ENGL 5109-001: Survey of Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory, Posthuman/Postnature

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The course considers a selection of contemporary American ecofictions in the context of posthuman and postnatural theory. These ecofictions rework the category of “nature” outside of a realist narrative framework but still take their bearings from notions of environmental degradation and sustainability. In the wake of the new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene (in which the divisions between nature and culture, human and extra-human scales have been destabilized) these fictions depict “postnature”—a category that considers the escalating contamination, homogenization, and mediation of the natural, often through posthumanist and post-anthropocentric lenses. We will begin by asking how historically prior discourses about nature—from the Enlightenment and Romanticism through Indigenous discourses—variously imagine nature’s laws and forms of order as well as its mystery, beauty, violence, and vulnerability. Along with the ecofictions themselves we will read selections from the recent “posthuman turn” in the context of the contemporary environmental crisis. Beginning with the premise that posthumanism sees itself as a philosophical course correction against the instrumentalization of nature and human/animal and human/non-human hierarchies, we will ask how persuasively its different versions articulate its utility. We will also read selections from postnatural theoretical texts, asking how they revise or contradict earlier notions of wilderness, environment, landscape, ecology, and earth. We will read a selection of the following: Don DeLillo, White Noise, 1985; Linda Hogan, Solar Storms 1997; Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange, 1997; J.M. Coetzee, Lives of Animals, 2001; Joy Williams, The Quick and the Dead, 2002; Percival Everett, Watershed, 2003; Danielle Dutton, SPRAWL, 2010;
Lydia Millet, Magnificence, 2013.

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