UN3635: Speculative Fiction and the Environment | P. Polefrone

English and Comparative Literature
Undergraduate Seminar
W 12:10-2PM

The act of speculation is central to our thinking about the environment, be it through projections of catastrophe, visions of a more sustainable society, or conceptualizations of vast and complex planetary systems. This course will explore this form of speculation by tracing the intersection of speculative fiction and environmentalism in the American twentieth century, the setting for the maturation of the genre and the movement alike. For the purposes of this course, “speculative fiction” (SF) will be taken to include the commonly accepted genre of science-fiction and fantasy as well as any work of fiction based on a counterfactual present world, an extrapolative future, an alternative past, or a reality entirely imagined. More conceptually, we will consider SF in the expansive sense Donna Haraway proposes: “science fiction, speculative fabulation, string figures, speculative feminism, science fact, so far,” asking what these distinct but related acts of mind can reveal about environmental thought. The semester will be divided into pre-1960 and post-1960 works, a boundary that on one hand divides the Golden Age and New Wave periods of science fiction, and on the other hand roughly marks the birth of the modern environmental movement. As the course moves chronologically through representative works of environmental SF, it will also trace the development of foundational concepts in ecology and environmentalism by cross-referencing works of SF with texts in ecology and environmentalist theory that either established or discuss contemporaneous theories. This exploration will touch on topics such as: ecofeminism, ecological economics, ecological succession and the climax community, the Gaia hypothesis, environmental justice, and early recognition of climate change.

Link to Vergil
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