Introduction to the Advanced Study of Literature

L260 — Fall 2021

Days and Times
4:55p - 6:10p TR (3 CR)
Course Description

Topic: Planetary Fictions

In our contemporary moment of ecological devastation, we humans increasingly confront the reality that we are living on a damaged planet. Some humans have lived with this knowledge—and its real-world effects—for much longer than others. In this course, we’ll learn to practice the tools of literary interpretation (close reading, contextual analysis, theory and literary criticism) as we examine the concept of the planet in literature and culture. If we tend to think that all living creatures, both human and nonhuman, share this planet we call Earth, why is it that some are experiencing the damaging effects of climate change far more dramatically than others? How do we even picture the planet when its scale so radically exceeds human frames of reference? And how might we relate to the planet and its other inhabitants differently and more justly?

Throughout the semester, we’ll explore these questions and others through readings of novels, poetry, and creative non-fiction, including works by Laura Harjo, N.K. Jemison, Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Ursula K. Le Guin, Wu Ming-yi, and Mary Shelley. We’ll also apply our critical tools to cultural objects and events outside the usual domain of the literary: the documentary films of David Attenborough, James Lovelock’s “Gaia hypothesis” writing, as well as some recent examples of contemporary climate activism. In doing so, we’ll come to see that the tools of literary analysis are not only good for reading books; they can also enrich our understanding of how figurative language and literary forms shape the world we live in—and the planet that is our home.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

See complete course details