Placing Anthropocene Stories: The Place of Imagination within Environmental Transformation (ENV4112.01)

David Eisenhauer

Extreme weather events, rising sea levels, species extinctions, chemical contamination, and uneven human suffering mark the Anthropocene. In this new epoch, humanity’s influence on the Earth system has become a geological and planetary force. Telling stories about planetary and geological change that resonate with people is critically important, yet also deeply challenging. The scale of people’s imaginations, beliefs, and experiences are at odds with scientific findings and projections of the Anthropocene future. Changing the story of the Anthropocene requires knowledge to resonate within existing stories while also transforming the stories people tell about their place in the world.  This course utilizes tools and concepts from the social sciences and humanities to examine how stories can be crafted, told, and placed about life in the Anthropocene. The course is divided into three parts. The first provides an introduction to what the Anthropocene is, how it emerged, who is responsible, and what is at risk. The second explores how the social sciences and humanities have engaged with the Anthropocene and sought to craft stories about vulnerability and loss that highlight openings for desirable change. During the third section, two novels will be read and works of art will presented to explore how artists and writers are engaging with the Anthropocene. For the final project, students will be tasked with producing their own creative project to communicate something they care about within the Anthropocene–this could entail a painting, a short story, or a song–along with a brief essay that explains their work.

Learning Outcomes:
• Gaining an appreciation of the challenges associated with composing compelling stories about global environmental change
• Engage with diverse literature from the social sciences and humanities about the cultural and imaginative dimensions of planetary issues
• Have conversations about complex social and ecological issues in order to learn from peers
• Produce a unique, creative final project that engages with the concepts explored in the class

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Previous course-work in SCT, Environmental Studies, Science and Mathematics, and Literature. Students with plans related to communicating environmental challenges, exploring the imaginative and cultural dimensions of climate change, and/or expressing environmental change through creative works will be given priority. Students wishing to enroll in the course should email the professor ( a paragraph explaining why you want to take the course and how it relates to your plan.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
W 8:30AM - 12:10PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Environment , Fully In-Person