The humanities play a key role in shaping thinking about the past, present and future of environmental and climate change issues. Scientists can present hard data on the climate crisis and other ecological challenges. But it is humanists who are likely to consider the unequal social and personal impacts of these challenges, to translate environmental science for broader human understanding and action, and to examine what we mean even when we use words like “climate”, “environment”. “, “atmosphere”, “nature” or “ecosystem”.
That belief — and specific ideas about how to make those rewarding practical and intellectual connections a reality — prompted Mike Goode, an English professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, to submit a proposal for the college’s Tolley Chair. He recently received the prestigious two-year rotating appointment, which was created in 1995 to honor Chancellor Emeritus William P. Tolley. The role is designed to support the improvement of the educational experience and to increase classroom effectiveness. It is guaranteed by private donors and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
So what does it mean to teach climate change in a social studies course or to make social studies education more ecological?
“Climate change and other types of environmental problems have a disproportionate impact on certain groups of people, such as those living in disadvantaged conditions. Humanists view climate not just as a scientific issue, but also as a human issue with social justice components. It’s something that humanists can bring into the conversation,” Goode says.
Humanities courses also help students analyze how different people and cultures think about, represent, and emotionally process environmental changes and their impacts on habitats, including human habitats. In addition to providing a platform to examine these stories, humanities courses offer students a place to envision new possibilities and opportunities for ecological thinking and imagination. As Goode says, “Changing behavior often requires changing the metaphors, stories, and images through which we think.”
Goode is delighted to be appointed to the Tolley Chair. He was inspired to submit a proposal based on his recent experiences developing and teaching a new English language course that asks students to consider the powerful – and sometimes problematic – legacy that early 19th century British representations century of the “natural” world have in the contemporary environment. media and ecological thinking, including in nature documentaries and even zombie films.
He also drew ideas for pedagogical work and faculty development from his participation in an interdisciplinary research seminar in Landscape Studies funded by CUSE 2018-2020. Another factor that contributed to his interest was his research into the history of landscape gardening in Britain, both as a practice and as something that influenced artists and philosophers who reflect on what is “reality” (and how to change it) for his book, “Romantic Abilities: Blake, Scott, Austen, and New Messages from Old Media.” »
“I believe the College of Arts and Sciences has an opportunity to become a leader in environmental humanities education,” says Goode. “Showcasing institutional resources and providing concrete, intellectually provocative models of how to teach ecology and climate in social studies courses would be an effective way to accelerate the college’s continued development in this area.”
Lois Agnew, acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said Prof Goode was the perfect candidate for the Tolley honour.
“He is an innovative teacher and mentor who has frequently worked across multiple disciplines and competing interests that span literature, media, ecology, gender, critical theory, and the history of art, intellect and science,” says Agnew. “Climate change and sustainability are strengths for the college and university, and we look forward to seeing how Professor Goode combines the science and people sides of this topic to help students and faculty address it in the classroom. and beyond.”
As a component of the chair related to pedagogy – the method, practices and approach taken in teaching – Goode plans to focus on creating an archive of interdisciplinary lesson plans and materials. These would include short video-recorded presentations showcasing different humanities courses, units, and assignments related to ecology or climate that have recently been taught at the University.
Understanding that professors don’t often get to observe how others teach in their classrooms, Goode says these examples would provide tested approaches for other faculty members who may wish to incorporate topics on the environment and climate change in their lessons. These sample lessons could help them improve their own pedagogy by giving them the opportunity to see many types of lesson innovations and teaching styles.
Goode also wants to invite collaboration and conversations into classroom discussions from faculty and staff from diverse perspectives, such as those working in sustainability efforts and those teaching law, Native American/Indigenous studies, geography, biology, and film and media arts. These will include everything from organizing a discussion between professors of philosophy and environmental law on what it means to grant “rights” to non-human entities like trees or rocks, to creating teaching resources focused on how the materials from which the art objects themselves are made are part of the stories. resource use and extraction.
“We owe Michelangelo admirers in part to blame for the popularity of Carrera marble in office building countertops and lobbies,” says Goode.
For this latest project, he will collaborate with the University Art Museum, in particular by creating with them a program linked to a work loaned to the museum in 2022-23 by the famous landscape artist Robert Stimson.
Additionally, he wants to show how humanities teachers can use the campus and adjacent landscape sites, such as the Rock Cut Quarry behind South Campus and Oakwood Cemetery, to teach environmental history and ecological thinking through immersive learning.
Tolley professors are required to hold a short lecture at the end of their tenure on the University’s property at Minnowbrook, and Goode considers the ecological orientation and character of Minnowbrook itself to provide a suitable platform for solve environmental problems. This traditional conference center, set on millenary granite in a protected spot in the Adirondacks that was home to ancestral Indigenous peoples, provides a fitting focal point to bring different disciplinary perspectives to bear on environmental conversations, Goode says.
Professor Goode joined Syracuse University in 2003 after working for two years as a visiting assistant professor at Reed College. He was an assistant professor of English until 2010 and an associate professor of English until his recent appointment as a full professor in the spring of 2022. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University in Economics in 1993 and a master’s degree (1995) and doctorate. (2001) in English from the University of Chicago.
Prior to Goode’s appointment, Ken Frieden, Professor of Religion, English and Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, served as the Tolley Professor for the 2018-20 term. Gwendolyn Pough, Dean Professor of Humanities and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, has been appointed to the two-year position beginning in 2020.