Environmental Crisis and Contemporary Fiction
This course will cover contemporary American novels (post-2001) that speak to current environmental crises, such as climate change and widespread toxicity. How do environments emerge as narrative subjects, and how can a novel become a channel for ecological thought? Focusing mostly on realist fiction, we will examine the relation between environmental experience and literary representation of environments. Our primary texts will address hurricanes, plastic waste, industrial dumping, weapons testing, greenhouse gas emissions, the human cost of environmental mismanagement, and other urgent issues. We will also read theoretical writing on ecology by scholars in the humanities. Among our central questions: how is scientific knowledge of today’s environmental crises reshaping the study of literature, and what can literary critics contribute to the climate conversation? Primary texts may include fiction by Don DeLillo, Colson Whitehead, Ruth Ozeki, Ben Lerner, A.S. Byatt, Thomas Pynchon, Jesmyn Ward, Cormac McCarthy, and David Foster Wallace. The Junior Research Seminar introduces students to a range of research methods within the discipline of literary studies. Short research and writing exercises throughout the semester will enable a final scholarly essay of 15 pages.