[Cross-listed with Italian 404 and Italian Studies 414]

Think Like a Forest: A Dialogue Between Pre-Modern Worldviews, Environmental Humanities, Indigenous Knowledge

How do we think? Are we aware of the kind of thinking we entertain? What kind of world do our individual and collective, conscious or unconscious thought-processes generate? Do we even have a choice in the orientation of our thinking patterns, and if we do, does it matter to know we can choose how to think?

Recent scientific research on plants and forests has shown that plants are dynamic, ever-evolving creatures that know how simultaneously to respond to their own inner pattern while remaining adaptive to the environment; that know how to grow in resilience and flexibility by developing a vast web of relations, both visible and invisible. In becoming who they are, plants also generate and foster complex ecosystems around them: they support communities of deeply interconnected yet also wildly diverse living species, including our own. In other words: plants know how to give to life infinitely more than they take from it. Without plants and their way of living/thinking, we humans would simply not exist.

Somewhat like an old-growth forest, pre-modern Europe produced a vast corpus of texts and images that mirror and teach an organic way of thinking and of becoming. In this course we will deepen our understanding of these expressions of ecologically-oriented, transformative worldviews. Our approach will be complemented and supported by select readings in contemporary environmental humanities, and in North-American Indigenous perspectives on education as the human path to wholeness.

We will discuss:

  • The Romance of the Rose (excerpts); Tristan and Isolde; The Grail Legend (excerpts);
  • Lady Philosophy and/as Mother Nature embodying feminine wisdom from Antiquity to the Middle Ages;
  • St Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Dante Alighieri;
  • Botticelli’s mythological paintings; Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and other paintings;
  • Montaigne’s education of the mind through rootedness in the body and the heart.

Required Texts:

All texts for this course will be made available through Canvas and/or UBC library.

Language of instruction: English

Students who plan to minor in Italian must take this course as ITAL and will be expected to do part of their reading and assignments in the Italian language.

Course Registration