Course: Climate Change and the Problem of Representation

HC 223H

Professor: Casey Shoop

What are the representational demands of climate change and environmental catastrophe on literature and artistic production? Does the temporal and spatial scale of the problem make it difficult for our aesthetic modes of representation to respond adequately to the present crisis?  In this course we will consider both the limits and possibilities of literary and other cultural forms to respond to the burgeoning reality of climate change. If the enormity of the problem presents a unique challenge to our representational capacities, we will nonetheless explore how literature, poetry, and film respond and adapt to this transforming world. Is there a poetics of environmental disaster? Does literature offer us a means to imagine a world otherwise?

Possible authors include Ian McEwan, Nathaniel Rich, Margaret Atwood, J.G. Ballaard, Emmi Itaränta, Kim Stanley Robinson, Cormac McCarthy, among many others, as well as several films, from the documentary Chasing Ice and an Inconvenient Truth to blockbusters like The Day After Tomorrow.

Along the way we’ll consider theoretical aspects of the problem representation from the Kantian sublime to Timothy Morton’s hyperobjects, and from Rachael Carson’s Silent Spring to Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor and Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement.