Graduate Course Description

350:512 - Ecocriticism

Course No:  350:512
Index # - 14880
Distribution Requirement:  B
Monday - 10:20 a.m.
MU 207


Dana Luciano

This course considers contemporary developments in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities. We will explore the forms of life and liveliness that ecocritics seek to make legible, tracking flows of matter and energy across human and nonhuman, biotic and extrabiotic realms and querying how these manifest in literary contexts. We will also ask how the planetary scope of environmental crisis affects our understanding of time and space, thus altering what it means to live and to live on. What forms of survival can ecocriticism envision? What happens to the conception of the “human” that grounds the humanities in conditions like these?

As a subset of the broadly interdisciplinary environmental humanities, ecocriticism has been profoundly active in the past two decades, evolving beyond a focus on nature writing to engage the critical and conceptual questions emerging from the twenty-first century’s “crisis ordinary.” From this perspective, ecocritics consider social as well as environmental configurations, following the evolution of the environmental humanities into an intersectional as well as interdisciplinary field. Accordingly, the seminar highlights queer, feminist, and critical race theory as central to ecocritical analysis. Our reading will encompass both interdisciplinary reflections on environmental crisis, and focused analyses of how literary and aesthetic form might be conditioned by such reflections. Authors include Kyle Powys Whyte, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Mel Y. Chen, Jennifer James, Stacey Alaimo, Sylvia Wynter, Sara Jane Cervenak, Nicole Seymour, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, Monique Allawaert, Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Sonya Posmentier, and others.

The nature of the crises to which ecocritism responds demands the adoption of varying writing styles, formats, and genres and the consideration of multiple audiences and platforms. Hence we will look at critical/theoretical writing produced in a number of formats and will consider what the “public humanities” looks like in an ecocritical context. We will also experiment with some of these alternative formats in our own writing. Course work will include regular short pieces of writing in multiple forms, a mid-semester essay, and a final assignment that may take the form of a traditional essay or an equivalent public humanities project.