Categorized | Dan Bloom, Culture & Lifestyles, Science, Medicine, Education
Posted on March 1, 2015.
In the usual way I meet most people these days, I met Elizabeth Trobaugh the other day via an email she sent me from her office in western Massachusetts where she is a professor of English at Holyoke Community College. Her email arrived out of the blue, a complete surprise, but as you shall see, a welcome one, too.
It turns out that professor Trobaugh is team teaching a climate-themed literature class this semester, with her colleague Steven Winters, titled “Cli Fi: Stories and Science from the Coming Climate Apocalypse.”
The class, part of a nationwide trend where colleges and universities are offering classes about the cli-fi genre of movies and novels, combines an ”Introduction to Literature” segment and a lab science segment, she said. “We meet with our students for six hours a week, plus a two-hour lab,” Trobaugh told me by way of introducing herself and her work.
“The final project of the class will have students write their own cli-fi short stories.”
When I asked her how she found me, she said she was doing some online research about the cli-fi term and found my name and email address via a Wikipedia entry and just wanted to say hello. “I found your name in a Google search when I was trying to learn more about the term ”cli-fi” and when the genre was first identified, and from there I found your website and blog,” she wrote.
”Our college is very supportive of interdisciplinary learning, allowing us to develop “Learning Communities” that combine two courses from two different disciplines.”
I asked Trobaugh what books her students were reading for the class.
“We are using a short story collection titled I’m with the Bears, and students will also be reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s [cli-fi novel] Windup Girl and science writer Elizabeth Kolbert’s nonfiction book titled The Sixth Extinction. We plan to show the movie Avatar and maybe Snowpiercer.”
The last part of her first email caught my attention, too.
“When I saw your email address, I just thought I’d reach out and say hi and thank you for coining the term and identifying the genre that we have built our course around,” she wrote. ‘I will direct our students to your cli-fi website, too.”
“I also want to tell you that I enjoyed reading your semi humorous ‘Yiddish Guide to Climate Change’ that was published in San Diego Jewish World a few months ago,” she added.
“By the way, I went to Tufts, too,” she told me. “I graduated in 1986.”
So we are fellow Tufts Jumbos (I graduated in 1971).
Elizabeth Trobaugh’s letter made my day on a quiet Sunday morning , and now we are friends.
Danny Dan Daniel O'Bloom is an inveterate web surfer and cli-fi enthusiast.
This course, along with its kindred sections, aims to develop your working vocabulary for analyzing texts and relating them to contexts; your understanding of the theoretical questions that inform conversations about textual meaning and value; and your competency, as writers, in the discipline of English.
We will begin by analyzing some print and electronic texts from the emergent genre of ''cli-fi'': renditions of the present & future inflected by anthropogenic climate change.
Representative works may include Paolo Bacigalupi’s "The Windup Girl," Barbara Kingsolver’s "Flight Behavior," Mr Cuaron’s "Children of Men," and the Cape Farewell/ADRIFT project.
There will be at least one zombie apocalypse.
We then will consider this defining subject of our times in relation to your own intellectual work, particularly regarding disciplinary knowledge and its boundaries. Approaching the culture of climate change via its narration, poetics, and latent metaphors may provide one answer to the question “What do you do with an English major?