The debate about the state of the environment has been charged with passion, sentimentality, and fear, but also with a deep-seated distrust of scientific authorities, a hatred against intellectual elites, denial, and forms of distress and depression that have been called a “psychoterratic condition.”
Taking these emotional responses as a starting point, we will examine how nature, or the “end of nature,” moves us when we read, see, listen to, or participate in, the broad spectrum of stories that have been told about a changing planet. Could it be that representations of nature can move us beyond the merely metaphorical dimension of the term?
If emotions are a mode of attachment to the world we must take into consideration that the implied division between the human and the non-human is itself a cultural concept: theory’s views of the divide between humanity and nature have been unstable, shifting, and subject to influences from other than U.S. culture. In order to better comprehend humans’ emotional involvement in ethical questions relating to the environment, we will discuss representations of nature in American mainstream and minority cultures, investigate the relationship between the local and the global in contemporary environmentalist thought, address the role of cultural difference in debates about climate change and other environmental concerns, and discuss the role of gender, class, and religion in connection with the stories that we tell of planet earth.
We will look at literature, art, film, graphic novels, online entertainment, and at contemporary philosophical debates to explore this topic. In preparation to the first session please read Cary Funk, “The Politics of Climate Change” at http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/the-politics-of-climate/
Course requirement: oral presentation or group moderation. Credit requirement: presentation handout and/or PowerPoint presentation; advanced academic writings in English (of a total of 15-20 pages.