Game of Thrones tells us that winter is coming – but why is it coming? What causes an entire world’s climate to change? In this seminar, we will read literary texts that provide thought-provoking answers to that question. Moving across a variety of genres, we will see magical forest creatures, coal miners, and post-apocalyptic scavengers work with, and struggle against, their environments in ways that reflect changing attitudes to how we should relate to nature. From Shakespeare and Dickens to today’s bestsellers and disaster movies, fiction helps us see that in our world (unlike in Westeros), structured labor – the way we organize different forms of work – has played a huge part in shaping our environment.
It often seems as if our jobs and prosperity are separate from that of our planet. But what happens to our work when the planet can no longer support us? Do we change how we make our living, in order to save ourselves? With the sinking cities and burning plains of yesterday’s science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality, can literature help us figure out where to go from here? In class we will ask these questions – and many more – while moving through literary, cinematic, theoretical, and historical texts. We will disagree, agree, persuade, and generally wander in and around these materials to better understand how they are put together. These conversations will provide a model for what literary arguments can look like. We’ll see how fiction bears witness to the ecological emergency produced by our systems of labor – but the works we read will also offer hope; for survival, and for a more just and resilient future.
Though the object of our investigation is literature, this is a writing course above all. We will work together on strategies for pre-writing, drafting, revising, and editing. We will also discuss methods of source interpretation, research, and documentation. We will refine the skills inherent in critical writing through a process of radical revision, in which you will learn to read your own and your classmates’ writing with a critical eye, transforming it into a sophisticated, refined, and persuasive final product.