Brianna Burke


Office Hours:Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-5


Courses I am Teaching

Engl 240: Introduction to American Indian Literatures
Engl 260: Introduction to Literary Studies
Engl 355: Literature and the Environment
Engl 445: Seminar: Literature Crossing Boundaries (usually offered as a Trans-National Environmental course)
Engl 534: American Literature 1865 to the Present
Engl 543: The Study of Environmental Literature


Ph.D. and M.A. Tufts University • Literature
B.A. Saint Michael’s College • English and History

Research Areas

Environmental Justice (both American and Trans-national), Climate Change and Literature, Ecocriticism, Ecofeminism, Post/Trans-humanism, American Indian Literature, Race and 20th Century American Literature

About My Teaching

In all of my classes I relate the topics and themes of the literature we read to the issues that affect your lives. My goal is to help students see that they were born into a network of pre-existing power structures that guide their cultural, social, and intellectual choices, and some of these structures have had long lives. For example, in my environmental courses, we think about the impact our daily choices have on the environment and the lives of other human beings around the world. In class, we interrogate the beliefs handed down to us, attempt to discover where these beliefs come from and who benefits from them, and then try to decide whether or not we agree with how they guide our behavior—all while using brilliant literature, art, and film to open up our discussions. I think we needn’t blindly accept the values handed down to us on how we should live, and that literature and art give us a healthy way to explore the realities of our world, even when they are unpleasant. Ultimately, my hope is that students leave my classrooms knowing why they hold the beliefs they do and why they make the choices they make.

I also think that the issues most often discussed in my classes—social justice, resource consumption, pollution, and climate change—are the very issues that will shape your generation.

Recent Publications

Becoming Beast: The Humanimal in Climate Justice Literatures . (In Process.)

Indian Summer: Growing Up in the American Indian Hobbyist Movement. (In Process.)

Selected Articles and Book Chapters:
“‘Reaping’ Environmental Justice through Compassion in The Hunger Games.Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment. Forthcoming in Spring 2014. PDF

“Teaching Environmental Justice Through The Hunger Games.” The ALAN Review. Fall, 2013. PDF

Before ISU: “The Great American Love Affair: Indians in the Twilight Saga.” Bringing Light to Twilight: Perspectives on a Pop Culture Phenomenon. Giselle Anatol, ed. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011. PDF

“Challenging Heteronormativity: Fostering LGBTQ Awareness in a High School English Language Arts Classroom.” Co-authored with Kristina Greenfield. The English Journal 105.6 (2016): 46-51. PDF

Current Research

My current book project, Becoming Beast, expands the burgeoning, multi-disciplinary field of Environmental Justice (EJ) to consider how not only the ideologies of race, class, and gender have been used to justify inflicting environmental burdens on specific populations, but also how a fourth and hitherto un-studied ideology is now developing that is already beginning to create new strategies for perpetuating environmental injustices. This fourth factor, what I call “animality”, involves the representation of species or biological difference (perceived or actual). The book examines 21st century fiction and films alongside nonfiction texts related to the most pressing contemporary environmental issues of our time, such as climate change and resource extraction. Through the intersection of texts, I reveal how environmental injustice is increasing due to representations that separate and divide certain populations from mainstream culture by comparing these populations either to food animals (thus making them “consumable”), to endangered species (thus portraying them as no longer adaptable to our planet), to “expendable” species (thus a necessary sacrifice to development), or to human/animal hybrids (thus biologically inhuman). At root, my research turns attention to how the unprecedented advances in biotechnology and genetic manipulation have paved the way for blurring the boundaries between human and animal, creating further possibilities to perpetuate social or environmental injustice.

Outside of the University

I love to hike and camp and swim (especially in New England) with my family and my dog.