Presumed known: Peter Barry, 'Ecocriticism', chapter from: Beginning Theory.
This course brings together two critical approaches to global power dynamics: ecocriticism and decoloniality. Ecocriticism is the critique of humanity’s abusive relationship to their natural environment; decoloniality is the critique of humanity’s abusive relationship with one another, particularly viewed within the historical context of (European) colonialism.
At first glance, the two fields may seem to have little in common, yet, humanity’s quest to dominate the planet has often gone hand in hand with our quest to dominate our fellow humans. Colonial conquest was usually driven by a drive to exploit both natural and human resources, and justified by the “Terra nullius” principle, that is, the claim that the conquered land was “empty” at arrival, and belonged to no-one. This principle thus nullifies both pre-existing natural and socio-cultural orders, and justifies the colonizer to settle and take control.
This entanglement of environmental and social power dynamics is as much visible today as it was throughout colonial history. In contemporary global politics, “climate change” is the central term that brings together discussions about both the future of humanity, as well as future of the planet as such.
Despite the ubiquity of this term, and the growing consensus that global warming is an irreversible trajectory, it is striking how complicated it seems to be to capture this crisis in literary fiction. Yet, literature is vital for being able to imagine the future. As Amitov Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2017) puts it: “The climate crisis casts a much smaller shadow on literary fiction than it does on the world. We are living through a crisis of culture – and of the imagination” (The Guardian, 28 Oct. 2016).
This course aims to work through this crisis of the imagination by analyzing and discussing contemporary fiction that does attempt to imagine the crisis of humanity’s relationship to their environment, looking both at late-colonial, early post-colonial, and contemporary prose and poetry. Central questions to be discussed concern the representation of culture vs. nature, human vs. non-human/animal, and present vs. past and future.
By the end of this course, students will have:
gained insight about leading principles in the field of ecocriticism and decoloniality;
strengthened their ability to apply such theoretical principles to their analysis and interpretation of literary fiction;
strengthened their ability to analyzing and interpreting literary fiction as a way to delve deeper into the topics addressed by ecocriticism and decoloniality;
further professionalized their presentation, discussion and academic writing and research skills.
The timetables are available through My Timetable.
Mode of instruction
5%: Facilitating discussion*
30%: 2x presentation in duos (2 x 15%)**
60%: Individual Final Paper
- Note: Each individual student hands in an abstract in the midterm week, outlining their ideas for the final paper.
** NOTE: Each student does two presentations in total: one focusing primarily on theory, one focusing primarily on literary fiction. Each presentation is done in duos and works towards a set of discussion questions aimed at engaging the audience with the presentation’s topic.
The resit comprises of the handing in of a new final paper. The resit can only be made when the other requirements – the abstract and both presentations, have been fulfilled.
Inspection and feedback
How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.
To be announced.
Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. General information about uSis is available on the website.
Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs
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