Spring workshop explores new modes of environmental storytelling

Spring workshop explores new modes of environmental storytelling

The workshop will discuss how “landscape” is not a phenomenon that exists without the presence of culture. Photo: Peggy_Marco

The American landscape has long been misinterpreted as natural and untouched. A new generation of contemporary writers recognizes the rich and layered cultural practices that constitute this vast territory as well as the complex interplay between human and non-human elements.

“Writing Cultural Landscapes” is a six-week, non-credit workshop offered by the Climate School to all Columbia affiliates who wish to explore the intertwined crises of environment and equity. It will introduce students to unconventional environmental texts and encourage them to use the lessons and ideas gathered in their own short texts.

Through in-class readings, writing prompts, and exercises, students should walk away with their own location-based reading lists, a glossary of hyper-local words, and plenty of ideas for how to continue writing about the landscapes they have chosen.

Classes will be led by Lynnette Widder, who teaches community resilience and sustainable architecture at the Earth Institute’s Sustainability Management Program, and Darby Minow Smith, longtime environmental journalist and MFA candidate in Columbia’s creative writing program.

The collaboration has already generated excitement about the possibilities of environmental storytelling. “Lynnette has such a novel way of looking at landscapes,” said Smith, who also teaches undergraduate creative writing at Columbia. “She doesn’t just try to write; it seeks to measure and test hypotheses. It made me realize how important it is to collaborate across fields and schools. This is shaping up to be a creative writing class like no other.

Classes will be held on Zoom from 2-4 p.m. Thursdays starting March 3 for a six-week period (including a self-directed spring break prompt). To Apply: The class is open to ALL current Columbia and Barnard students, affiliates, faculty, staff, and alumni. Interested persons should email Widder ([email protected]) and Smith ([email protected]).