The graduate seminar “Cultures of Climate Change” explores the ways that scholars from varied fields can apply their skills to the ecological and imaginative challenge posed to all of us (humanists, scientists, planetary citizens) by the increasingly visible and felt effects of global climate change.
The course examines the cultures of climate change, meaning artistic, literary, filmic and journalistic responses to this multi-scalar problem that frustrates conventional modes of representation and narrative thought. Students’ knowledge of how distinct cultural forms have worked to motivate them toward productive imagining and action (as opposed to despair) will be invaluable. Students delve into philosophical conversation about the so-called new geological epoch of the Anthropocene, in which humans are asked to recognize themselves as a primary geological force. To complement the critical reading, the course explores the recently named genre of “cli-fi” or climate fiction (Nathaniel Rich, Ian McEwan, Paolo Bacigalupi) and considers what Daniel Kramb describes as the infinitely more climate-active poetry scene (The ADRIFT project). Students will foray into the methods of documentary literatures and film, drawing insight from primary texts including Philippe Squarzoni’s graphic memoir Climate Changed (2014) the film Sun Come Up (dir. Jennifer Redfearn, 2010), Marko Peljhan’s collaborative Arctic Perspective Initiative, Brenda Longfellow and Helios Design Lab’s interactive documentary Offshore (2013), and the videography of Métis scholar/environmental justice activist Warren Cariou.
Guiding course concerns include bridge-building between the “two cultures” of the sciences and the humanities, the value and effect of traditional and new media genres, and establishing a working definition of the environmental humanities as an academic field and public intellectual practice.
The seminar was featured in the New York Times Education section in March 2014. You can read more about Professor LeMenager’s seminar and her winter 2014 students’ exciting projects at the New York Times.
Stephanie LeMenager is Moore Endowed Professor of English at the University of Oregon, where she teaches in English and Environmental Studies.