History of Criticism and Theory Primary tabs

English 8070
Noah Heringman
Tate 310
Course Description

How is the consciousness of irreversible human-driven change in earth systems--a process increasingly widely known by the term "Anthropocene"--affecting literary criticism and theory?  The Anthropocene is certainly a buzzword in contemporary criticism, but the apparent collapse of a massive distinction between humans and nature should also provoke a reconsideration of the entire tradition of literature as mimesis, the imitation of nature.  In this course, we will consider some classic texts in the history of criticism and theory, including Aristotle's Poetics, Sidney's Apology for Poetry, and Kant's "Analytic of the Sublime," that make transformative claims about the representational capacities of literary art, about its relationship to nature.  We will consider the imprint or "footprint" of literature along with the atmospheric and chemical footprints left by the various systems in which it has flourished, including animal-powered agriculture, coal-driven industry, and the petroleum-besotted Space Age. We will also engage with separate volumes on the related topics of Biopolitics (Campbell and Sitze) and of cultural production in relation to the threat of climate change, as examined particularly by Jussi Parikka, Elizabeth Kolbert, and Claire Colebrook.  The course will include some engagement with public climate science via  MU's Life Sciences and Society Program or other campus venues.  Our course text will be the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (third edition) along with the four contemporary volumes.