Cultural Representations: Literature and the Environment: "Speculative Ecologies"

Course Number: ENGL 122LE
Prerequisites: Writing 2 or upper-division standing
General Education Areas Fulfilled: GE Area G Requirement, Writing Requirement
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 122LE
Quarter: Fall 2015
Instructor:
Day(s): M W
Time: 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM
Location: GIRV 1112
Description:

As a knowledge practice that uncovers strange interdependencies, complex food webs, and bizarre niches for even more bizarre creatures, ecology unsettles us with the alienness of the environment around us. Nonetheless, as a scientific endeavor, ecology is usually framed as a passive gathering of information, an uncovering of relationships that will enable a more complete description of a particular environment. This course asks what happens when ecology becomes a speculative and creative endeavor, an exploration not of a pre-existing system that we can already experience as an environment, but a radically new world. The speculative works that we will examine create imaginative worlds that are experientially alien to us, yet treat them as complex ecological systems. In these novels, films, and other works, ecology becomes more than another layer tacked on to everyday experience. It becomes the primary experience itself: uncovering the hidden interdependencies of a new environment may well be a matter of survival. We will consider ecosystems that have been radically altered by an alien intruder, alien worlds visited by humans who must adapt or die, imaginative reconfigurations of Earth dynamics in a post-petroleum world, and real emergent ecosystems that are hybrids of anthropogenic technology and natural systems. Imaginative encounters with these category-defying environments will challenge us to to think critically about what constitutes an ecosystem, and the implicit boundaries and limitations of ecology as we practice and experience it today.