Course Overview

Focused on American culture, this graduate seminar takes contemporary narrative as a rich subject for environmental studies in the period since global warming cohered as both a scientific consensus about anthropogenic climate change and a complex story about modernity. The guiding questions are: Can we define environmental narrative as a distinct rhetorical form? What is at stake in this category for both literary studies and environmental science? How does narrative take shape in prominent forms of science communication (such as maps, data visualizations, models and dioramas)? By comparison, how do the narratives of writers, artists and media makers conceptualize environmental knowledge?

Drawing on a multidisciplinary secondary literature, the seminar pursues these questions by way of four topics: (1) biodiversity and biotech; (2) multispecies ecologies (3) climate change, climate chaos, climate justice; and, finally, (4) alien ecologies, terraforming fantasy and “multi-planetary” futurism. Primary materials are selected from the following: novels by T.C. Boyle, Octavia Butler, Ruth Ozeki, Jeff VanderMeer and Karen Tei Yamashita; art and performance works by The Harrison Studio, Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo, Angelo Vermeulen and Marina Zurkow; and popular science media along the lines of “green” games, the iNaturalist platform and NASA’s Visions of the Future poster series.