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EN9B5 World Literature and the Anthropocene


Dr Nicholas Lawrence (n dot lawrence at warwick dot ac dot uk)
Office hours: Monday 4-5, Tuesday 12-1 (H535)
Seminar: Monday 2-4 (G03, Millburn House)

Module aims
: To investigate the implications of the concept of the Anthropocene for literary-cultural studies on a world scale. Participants will read initially in the history of debates surrounding this term – denoting the advent of a geological era in which human action acquires decisive planetary force – as a way of revisiting conventional interpretive frameworks and categories, including questions of periodisation, comparative methodology and the ‘worlding’ of literary study. We will then take up a series of optics prompted by the Anthropocene and its counter-concepts (Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene) to further explore the challenges of reading ecological crisis and culture in an era when it may no longer be feasible to disarticulate human from so-called natural history. Texts range from literary to field-specific criticism to theoretical, with an emphasis on the latter.

Week 1: World literature after the end of nature

Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, “Defining the Anthropocene,” Nature 519 (12 March 2015)
Jeremy Davies, “Introduction” and “Chapter 2: Versions of the Anthropocene” from The Birth of the Anthropocene (University of California Press, 2016)
Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, "Welcome to the Anthropocene," The Shock of the Anthropocene (Verso, 2016)

Week 2: Contesting the Anthropocene

Jason W. Moore, “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of our Ecological Crisis,” Journal of Peasant Studies 44:3 (2017): 594-630
Eileen Crist, “On the Poverty of Our Nomenclature,” in Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism, ed. Jason W. Moore (PM Press, 2016)
Daniel Hartley, “Against the Anthropocene,” Salvage 1 (2015).

Week 3: Energy

Andreas Malm, “The Origins of Fossil Capital: From Water to Steam in the British Cotton Industry,” Historical Materialism 21.1 (2013): 15–68
Patricia Yaeger, “Literature in the Age of Wood, Tallow, Coal, Whale Oil, Gasoline, Atomic Power and Other Energy Resources,” PMLA 126.2 (March 2011): 305-310
Tony Harrison, “V,” Selected Poems (Penguin, 1984) and see his film-poem Prometheus (1998)
David Thomas, “The Canary in the Coal Mine: Tony Harrison and the Poetics of Coal, Climate, and Capital,” Textual Practice (2015): 1-18

Week 4: Sixth extinction

Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Henry Holt, 2014)
Eileen Crist, “Beyond the Climate Crisis: A Critique of Climate Change Discourse,” Telos 4 (Winter 2007): 29–55

Week 5: Sacrifice zones

Indra Sinha, Animal’s People (Simon and Schuster, 2007)
Naomi Klein, “Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World,” London Review of Books (2 June 2016): 11-14
Joel Kovel, “Capital,” The Enemy of Nature (Zed Books, 2007)

Week 6: Resource wars

Paulo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (Orbit, 2015)
Donald Worster, “Water in the Age of Imperialism – and Beyond,” The World of Water, Vol. III, ed. Terje Tvedt and Terje Oestigaard (I.B. Tauris, 2006)

Week 7: The forgotten space

Allan Sekula and Noel Burch, “The Forgotten Space: Notes for a Film,” New Left Review 69 (May-June 2011): 78-79
Pablo Neruda, “Great Ocean,” from Canto General, trans. Anthony Kerrigan
Elizabeth Deloughrey, “Submarine Futures of the Anthropocene,” Comparative Literature 69.1 (2017): 32-44

Week 8: Strange weather: media ecologies

Ursula K. Heise, “Unnatural Ecologies: The Metaphor of the Environment in Media Theory,” Configurations 10.1 (Winter 2002): 149-68
Kamau Brathwaite, “Letter Sycorax,” Middle Passages (New Directions, 1993)
Lisa Robertson, The Weather (New Star, 2000)
Kenneth Goldsmith, “Spring,” from The Weather (Make Now, 2005)

Week 9: Digital vortex, (im)material labour, electronic waste

Nick Dyer-Witheford, “Proletariat,” “Vortex,” “Mobile” and “Aftermath.” Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex (Pluto, 2015)
Mike Daisey, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (2012)
Jack Linchuan Qui, Melissa Gregg and Kate Crawford, “Circuits of Labour: A Labor Theory of the iPhone Era,” TripleC: Communication, Capital & Critique 12.2 (2014)

Week 10: The poems of our climate change

Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (University of Chicago Press, 2016)
Juliana Spahr, "Gentle Now, Don’t Add to Heartache,” Well Then There Now (Black Sparrow, 2011)
Ben Lerner, “Plume,” The Claudius App (
Margaret Ronda, “Mourning and Melancholia in the AnthropocenePost-45 (2013)