Black Ecoliterature

Black Ecoliterature

Instructor: Chelsea M. Frazier



Questions of sustainability, ecology, and environmental justice have begun to garner much attention in the field of black studies within the contemporary moment. This course investigates the various ways in which notions of blackness and ecology converge. Throughout the quarter we will become familiar with various textual representations of ecology and blackness from across the Black diaspora. We will explore the ways in which categories such as race, gender, nature, place, and technology cohere and become complicated within a contemporary catalog of texts that we might call—to borrow language from ecocritic Kimberly Ruffin—Black Ecoliterature. Central questions guiding the course include "How do our notions of blackness inform our ideas of ecology?" and "In what ways does centering blackness and/or black subjects shift our extant understandings of environmentalism?"


·      5 discussion responses and discussion questions (4 pts or 20 pts total) for each novel we read. These responses will be used to assess how deeply you have engaged with the readings prior to class. Five responses should be completed throughout the quarter and the statements should be short (~ 300-400 words). These responses can be rooted in personal reflection, but should unquestionably convey that you have done the reading and should demonstrate thoughtful reflections on the assigned texts. At the end of your response, be sure to include 2 discussion questions that you would like to share with the class. Each response should be submitted on canvas by 10 am day of class. If I don’t have it by 10 am day of class, it does not count.

·      Midterm Essay. (20 pts) Choose a topic and write a 3-5 pg essay to be submitted on canvas.

·      Final Essay. (30 pts) Choose a topic and write a 8-10 pg essay to be submitted on canvas.

·      Thesis Draft and textual analysis sample (5 pts each or 10 pts total). This assignment will be due directly prior to the mid-term and final essays. Writing is a process and the purpose of this assignment is to practice your textual analysis and receive my feedback before you tackle your longer writing. We will practice building this skill throughout the quarter during class      discussions. Attentive note-taking during class is a great way to track the conversations that we have, contribute meaningful points and questions, and to help you choose the topics come essay time.

·      Attendance/class participation (20 pts total). This class is discussion based and will only work if everyone comes to class, with copies of the assigned texts, on time and ready to contribute. Each class you should aim to contribute one comment or question at the very minimum. I will be tracking class participation and in-class writing assignments throughout the quarter. Your written responses are meant to help you meet this expectation.  


·      All assignments must be handed in on or before the time stated on the syllabus.

o   Example: An assignment due Monday at 10 am handed in at 10:01am will be deducted 2.5 pts. Another 2.5 pts will be deducted for each additional day late.

·      Each assignment should be submitted on Canvas (DO NOT EMAIL ASSIGNMENTS TO ME). Midterm, Final, and Thesis Drafts/Textual Analysis should be 1) typed 2) double-spaced 3) have a title  4) have numbered pages and 5) have your name on the first page.

·      For your midterm you can write on one or more of the first two books assigned to the class before the midterm paper. Your final paper must be on one or more of the last three books. For papers of this size, I recommend using one book per essay only and focusing on specificity in your analysis.


Students requesting accommodations related to a disability or other condition are required to register with Services for Students with Disabilities (; 847-467-5530) and provide instructors with an accommodation notification from SSD, within the first two weeks of class. For more information: All information and correspondence will be confidential. The best accommodations can be made for students if they let me know about their specific needs related to learning and fulfilling the requirements of the course.


·      First and foremost, take care of yourself. Eat good food, drink plenty of water, get the rest you need and search for the              balance between your fun and your responsibilities—whatever that means for you! 

·      Take notes in class. Keep notes and in-class writing assignments organized.

·      Come to every class and be on time. Class discussions are crucial in literature courses, so missing them will deeply affect          your overall performance.

·      Do ALL the reading. While the course is rigorous, the reading load is designed to be manageable. Be sure to plan ahead              and come prepared to reflect and contribute in each and every class.

·      Read the essay prompt thoroughly before beginning any assignments. All essay prompts can be found on Canvas



Parable of the Sower x Octavia Butler

Daughters of the Dust x Julie Dash

Unbowed x Wangari Maathai

Queen Sugar x Natalie Baszile

Dawn x Octavia Butler



Week One:

9/20 Day 1: Course Introduction, Lecture,

Discussion & “Writing Workshop”

9/22 Day 2: Discuss Parable of the Sower (ch. 1-10)

Week Two:

9/27 Day 1: Discuss Parable of the Sower (ch. 11-18)

9/29 Day 2: Discuss Parable of the Sower (ch. 19-25)

Week Three:

10/4 Day 1: Discuss Daughters of the Dust (p. 1-105)

10/6 Day 2: Discuss Daughters of the Dust (p. 105-200)

Week Four:

10/11 Day 1: Discuss Daughters of the Dust (p. 200-310)

10/13 Day 2: Thesis Workshop (*Thesis/Textual Analysis 1 due on canvas by 10 am)

Week Five:

10/18 Day 1: Discuss Unbowed (ch. 1-4)


10/20 Day 2: Discuss Unbowed (ch. 5-9)

Week Six:

10/25 Day 1: Discuss Unbowed (ch. 10-13 & appendix)

10/27 Day 2: Discuss Queen Sugar (ch. 1-8)

Week Seven:

11/1 Day 1: Discuss Queen Sugar (ch. 9-20)

11/3 Day 2: Discuss Queen Sugar (ch. 21-30)

Week Eight:

11/8 Day 1: Discuss Dawn (Part I & Part II)

11/10 Day 2: Discuss Dawn (Part III)

Week Nine:

11/15 Day 1: Discuss Dawn (Part IV)

11/17 Day 2: Thesis Workshop (*Thesis/Textual Analysis 2 due on canvas by 10am)

Week Ten:

11/22 Day 1: Guest Lectures (TBA)

11/24 Day 2: NO CLASS (Thanksgiving)

Week Eleven: (READING WEEK):