phenomena that humans affect. What do eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works of literature reveal about popular perceptions of weather and climate at the purported dawn of the Anthropocene? How does literature both represent weather and climate and also shape it for humans? And in what ways might climate or weather, in turn, shape literary production?

About an Inspire Course: This course is an Inspire Course. An Inspire Course is a different kind of English literature course. Inspire Courses ask you to be open to being inspired by the course topic and the assigned readings in order to pursue a project that you design and execute over the entire semester. Inspire Courses, therefore, rely a lot less on the traditional kinds of writing assignments or tests that you encounter in other English literature courses. They also, however, require a different kind of engagement and commitment. In an Inspire Course, the material the professor presents in class and assigns as part of the course is only the tip of the iceberg. You’re responsible for bringing new ideas to the table, for finding additional information, for conducting your own research and experiments, and for bringing your own unique passions and insights to bear on the class topic and assigned readings. You’re also responsible for transforming your inspiration and hard work into a project that’s innovative, exciting, compelling, well conceived, and executed with the highest standards of excellence in mind. Your professor (as well as graduate students who are assisting with this course) will work with you to conceptualize and develop your project, and you’ll have opportunities in regularly-held “think tank labs” to generate and test out your ideas – but the project you will turn in at the end of the semester should reflect your best work and be as inspiring as it is inspired. The project can be whatever you want it to be: a creative work or performance, a substantial report or article, a proposed policy, a technology, a software, an experiment, a product, a thing none of us have yet to imagine. Let great writers inspire you to be great, too.

Objectives and Outcomes: This course is part of Wright State’s Common Core and is designed to help you learn to

  • critically analyze significant creative, literary, philosophical or religious works
  • understand and discuss the complex blend of imaginative vision, socio-cultural context, ethical values, and aesthetic judgment in creative, philosophical or religious works
  • recognize, evaluate and respond to creative, philosophical or religious works
  • develop appropriate and ethical applications of knowledge in the humanities or the arts

Additionally, this course is an Integrated Writing Course. Students who take this course produce writing that

  • demonstrates their understanding of course content,
  • is appropriate for the audience and purpose of a particular writing task,
  • demonstrates the degree of mastery of disciplinary writing conventions appropriate to the course (including documentation conventions), and
  • shows competency in standard edited American English.

Required Books:

Please purchase the specific editions listed here.

There are many texts assigned in this course that will be made available to you through our library’s reserve page and/or linked to from the course schedule page. You will need to bring a readable copy of these texts with you to class. These copies should contain evidence of your having completed the reading, including highlights and notes. Digital copies of these works are fine (on a tablet, laptop, or other electronic reading device), but you will need to demonstrate that you have the copy in hand, that it bears signs of your having read it before class, and you will need to be able to readily access pages and passages for class discussion without distraction or delay. If you chose to print materials, which is what I recommend, you will need to budget accordingly.

Please also note: this course is a project-based course; should you pursue a project that requires supplies or materials, you’re responsible for their purchase. Additionally, part of the final project requirement is a printed, color, mounted poster. These run approximately $25.00-$35.00. You are responsible for printing and paying for your poster, which will be returned to you at the end of the semester. Please budget accordingly.


  • In-Class Participation: 15%
  • Attendance at Public Lectures (2 out of 3): 10%
  • Pop Quizzes: 10%
  • 20-Minute Daily (except for Saturdays) Journal: 25% (assessed three times during semester)
  • Major Project (with 500-750 words Reflection/Explanation Essay & Poster): 40%

Course Policies

Participation: You will need to plan to be actively involved in class every day. This means that not only do you need to be in class, you need to participate in class by adhering to the class ethos (described below), listening to and taking notes on lectures, offering your own spoken contributions in discussions, and engaging clearly and productively in in-class work, including group projects. Put away and silence your mobile devices, bring your books and supplementary materials with you; plan on directing your peers to specific pages and passages in discussion; come prepared to make a comment or ask a question. You are responsible for making sure that your participation is obvious to both your classmates and your professor.

Attendance: Attendance is required for this course, and I begin taking official attendance records on the first day of the second week of class. You may miss three of these class sessions without penalty. After the third absence, however, your grade will be lowered according to the percentage of the class you have completed by attending. For example, if you miss four total classes (out of our 38 scheduled class sessions), you have attended 89.5% of the class, and you can expect to see a 10.5% deduction from your final grade that takes into account the number of classes you have missed. Therefore, if you earn a grade of 92% (A), your final grade will be lowered to 81.5% (B-). Your participation grade will also suffer; your journal grade may also be compromised (should I collect journals on that day); you cannot make up missed quizzes. If you have an emergency that will keep you from attending class, please let me know as soon as possible. I can’t promise that I will accommodate you, but I will put you in touch with an administrator who can help you to complete this and the other courses that will have been affected by your emergency. Please note, however, I will do this only in the most dire of circumstances (a death in your immediate family, a major illness requiring hospitalization, etc).

Academic Integrity: “It is the policy of Wright State University to uphold and support standards of personal honesty and integrity for all students consistent with the goals of a community of scholars and students seeking knowledge and truth. Furthermore, it is the policy of the university to enforce these standards through fair and objective procedures governing instances of alleged dishonesty, cheating, and other academic misconduct.” The policy defines plagiarism as “Quoting, paraphrasing, or otherwise using the words or ideas of another as your own without acknowledging or properly citing the other.”

The policy then defines the processes by which faculty may pursue allegations of academic misconduct and potential sanctions on students who violate the policy. This part of the policy may be found here. Assignments submitted by students that violate Wright State’s Academic Integrity policy will automatically be reported and assigned a grade of 0.

Students with Disabilities: If you anticipate needing accommodation for a disability in this course, please register with the Office of Disability Services and plan to meet with me during the first week of classes to talk about how we can work together to ensure that you succeed in the course.

Email: I try to respond to emails in a timely manner, but it may take me up to 48 hours to reply to your email, and you should plan accordingly. Before you email me, however, please take a moment to see if your question(s) might be answered by reviewing the syllabus and assignment sheets. Additionally, please do not email me regarding your attendance – except in the case of an emergency that will require me to help you get in touch with Student Services. In other words, I ask that you do not alert me to any and every absence, and you should contact a classmate to find out what you may have missed. Sometimes, emails from students do end up in my spam folder. If you required a response and did not receive one in 48 hours, be sure to ask if I’ve received your email in class so that we can make sure the lines of communication between us are open. It is a good idea to conduct your email correspondence with me and your other instructors in a professional manner; use a conventional, formal letter address (Dear Dr. or Professor….) and make sure that you include your full name so that your reader knows who you are. Finally, you are responsible to keeping track of your attendance and your grades in the course; I do not tally or calculate these until the end of the semester in order to maintain a standard of objectivity.

Turning in Work: Work is due at the time and day as stated on the syllabus. Technological difficulties such as a broken printer, a failed hard drive, or a disrupted internet connection are not acceptable excuses for late work. Likewise, I cannot make exceptions to my late work policy if you’ve forgotten crucial class materials, such as your journal. I recommend that you complete your work before the deadline so that a catastrophic loss of data or an untimely illness does not result in a total loss. I also recommend that you download and install Dropbox as a way to protect your work for the course. Late work will receive a grade of 0 in order to mirror professional climates: missing a deadline for a job application, project report, or appointment will mean that you cannot take advantage of those opportunities and that you have compromised your professional reputation. I only make exceptions to this policy for documented emergencies (a death in your immediate family, a serious illness requiring hospitalization).

Class Ethos: This course aims to mirror professional climates in order to prepare you for work outside of the college classroom. Please approach your relationship with your professor, your peers, and your work as if you were in a professional setting. You might imagine, for example, that class sessions are like business meetings where we meet to establish facts and best practices, brainstorm ideas, conduct critical conversations, learn to navigate rules and procedures, and strategize about fulfilling project goals. You should come to class sessions prepared, then, to offer productive comments on assigned readings, respond to your professor and peer’s ideas with thoughtfulness and respect, and ask questions that are meaningful. You should avoid inviting speculation about your work ethic that will inevitably arise if you seem distracted by electronic devices like cell phones and laptops, if you seem unprepared, if your personal life consistently interferes with your work, if you cannot stay on task during small-group activities, and if you are unable to meet deadlines. Likewise, you should undertake work for the course – ranging from assigned readings to in-class activities to written assignments – as if you were conducting that work in a professional environment where your performance will be evaluated and decisions about promotions and projects will be based on the competencies and professionalism you demonstrate.