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Wilderness, Ecology, Community

“Wherever you are and wherever you live, what’s most important in your life in some ways connects to questions of landscape and weather and air, to relation of inner and outer worlds, imagination and fact.”

—Gary Snyder

An Alternative, Specialized Curriculum in Environmental Writing

Eastern Oregon University Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing

About the Program:

A century ago, famed poet Robinson Jeffers encouraged an earlier era of ecological awareness in his emphasis on “the fate going on outside our fate.” That perceived gap between human existence and other species has narrowed. In our era, climate change and mass extinction impinge upon Jeffers’s soft duality: nothing is “outside”; rather, we share our fate with all life-forms.

Since Jeffers’s time, our intimacy with the environment has both waxed and waned: we understand the intricacies of ecology better than ever, but we spend less time outdoors. Though our world today “seems increasingly focused on the needs of humans” as poet Melissa Kwasny said recently as visiting writer to Eastern Oregon University’s low-residency MFA, “the struggle to widen the world to one where we exist in relation to other forms of life seems crucial.”

EOU’s one-of-a-kind Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program within the low-residency MFA seeks to empower students to explore those crucial relations in a connected world.

The EOU Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program connects students to the Pacific Northwest’s rich tradition of writers and thinkers with a deep and abiding attachment to the land—William O. Douglas, Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov, William Kittredge, Annick Smith, James Welch, Norman Maclean, Kim Barnes, Gloria Bird, Barry Lopez, Kathleen Dean Moore, Duane Niatum, Annie Dillard, Robert Michael Pyle, Ana Maria Spagna, John Daniel, Elizabeth Woody, and Theodore Roethke, to name only a few who are familiar to us today.

Like those in generations before them, students in the EOU Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program are drawn to the diverse geographies and manifold life-forms of the Pacific Northwest. Cautioned by the legacy of extraction and marginalization, or “slow violence,” within the region’s history, they too join their voices to the long and ongoing conversation with the landscape and its many peoples.

Situated among some of Oregon’s most remote, undeveloped areas, EOU lies in a valley surrounded by the Wallowa, Elkhorn, and Blue Mountain ranges. The Eagle Cap, Hells Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, North Fork John Day, Monument Rock, Strawberry Mountain, and Wenaha-Tucannon Wildernesses all are located nearby.

In cooperation with EOU’s Outdoor Adventure Program and our partners at Fishtrap, writing residencies will include visits and guest lectures by writers, scientists, biologists, native plants specialists, staff from the Greater Hells Canyon Council, Tamastlisk Institute of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Wallowology, and other individuals and organizations from the region.

Students enrolled in Wilderness, Ecology, and Community Program learn within a diverse and challenging curriculum that allows them to study with visiting writers as well as MFA faculty in courses that foreground writing and craft, as well as topics of both historical and contemporary interest in the field of ecological writing: climate change, environmental justice, queer ecologies, animal studies, and much more.

Given the wealth of open spaces and public lands available to students enrolled in the WEC program, and in partnership with the annual Fishtrap Writers Conference, we will use these lands as a classroom during a two-week summer residency, as well as use conventional classrooms to continue our studies in the “Wilderness Where We Are”—connecting the rural and urban Northwest.

WEC PROGRAM COURSE OF STUDY

In addition to our foundational courses in “The Roots of Environmental Writing” and “The New Environmental Writing,” students take at least five courses from a rotating menu of WEC topics and residency WEC craft seminars. Topics may include “Gender, Sexuality, and Environment,” “Films about Place,” “Climate Change Literature,” “Animal Studies,” “Concepts of Home,” “Queer Ecologies,” “Northwest Literature,” and more. Typically these courses are multi-genre. Course topics are representative and not all will be taught in a two-year period.  


YEAR ONE

Summer—Fishtrap and EOU Residencies (consecutive weeks in July)

WR 550 Residency: Generative Workshop 2 cr hrs (Fishtrap)

WR 541 Residency: Workshop 2 cr hrs (in your primary genre)

WR 542 *WEC Craft Seminar* 2 cr hrs

Post-Residency

WR 552 Individualized Studies: Projects in Writing 1 cr hrs (a follow-up to WR 541)

Fall—Distance

ENGL 536 *The New Envtl Writing* 4 cr hrs

WR 552 Individualized Studies: Projects in Writing 4 cr hrs (workshop)

Winter–Distance

WR 536 Rhetoric: *The Rhetoric of Catastrophe* 3 cr hrs

WR 552 Individualized Studies: Projects in Writing 4 cr hrs (workshop)

WR 609 Practicum/Professional Development 1 cr hr

Spring—Distance

WR 510 Special Topics in Writing: *WEC Focus* 4 cr hrs

WR 552 Individualized Studies: Projects in Writing 4 cr hrs (workshop)


YEAR TWO:

Summer—Fishtrap and EOU Residencies (consecutive weeks in July)

WR 550 Residency: Generative Workshop 2 cr hrs (Fishtrap)

WR 541 Residency: Workshop 2 cr hrs (in your primary genre) 

WR 542 *WEC Craft Seminar* 2 cr hrs

Post-Residency

WR 552 Individualized Studies: Projects in Writing 1 cr hrs (a follow-up to WR 541)

Fall—Distance

WR 510 Special Topics in Writing: *The Roots of Envtl Writing* 4 cr hrs

WR 552 Individualized Studies: Projects in Writing 4 cr hrs (workshop)

Winter—Distance

WR 510 Special Topics in Writing: *WEC Focus* 4 cr hrs

WR 660 Thesis 3 cr hrs

Spring—Distance

WR 510 Special Topics in Writing: *WEC Focus* 4 cr hrs

WR 660 Thesis 3 cr hrs

Summer—Fishtrap

Thesis Presentation 0 cr hrs

Total Credit Hours  60 cr hrs