Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Syllabus: ‘Science Fiction and Ecology’

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First day of the new semester. Really excited about this one.

Full syllabus [PDF].

This course pairs thinkers and theorists in the ecological humanities with science fiction texts from the 1970s, 1980s, and today. After several early weeks establishing a shared foundation of critical reference points, we focus on five primary texts for the remainder of the semester: John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972), Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia (1975), Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel Swamp Thing (1982-1987), Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Wind-Up Girl (2009), with additional attention paid to other films, short stories, scientific readings, and theoretical texts as appropriate. Implicit in the organization of the course is a comparison between the environmental politics of the 1970s and the contemporary situation, as well as new consideration of what the “science” of “science fiction” might entail for the twenty-first century.

These novels are interspersed with films, short stories, scientific readings, and theoretical texts that include readings from contemporary ecological and ecocritical writers like John Bellamy Foster, Vandana Shiva, Imre Szeman, and Ursula Heise. We will also consider more skeptical work from authors like Freeman Dyson, The Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjørn Lomborg, and Freakonomics authors Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, as well as evaluate environmental denialism on the Internet and in popular media.

DATE

ASSIGNMENTS AND RESPONSES DUE BY 2 PM

R JAN 12 FIRST DAY OF CLASS

Charles Stross, “Designing Society for Posterity” (Web)

   
T JAN 17 CLASS CANCELLED
R JAN 19 Cognitive Mapping

Ursula Heise, “From the Blue Planet to Google Earth: Environmentalism, Ecocriticism, and the Imagination of the Global” (Bb)

in-class: Fredric Jameson on cognitive mapping (Bb)

in-class: Darko Suvin on cognitive estrangement (Bb)

in-class: WALL-E (clips); An Inconvenient Truth (clips)

   
T JAN 24 The Birth of Environmentalism

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (excerpts)

John Bellamy Foster, “Rachel Carson’s Ecological Critique” (Bb)

Club of Rome, “The Limits to Growth” (excerpt) (Bb)

in-class: Soylent Green (clips)

R JAN 26 Futures and Anti-Futures: Ecology and Environmentalism Today

Johan Rockstrom et. al, “Planetary Boundaries” (Bb)

Imre Szeman, “System Failure: Oil, Futurity, and the Anticipation of Disaster” (Bb)

Naomi Klein, “Climate Rage” (Web)

in-class: Daybreakers (clips)

   
T JAN 31 Eco-Apocalypse and the End of the World

John Brunner, The Sheep Look Up (December, January, February, March)

R FEB 2 John Brunner, The Sheep Look Up (April, May, June, July)
   
T FEB 7 CONFERENCES—NO CLASS
R FEB 9 John Brunner, The Sheep Look Up (August, September, October, November, Next Year)

SHEEP LOOK UP RESPONSE DUE

   
T FEB 14 Skepticism and/or Denialism

Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dunbar, Superfreakonomics: “What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have In Common?”

Tim Lambert, “Why Everything in Superfreakonomics about Global Warming Is Wrong”

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt (excerpts)

SHEEP LOOK UP RESPONSE DUE

R FEB 16 Utopia

Fredric Jameson on utopia (Bb)

James Tiptree, Jr., “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” (Bb)

in-class: WALL-E (clips)

   
T FEB 21 Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia (p. 1-90)
R FEB 23 Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia (p. 91-181)
   
T FEB 28 Deep Ecology

Bron Taylor, “Deep Ecology”

Alan Moore, Swamp Thing (selections)

in-class: “Plastic Bag”

R MAR 1 Alan Moore, Swamp Thing (selections)

Evan Calder Williams, “Fecund Revenge: Green Geist Screws Us All” (Web)

FIRST PAPER DUE

   
T MAR 6 SPRING BREAK—NO CLASS
R MAR 8 SPRING BREAK—NO CLASS
   
T MAR 13 Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (Chapter 1-4)

½ PAGE “PITCH” FOR FINAL PROJECT DUE

R MAR 15 Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (Chapter 4-8)
   
T MAR 20 Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (Chapter 9-11)
R MAR 22 Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (Chapter 12-end of book)
   
M MAR 26 AVATAR SCREENING—TIME AND LOCATION TBA
NO CLASS
T MAR 27 Avatar and Others

Annalee Newitz, “When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar?” (Web)

Slavoj Žižek, “Return of the Natives” (Web)

AVATAR RESPONSE DUE

R MAR 29 Globalization and Environmental Justice

Paolo Bacigalupi, The Wind-Up Girl (Chapter 1-3)

Vandana Shiva, Soil Not Oil! (excerpts)

in-class: Jorge Furtado, “Ilha das Flores”; Wanuri Kahiu, “Pumzi”

   
T APR 3 Paolo Bacigalupi, The Wind-Up Girl (Chapter 4-12)
R APR 5 Paolo Bacigalupi, The Wind-Up Girl (Chapter 13-20)
   
T APR 10 Paolo Bacigalupi, The Wind-Up Girl (Chapter 21-40)
R APR 12 Paolo Bacigalupi, The Wind-Up Girl (Chapter 41-end of book)
   
T APR 17 FINAL PROJECT PRESENTATIONS (DAY 1)
R APR 19 FINAL PROJECT PRESENTATIONS (DAY 2)
   
T APR 24 LAST DAY OF CLASS

FINAL PROJECT PRESENTATIONS (DAY 3)

FINAL THOUGHTS

   
M APR 30 SCHEDULED EXAM PERIOD (7-10 PM)
T MAY 1 FINAL PROJECTS DUE VIA DIGITAL DROPBOX BY 8 AM


 

Written by gerrycanavan

January 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm

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  1. […] Syllabus: ‘Science Fiction and Ecology’ « by Gerry Canavan — filed under "add to my reading list…" (tagged: todo reading scifi environment ) […]


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