Literary Cultures

Literary Cultures

'And the Place Was Water’: Rising Waters, Shifting Grounds
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Anne-Lise Francois
175 Barrows

How does one rest in a world that is itself unmoored or ungrounded? What would it be to keep time with a world essentially transient and perpetually changing? How can one keep faith with faithless creatures and fugitive phenomena? Borrowing its title from the poet Lorine Niedecker’s line about the ability of land to give way to water, this class will seek to frame these long-standing philosophical questions about transience in relation to contemporary climate change and related ecological and political crises of extinction and displacement. How do we distinguish inevitable impermanence and mutability from manufactured and unevenly distributed forms of instability and precarity?  Rather than asking about how to “save” ourselves or the planet, we will take our cue from recent works such as Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and being, Sonya Posmentier’s Cultivation and Catastrophe, Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World, and Donna Haraway’s Staying With the Trouble that have redefined love of the nonhuman world as a question of staying in relation to environments damaged by plantation slavery and colonial extraction. Focusing in particular on journals and documentary-like films and poems we will assemble an archive  of literary forms that practice “staying power” even as they also perform or call attention to their own passing.

Key words: water, wetlands, tides, enforced mobility, extraction, transience, metamorphosis, cultivation, catastrophe, margins, edges, beaches   

Sample Reading List:

Matsuo Bashō, The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Rachel Carson, Silent SpringThe Edge of the Sea

Derek Jarman, Modern Nature

M. NourbeSe Philip, Zong!

Tim Robinson, Stones of Aran

Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World

Dorothy Wordsworth, The Alfoxden Journals