Title: Multi-sensory experience and environmental encounter: rethinking the sustainability of humanities education

Authors: Jennifer Wren Atkinson

Addresses: University of Washington Bothell, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, 18115 Campus Way NE, Box 358530, Bothell, WA 98011-8246, USA

Abstract: This paper explores interdisciplinary teaching methods that combine studies in the humanities (particularly literature and philosophy) with multisensory environmental experience (outdoor fieldwork and reflection). While various forms of outdoor practice are already familiar in environmental humanities education, I emphasise their role as a powerful tool for examining rationalist traditions that trivialise embodied experience and estrange our intelligence from the intimacy and mystery of everyday contact with non-human nature. Drawing directly from student reflections in environmental humanities courses at the University of Washington, Bothell, I illustrate ways that undergraduates apply insights from phenomenology and literary studies to trace connections between ordinary sensory experience, contemporary and historical environmental values, and the literary and philosophical traditions that inform them. Through this integrated approach, students also develop awareness of the ethical implications of sense experiences we share with other forms of life, and draw on their embodied encounters to critique Cartesian legacies that privilege logical abstractions at the expense of other ways of knowing.

Keywords: environmental humanities; environmental literature; phenomenology; environmental ethics; environmental education; pedagogy; place-based learning; multisensory experiences; embodied experience; interdisciplinary teaching method; Henry David Thoreau; John Muir; David Abram; humanities education; literature; philosophy; outdoor fieldwork; reflection; higher education.

DOI: 10.1504/IER.2015.071019

Interdisciplinary Environmental Review, 2015 Vol.16 No.2/3/4, pp.253 - 266

Received: 10 Oct 2014
Accepted: 25 Apr 2015

Published online: 05 Aug 2015 *

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