Studies in Literary Criticism and Theory: Science Studies and the Cultures of Environmentalism

Course Number: ENGL 236
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 236
Quarter: Winter 2011
Day(s): T
Time: 2:00 PM - 4:50 PM
Location: SH 2714

Content of the course will vary from quarter to quarter and these courses may be repeated for credit with consent of the chair of the departmental graduate committee.

Understood in terms of situated knowledges and material practices, science complements the environmentalist imperative that matter matters, even though environmentalists have recognized the sciences as also objectifying non-human agents, speaking for and therefore muting the incommensurable, wild world in the service of capitalism, industrialization, imperialism, and the new empires of globalization. The critiques of disembodiment, transcendent human subjectivity, and decontextualized scientific labor that emerged in science and technology studies in the work of Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, and N. Katherine Hayles, among others, undergird a strong ecocritical rapprochement with the histories, cultures, and methods of science. At the turn of the twenty-first century, leading environmental critics have called for deeper investment in the sciences, citing the necessity of scientific literacy in assessing contemporary environmental risks, in understanding the biological underpinnings of human consciousness, and in respecting the material resistance of the non-human to incorporation through discursive and information technologies, from literature to digital media. We will take up that call to science in this seminar, charting how strong metaphors from science and technology studies are transforming environmental thought. Course readings focus on the theoretical contributions of science and technology studies from the 1970s to the present. Course projects consider how these theories enable critical and artistic response to environmental crises, in particular global climate change, environmental illness, and genetic engineering.