Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brandeis University goes cli-fi with class taught by Professor Irr fall semester 2015

ENG 28a:  Contemporary Environmental Writing
Fall 2015

Dr. Irr

M-W 2:00-3:20 pm

[DOC]ENG 28a: Contemporary Environmental Writing Fall 2015


Course Description

This course examines literary responses to the natural environment, focusing on recent decades.  For 2015, the central theme will be the emerging genre of “cli-fi”.  These novels are often, but not always, set in a near future dystopian world in which climate change has accelerated, oil supplies have been depleted, and familiar social institutions are in crisis.  They magnify the pressing environmental concerns of the present in order to imagine the possible directions and effects of human action.  They also intermingle different genres—from science fiction to the thriller, romance, and prose documentary; tracking the migration of climate concerns from a specialized subgenre into the literary and cultural mainstream will be a central theme of the course.  Throughout the semester, we will approach cli-fi as a seriesof thought experiments, and the course will be dedicated to assessing the inner workings of these experiments and evaluating their results. 


Readings (available in Brandeis book store, on reserve in Goldfarb and on LATTE)

J. G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962)

Ursula Le Guin, "The New Atlantis" (1975)

Michael Crichton, State of Fear (2004)

Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (2009)

Barbara Kingsolver, Flight Behavior (2012)

Nathaniel Rich, Odds Against Tomorrow (2013)

Margaret Atwood, Maddaddam (2013)

David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (2014)

selected essays



Interstellar (2014)

Snowpiercer (2013)



·         participation:  20%.  Includes preparation, attendance, and contributions to class sessions.  N.B.:  Students should plan to spend approximately 9 hours/week on tasks related to this course, in addition to class meeting times.

·         reading scrapbook:  20%.  Throughout the term, students will keep a scrapbook of ideas, comments, passages, news items, images, etc. related to the course topic (representing climate change).  No more than 10 items in the scrapbook may be chosen from materials assigned for the course (novels, articles, films). Scrapbooks will be collected three times during the semester.  Scrapbooks should include at least weekly entries and consist (by the end of term) of a minimum of 20 annotated entries.  Each entry should include, at a minimum, 100 words of original commentary authored by the student.  For the final submission, students should provide a 250-word conclusion to the scrapbook explaining what the central theme(s) of the project turned out to be.  Projects will be graded on thoroughness, consistent effort, creativity, and insightfulness of commentary.

·         three analytic essays: 1750-2000 words each:  20% each.


Learning Goals

·         Improve critical reading and thinking skills

·         Employ key concepts from literary criticism

·         Assess contributions of literature to current scientific and political controversies

·         Deepen existing writing skills
Solidify grasp of a crucial contempor

1 comment:


Received a nice email from Professor Caren Irr at Brandeis thanking us for this post!