Instructor: Carlson
TR 11:00 AM 12:20 PM

How did “nature” and “ecology” get imagined into being? How can we reimagine them today? What is the role of cultural texts in helping us to shape a better world? In this course we’ll pursue these questions by investigating literature, art, and film from 1800 to the present—the era now known as the Anthropocene. We’ll explore Black poets and Native American storytellers, compare sci-fi and cli-fi (climate fiction), and pore over rivers and tides in paintings and movies. There’s a history of changing consciousness—and culture—involved. The idea of a holistic earth in which humankind is just one species among many dates from the Romantic period (1780-1850). Erasmus Darwin (Charles’s grandfather) coined the term “economy of vegetation” for it. William Wordsworth wrote of a world where humans were “rolled round in rocks and stones and trees.” John Clare scrambled into bushes to see the world like a hiding bird. John Constable and JMW Turner made clouds and light, instead of gods and goddesses, the heroes of their paintings. Since then, writers have imagined a modern world tipping frighteningly out of balance. Byron, seeing the destruction of nature by capitalist greed, predicted climate change and mass extinction, as did Mary Shelley, fictionalizing pandemic plague in The Last Man. More recent books and film, such as Braiding Sweetgrass (2015), The End We Start From (2017), and Albatross (2018), have renewed our understanding of a holistic earth, humanity’s destruction of it, and possibilities for recovery. Questions we will ask include: what narrative, pictorial, and cinematic techniques have artists employed for reawakening our perceptions of the earth and atmosphere? How can the Humanities help to remedy eco-crisis? Active participation, short papers, discussion prompting, and a final project are required.