Honors Seminar in English: Writing Climate Change - Writing Intensive

Writing Climate Change
English 4996W
Section 1
Noah Heringman
Course Description

How does the abstract idea of climate change become real in our imaginations? What is the Anthropocene, and are we in it? Are the Paleo diet, barefoot running, and other primal fads a vision of life after climate change? In this course, we will pursue these questions by reading recent works of climate change fiction or “clifi,” such as Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, along with Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction and other nonfiction that grapples with the real reasons behind all the wild speculation: fossil fuel depletion and global warming accelerated by human-induced carbon emissions.  In response, we will write exploratory drafts in at least three genres: literary analysis/ecocriticism, popular science, and history of science.  One of these drafts (your choice) will be expanded to a long research paper at the end of the semester.  We will spend about half our time on recent “clifi,” including Odds Against Tomorrow and possibly some of the following: Paolo Bacigalupi, The Wind-Up Girl; Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior; Alexis Wright, The Swan Book; and a scifi precursor such as J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World.  We will spend a quarter of the time on relevant science writing by Kolbert and Anna Tsing, among others; and another quarter of our time on the history of ideas about climate and climate change, including selections from works such as Buffon’s Epochs of Nature (1778) and poems by Byron and Shelley. The list of novels is a work in progress and you are welcome to email the instructor during the spring of 2020 with suggestions.