Seminar: British and American Authors

L450 — Fall 2021

Shannon Gayk
Days and Times
1:10p - 2:25p MW (3 CR)
Course Description

Topic: Writing Disaster

This seminar focuses on the literature of ecological disaster. Our reading will be chronologically, geographically, and disciplinarily expansive, considering literary engagements with natural disasters from a number of perspectives, though we will especially focus on creative responses to catastrophic floods: from ancient archetypal accounts of a flooded world, to literature and films set in Katrina-era New Orleans, to recent cli-fi novels. As we read this literature, we will consider some of the following questions: How do we make sense of the senselessness of disaster? How do writers represent experiences of unprecedented destruction and loss? How they engage questions of ecological vulnerability and precarity? How does disaster affect social conditions and especially those of marginalized communities? How might disaster help us imagine a more resilient or just futures? Course texts will likely include a mixture of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including selections from the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible, medieval narratives of the biblical flood, J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, the 2012 film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and either Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower or Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. We will also read selections from disaster studies and ecocriticism, including work by Amitav Ghosh, Ursula Heise, and Rob Nixon, and several short nonfiction works, including Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark and Roy Scranton’s Learning to Die in the Anthropocene. Because this is a seminar, careful preparation and engaged participation in the discussion will be crucial to your success in the course. Students should also expect to write a series of informal responses, co-lead class discussion on one occasion, and craft a final 12-15 page critical essay or creative work. There will also be several optional opportunities for class excursions to explore the drowned worlds of our own Indiana backyard.

Interested in this course?

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

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