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First-Year Seminar (105-6-23)


Eco-Fiction and Human Metamorphosis


Kathleen Carmichael
555 Clark, Room 239
Office Hours: By appointment

Meeting Info

University Library 3322: Tues, Thurs 2:00PM - 3:20PM

Overview of class

We are all familiar with public discourse about environmental concerns: Descriptions of a future where familiar landscapes have been transformed into alien vistas, newly dangerous and hostile to human life. Recent eco-fiction, however, challenges that familiar narrative, proposing ways that we humans may find ourselves transfigured along with the world around us.

In this class we will engage with accounts of such human metamorphosis, considering the horror narratives of HP Lovecraft, the hyper-empathy of Octavia Butler, the "new weird" landscapes of Jeff Vandermeer's Area X and other texts. Film viewings will include Pixar's 2008 Wall-E and James Cameron's 2009 Avatar and/or Netflix's 2021 Don't Look Up. Course readings/viewing will include brief readings from literary criticism, selections from Hope Jahren's, "The Story of More," as well as popular films.

We will also consider practical topics such as how University library resources and experts can help students locate and evaluate key sources and develop authoritative arguments.

Class Materials (Required)

"They Say / I Say. Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. Norton (2010). ISBN 978-0393933611; any edition fine and used encouraged (though Norris will only stock 4th and latest edition). Students do NOT need the version with readings.
Writing With Power. Peter Elbow. Oxford UP (1998) ISBN 978-0195120189; any edition fine and used encouraged.

The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here. Hope Jaren. Vintage (2020) ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07VY7QVK9 (Available free to all first-year students via the University One Book Program)
The Lorax. Dr Seuss/Theodore Geisel. Random House (1971) ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9780394823379
The Parable of the Sower. Octavia Butler. Grand Central Publishing (2019) ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1538732181
Annihilation. Jeff Vandermeer. FSG Originals (2018) ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0374104093"

Class Notes

Trigger warning: Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower includes allusions to torture and sexual violence.

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only