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Georgetown University


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Fall 2017
Jan 20, 2018
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ENGL 484 - Sr Sem: Apprchg Anthropocene
The entirety of Western thought, and nearly all of literary history, has unfolded under the assumption that a category called “the human” could be opposed to another category called “nature.” This seminar in the environmental humanities tracks the productive breakdown of that distinction. First proposed by earth systems scientists in the year 2000, “The Anthropocene” names a new epoch in planetary history, a chaotic new present at the far end of the Holocene in which human activity – in the form of fossil fuel consumption, industrial farming, urbanization, and nuclear experimentation, among other innovations— has altered forever the course of biotic evolution and left a permanent record of this disturbance in the strata of the earth. In this catastrophic new reality, weather events, sea changes, and even evolutionary processes all derive at least elliptically from human causes, and “nature” can no longer separated comfortably from ourselves. The disastrous costs of these changes for human and nonhuman life mean that the Anthropocene takes the form of a practical challenge, one touching on all branches of culture, politics, ethics, and science. But it is a conceptual problem too, since it generates breakdowns in our most time-honored tools for thought and demands new models by which the present can be apprehended and perhaps even contested. The work of this seminar will be to see how (1) the multiple and interdependent environmental crises characterizing our present moment generate dilemmas for thinking that reverberate across multiple disciplines; and (2) how these conceptual crises crystallize in effects of literary and aesthetic form. 

This course will follow the program of the 2016-2018 Mellon-Sawyer Seminar, “Approaching the Anthropocene: Global Culture and Planetary Change,” co-directed by Nathan Hensley, Dana Luciano, and John McNeill. Readings will span disciplines and genre, and include visual and installation art and film in addition to more conventionally literary works. Many will be derived from the work of Seminar guests and participants, with whom we will interact at events and as guest speakers. Requirements will include rigorous preparation, inventive reading, and attendance at all major seminar lectures. Assignments will include work in conventional and experimental / hybrid forms, with opportunities to write publicly for the Seminar blog. No prior exposure to environmental humanities is presumed or required. More on the Seminar is here: https://anthropocene.georgetown.edu/.

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours
0.000 Lab hours

Levels: MN or MC Graduate, Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Seminar

English Department

Course Attributes:
Mean Grade is Calculated

Must be enrolled in one of the following Fields of Study (Major, Minor, Concentration, or Certificate):
Must be enrolled in one of the following Classifications:     


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