In February 2000, at an academic conference of earth system scientists, the atmospheric scientist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen had an outburst. ‘Stop saying the Holocene! We’re not in the Holocene anymore,’ he told a group of scientists who had repeatedly referred the geological epoch that began around 11,700 years ago. Given the dramatic changes to the planet’s oceans, land surfaces and atmosphere he and his colleagues were seeing, it seemed to him that a new period in the history of the Earth had begun. He stalled briefly before blurting out a name for this new epoch: the age of humans – the Anthropocene.
Since then, Crutzen and other scientists have worked to establish the Anthropocene as part of the official scientific nomenclature. But while the term is still debated among scientists, it has quickly radiated beyond the sciences and has been taken up by artists, writers, and scholars in fields as diverse as history, law, anthropology, philosophy, and literary criticism. When precisely this new epoch would have started, or if Anthropocene is a good way to describe it at all is contentious, but few scholars seem to doubt the underlying assertion that some important, radical shift has taken place, that the actions of human beings (or of some human beings anyway) have drastically and irrevocably altered the planet, and that the way we think about ourselves and our relation to the world around must change, too.
The seminar will explore different types of fictional text that reflect these changes. We’ll consider texts that explicitly respond to the Anthropocene debate as well as texts published before the term gained prominence and use them to explore central issues for thinking through the Anthropocene in the humanities.
Set texts will be:
- Mordecai Roshwald: Level 7. University of Wisconsin Press 2004, ISBN 978-0299200640 (E-Book is acceptable as well).
- Margaret Atwood: Oryx and Crake (any edition is fine).
- Julia Leigh: The Hunter. Faber And Faber 2001, ISBN: 978-0571200191
- Jaspreet Singh: Face. A Novel of the Anthropocene. Torchwood 2022. ISBN: 978-1927366974 (forthcoming in May)
Students will be required to maintain a reading journal, engage in the class discussion and contribute to a group presentation. The seminar is completed through an independent research paper.
We will meet in double sessions every other week; this will not only give us the opportunity to delve deeply into the set texts and presentation topics, we will also be able to spend some time on developing ideas for your research papers. The first meeting will be on 29 April at A01 0-010 b. The other meetings are on 06 May, 20 May, 03 June, 17 June, 01 July & 15 July.