Scott Hess
Associate Professor of English

Scott Hess teaches in both English and environmental studies. His main scholarly fields encompass literature and environment, including American nature writing from Thoreau to the present; environmental philosophy and aesthetics; eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, especially print culture, authorship, and the self; early nineteenth-century American literature and culture; and landscape art and photography. Scott has published extensively, with a particular focus on the poetry of William Wordsworth.

Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 51

Phone
765-983-1504

E-mail
hesssc@earlham.edu

Office
310 Carpenter Hall

Office Hours
Tues. & Thurs. 10-11:30; Fri. 1:30-3:30

Programs/Departments

  • English
  • Environmental Studies

Degrees

  • Ph.D., Harvard University
  • B.A., Swarthmore College

Selected Courses:

American Literature and Ecology — examines American nature writing and environmental literature from Thoreau to the present in relation to a wide range of philosophical and pragmatic approaches to the human-nature relationship (such as deep ecology, ecofeminism, environmental justice, bioregionalism, urban nature, etc.).

Nature's Nation — explores how various literary constructions of "nature" have supported different and often competing versions of American national identity, in relation to issues such as race, class, gender, and Native American ethnicity, from the eighteenth century to the present.  Includes also American landscape art, photography, and film (such as Dances with Wolves and Avatar).

Place, Landscape, Identity — investigates how people construct "place" in relation to various forms of personal and social identity and how places involve social categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality in ways that carry historically and socially specific forms of power.  Also engages the effects of globalization on place and identity; and the role of nature in defining sense of place and self.

Nature, Landscape, and the Arts — engages with various forms of environmental art, especially landscape painting but also photography, film, on-site “earth art,” gardens, and other media, to explore what versions of nature or environmental such art expresses and what meanings, values, and forms of social power and identity it carries.  Focuses on Western art from the Renaissance to the present, with some attention also to East Asian landscape arts of China and Japan.

Romanticism — surveys British and American Romantic-era literature (late 18th and early 19th centuries) in historical and cultural context, with special emphasis on responses to the French Revolution and its aftermath (in Britain) and the forging of a new national identity (in the United States).  Investigates constructions of nature, gender, race, and identity in relation to Romantic themes such as consciousness, genius, self-reliance, transcendence, abolitionism, exotic otherness, travel, the supernatural, and the sublime.

Restoration and Enlightenment Literature — surveys English Literature from roughly 1660-1789 in cultural and historical context, including themes such as the development of the public sphere and the political nation; Enlightenment and the rise of science; empire, slavery, and the slave trade; new definitions of gender based on the division between the public and private spheres; the rise of the mass reading public and corresponding notions of individualized authorship and identity; and the development of new literary genres including autobiography, literary criticism, Augustan satire, and the novel.

Senior Seminar, “Why Study Literature?” — class for graduating senior English majors addressing the question “why study literature,” as part of the broader question of why write and read literature at all.  Engages a wide range of approaches to literature both over history (from Plato and Aristotle through the present) and in contemporary literary theory.  Asks students to develop their own personal statement of how and why studying literature is important to them, in dialogue with this wide range of approaches and values.

My main scholarly fields encompass literature and environment, including American nature writing from Thoreau to the present; environmental philosophy and aesthetics; eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, especially print culture, authorship, and the self; early nineteenth-century American literature and culture; and landscape art and photography.

Currently working on a book project--entitled Landscapes of Genius and the High Art of Nature: Nature, Aesthetics, and Self--to explore how modern environmental art and literature, together with the environmental movement more generally, have supported a model of the individual, autonomous self (and genius) which ironically helps to promote consumerism and in many ways impedes effective ecological awareness and action. An alternative is to foster a socially as well as environmentally embedded self, in relation to an everyday nature.

Published Books

William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship: the Roots of Environmentalism in Nineteenth-Century Culture (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012).

Authoring the Self: Self-Representation, Authorship, and the Print Market in British Poetry from Pope through Wordsworth (New York: Routledge, 2005).

Published Peer-Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters   

 “Wordsworth’s Epitaphic Poetics and the Print Market.” Studies in Romanticism (SiR) 50:1 (2011): 55-78.

“Imagining an Everyday Nature.” International Studies in Literature and Environment (ISLE) 17:1 (2010): 85-112.   

“William Wordsworth and Photographic Subjectivity.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 63:3 (2008): 283–320.

“Tintern Abbey’s Environmental Legacy.” In Engaged Romanticism: Romanticism as Praxis. Ed. Mark Lussier and Bruce Matsunaga (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), 82-99.    

“John Clare, William Wordsworth, and the (Un)Framing of Nature.” The John Clare Society Journal 27 (2008): 27-44.   

“Three ‘Natures’: Teaching Romantic Ecology in the Poetry of William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, and John Clare.” Romantic Praxis, special issue of Romantic Circles Pedagogies Commons on “Romanticism, Ecology and Pedagogy,” ed. James McKusick and Bridget Keegan. December, 2006 (peer-reviewed, edited web journal: < http://www.rc.umd.edu/pedagogies/ commons/ecology/>).   

“Wordsworth's ‘System,’ the Critical Reviews, and the Reconstruction of Literary Authority.” European Romantic Review 16:4 (2005): 471-97.

“Postmodern Pastoral, Advertising, and the Masque of Technology.” International Studies in Literature and Environment (ISLE) 11:1 (2004): 71-100.

“‘Approach and Read’: Gray's Elegy, Print Culture, and Authorial Identity.” The Age of Johnson 13 (2002): 207-37.

“The Wedding Guest as Reader: ‘The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere’ as a Dramatization of Print Circulation and the Construction of the Authorial Self.” Nineteenth Century Studies 15 (2001): 19-36.

“Jousting in the Classroom: On Teaching Malory.” Arthuriana 9:1 (1999): 133-38.

Recent Conference Presentations (since 2007)   

“John Clare, Ecological Abstraction, and the Abstraction of the Self.” Part of a panel on John Clare: Nature and the Self at the 2013 Modern Language Association Annual Convention, in Boston, Mass.

“Yoking Nature and Nation in ‘America the Beautiful’: A Study in Cultural Migration.” 2013 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference, at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

“Why Ecocriticism Still Needs 'Nature': the Example of Asher Durand.”  Preconference seminar in “Ecocritical Art History,” at the 2013 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference, at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

“Landscapes of Genius in Wordsworth and Thoreau.” 2013 North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) Conference, at Boston University.

“Clean Animals and Soiled Humans: Muir, Animality, and Environmental Justice.” 2011 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference, at Indiana University, Bloomington.

“Early Modern Ecocriticism: the Eighteenth-Century Perspective.” 2011 Early Modern Literature and Ecocriticism seminar at the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference, at Indiana University, Bloomington.

“Green Fields and Lonely Rooms: William Wordsworth’s Projection of the Urban Self onto Nature.” 2011 North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) conference, in Park City, Utah.

“’In Lonely Rooms’: Constructing Romantic Nature from the City.” 2009 International Conference on Romanticism (ICR), at the City University of New York.

“William Wordsworth and the Ecology of Authorship.” 2009 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference, at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

“A Home of Leisure in a Landscape of Work: the Cultural and Environmental Politics of Wordsworth’s Home at Grasmere.” 2008 International Conference on Romanticism (ICR), at Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.

“From Wilderness Chauvinism to Respect for an Everyday Nature.” 2007 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) conference, at Wofford College.

Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) 

North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR)

Earlham is a place where students engage in exploring questions and values in a deeply committed way, both personally and socially. Students want to be an active part of their own learning here, to explore how and why what they are studying matters, both for them and for the world of other people (and non-human beings too). They don’t just sit back and expect to be spoonfed information from experts, they participate in shaping the questions themselves. As a result, teaching at Earlham feels fulfilling and dynamic and continually fresh beyond what I have experienced at other colleges and universities; it is a genuinely communal exploration of what makes knowledge relevant, of how and why knowledge matters in the world. Here the desks are always in a circle; everyone calls me by my first name; and the students and I are committed to continually expanding our minds (and hearts) together. Earlham’s Quaker-informed community and ethos enables that atmosphere (see our Principles and Practices for more specifics on how).

I will be teaching a collaborative research class on “Nature and Identity in Romantic Landscape Painting.” The class will explore with students how Romantic landscape art in Great Britain and the United States, by artists such as J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Thomas Cole, and Frederic Church, constructed new versions of “nature” and correspondingly new versions of personal and national identity. I have taught landscape art for several years now and am getting ready to begin publishing in the field, as part of my current book project, Landscapes of Genius and the High Art of Nature. Students will help me develop my research background and ideas in ways that will inform that book, while also writing their own full-length scholarly articles in the field. We will not only view and interpret a lot of fantastic landscape art, in historical context, we will also take trips to outstanding regional art museums in Cincinnati and Indianapolis with great collections of landscape art, as well as to our own local gem, the Richmond Art Museum.

I led the Earlham semester-abroad program in London, where I taught a course on English Landscape and Literature.  We read lots of great literature, but we also went to the major London art museums and interpreted landscape art; we visited aristocratic great houses and their gardens (the kind you read about in Austen novels); we went on walking tours of London together; and we took trips to some of the most beautiful and celebrated “literary landscapes” of England, including Tintern Abbey, Bath, Stonehenge, Blenheim Palace, and the English Lake District.

I love to garden; grow fruit trees and briars; cook (vegetarian); play soccer with students and other faculty and staff; run and work out; spend time with my partner and young child Xander; meditate and take part in a Buddhist sangha here; watch movies; read widely in poetry, literature, history, cultural studies, and just about everything. I used to write a lot of poetry, and about five years ago began to teach myself to play guitar and write songs, but fatherhood (which takes up most of my time when I’m not working) has put those activities on hold for now — hopefully I’ll get back to them in the years to come.

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