Reading & Composition
Ecological Feelings: Intimacy, Anxiety, Alienation, Horror
How to fathom the separation line between humans and their nonhuman contexts, when the two seem, at this present juncture of protracted and irrecoverable ecological catastrophe, irrevocably, perhaps tragically, imbricated? This course presumes that the very occurrence of feeling — awe and affection, panic and despair— is one way in which the separation line between humans and their environments has been known, articulated, or at the very least, imagined. More particularly, it looks to literature and film as repositories of these feelings, emotions and affects, in order to track their presence and quality in the broader scheme of literary and rhetorical effects. How do feelings— of terror, or kinship— emerge through literary descriptions about “nature” and the nonhuman world? How do anxieties about ecological decline map onto narrative arcs and literary genres like memoir or horror? What is the relationship between the cultural climate— defined as the dominant attitudes or perspectives shared by a group— and the atmospheric one, and how can texts make this relation apparent? In asking questions such as these, we will reconsider our unsteady definitions of both nature and text, seeking out alternative, reparative translations.
In addition to engaging filmic and literary material through class discussion, we will work semester-long to build new ways of critically analyzing texts by writing about them. In part, class time will be dedicated to learning and building this critical vocabulary together. Assignments will include readings as well as weekly glossary entries, collaborative discussion posts, and two papers of literary criticism, one of which will incorporate secondary sources.