Contact Info

Campus Mail
Drawer 51



310 Carpenter Hall

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

Scott Hess

Professor of English


  • English
  • Environmental Studies


  • 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.


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.

Research Projects

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.

Professional Memberships

Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) 

North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR)

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