CST 609.S03/EGL 608.S02/WST 610.S01
Advanced Topics in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies
“Climate Trauma: New Environmentalisms”
Professor Elizabeth Ann Kaplan
at STONY BROOK
Against the background of the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most sobering report yet
issued by the scientific panel, this course examines the impact of realities of global warming on cultural
discourses, individual and public consciousness, and media representations. Narratives of a destroyed planet,
inhospitable to life in all forms, emerge at the intersection of scientific predictions about global warming (finally
seeping into public media), and corporate businesses, determined to resist costly changes to their practices.
We will explore a new psychological condition, what I call “Pretraumatic Stress Disorder” (in contrast to the
familiar Post-Traumatic Stress illness), and then study how this disorder is represented in a sub-set of the cli-fi genre, the pretraumatic climate disaster film.
Through close-readings of these texts, we will see how
viewers become “virtual future humans,” as they identify with terrifying future selves they should hope to avoid.
We will see how such fantasies, rather than inoculating viewers from the catastrophe to come, function as a kind
of wake-up-call, what I call “memory for the future.”
The course explores the masculinist and racialized aspects of the cli-fi genre, showing the cultural work the
films perform and implications of films rarely presenting climate catastrophe from the vantage point of women
or minority peoples.
Against the background of first-wave eco-criticism, we will explore new, second-wave
environmental humanities texts, such as those by Timothy Morton, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rob Nixon, Ursula
Heise, Bruno Latour.
Cli-fi films include: Soylent [Soy + Lentils, get it?]Green, The Happening, 28 Days, Take Shelter, The Road,
Blindness, Interstellar, Snowpiercer. Documentaries include Surviving Progress, Into Eternity, Manufactured
Landscapes, Fukushima: Memories of a Lost Landscape or 311, Force of Nature, and more.
develop their own research projects in Environmental Humanities as the course proceeds and according to their
prior knowledge of this relatively new field.
Thursdays 1:00-3:50pm Humanities 2052