Jennifer Atkinson

Jennifer Atkinson

Senior Lecturer

Associate Director of the Pre-Major Program and Discovery Core

B.A. English and History, University of California Santa Barbara
M.A. English Language and Literature, University of Chicago
Ph.D. English Language and Literature, University of Chicago
Office: Husky Hall 1316
Email: jenwren@uw.edu
Phone: 773-350-8364
Mailing: Box 358530, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell, WA 98011-8246


Area of focus: Environmental Humanities

My teaching explores the intersection between American Literature, Culture, and Environmental Studies.

I believe that developing a more sustainable relation with the biotic community is both a science and an art.  While disciplinary boundaries can encourage us to frame environmental crisis as a scientific problem requiring technological solutions, I ask students to consider how social values and practices arise out of our imaginative lives -- and specifically how literature, philosophy and the arts shape environmental thought, both past and present.

My classes emphasize integrative learning: studies in literary analysis and environmental ethics are enhanced by service learning, collaboration with community organizations and other field experiences throughout the Puget Sound region. This integrative experience allows students to directly engage with -- and draw connections between -- the political, professional, aesthetic and experiential dimensions of our relations to a more-than-human world.

Fiction and creative nonfiction remain the primary objects of inquiry in my teaching, but all of my courses take an interdisciplinary approach to literary and environmental studies, drawing on works from critical theory, philosophy, ecocriticism, history, urban studies and works of environmental advocacy. This broadly inclusive approach allows students to examine different forms of spatial imagination and different material environments—from forests and frontiers to inner cities, tenement buildings and the fantasy spaces of science fiction—as they relate to problems of class, race and displacement, gender, memory, and literary form.

Recent Courses Taught

BCUSP 104 "Place & Displacement in the Americas: Human Rights, Culture and Ethnicity"
BCUSP 118 Environmental Ethics and Literature
BCUSP 134 Interdisciplinary Writing: “The Ecology & Politics of Food”
BCUSP 135 Research Writing: “Agri/cultures: Problems in Surplus, Scarcity & Sustainability”
BCUSP 187 Introduction to Literary Analysis
BIS 293 "Environmental Grief and Anxiety: Building Hope in the Age of Climate Consequences"
BIS 345 American Environmental Thought
BIS 356 Ethics and the Environment
BIS 371 Twentieth-Century American Literature
BIS 361 Studies in American Literature: “Place & Environment”
BIS 393 Special Topics: “Environmental Thought & Literature”
BIS 499 IAS Portfolio Capstone
BISSKL 375 Academic Research and Writing Seminar


While my early research focused on more “traditional” nature-writing and environmental narrative, I have increasingly turned to the literary geographies of everyday experience. My forthcoming book, Gardenland: Nature, Fantasy and Everyday Practice (University of Georgia Press, 2018) examines American garden literature as a fantasy genre where people enact desires for contact with nonhuman nature, connection to place and community, less alienated forms of work, democratic urban management, and a more measured pace of daily life. The project examines a wide variety of texts, from popular garden books and environmental writing to literary fiction and nonfiction (works by Thomas Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau, Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, Jamaica Kincaid, Leslie Marmon Silko and Alice Walker), “guerrilla gardening” manifestos, Hollywood film, garden advertisements, and works of science fiction by Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood. In analyzing these texts, I show how gardens allow us to inhabit modes of thought and practice otherwise suspended in daily life; as such, they have an uncanny ability to throw into relief the failures and frustrations characterizing everyday experience in the office, factory and home, in shopping centers, city streets and cyberspace. 

I have also published research on teaching environmental humanities through immersive outdoor experience: my work on “Multi-Sensory Experience and Environmental Encounter” (2015) examines how fieldwork and embodied experience can unsettle Cartesian legacies that privilege rational abstraction at the expense of other ways of knowing. Other work on representations of nature in utopian literature appear in the journal Utopian Studies and the edited volume Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden


Gardenland: Nature, Fantasy and Everyday Practice. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, forthcoming 2018.

“Multi-Sensory Experience and Environmental Encounter: Rethinking the Sustainability of Humanities Education.” Interdisciplinary Environmental Review, Vol. 16, Nos. 2/3/4 (2015), 253–266. 

“Comedies of Surplus.” Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden. Ed. Annette Giesecke and Naomi Jacobs. London: Black Dog Publishing (2012), 258-271.

“Seeds of Change: The New Place of Gardens in Contemporary Utopia.” Utopian Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (2007), 237-260.


Associate Director of the First-Year Program and Discovery Core, UW Bothell