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EN9ZE Critical Environments

r/megalophobia - Standoff at a coal mine in Lützerath, Germany

Convenor 23/24 Professor Graeme Macdonald

Room FAB 5.16

Office Hours Tuesdays 10-11; Weds 11-12.

Class Schedule: Tuesdays 11-1, Room FAB 5.52

Critical Environments provides a core foundation in the study of the environmental humanities, a cross-disciplinary field bringing the theoretical and methodological frameworks of humanistic study to the investigation of environmental questions and concerns. The module offers students the opportunity to develop an informed perspective on the emerging field of environmental humanities research in its ecological, cultural and political aspects, and to adapt this perspective to further research in a variety of humanistic subfields.

You will be introduced through weekly readings to key topics, concepts, methodologies and theoretical debates in the emergent field of environmental humanities, with special attention to its interdisciplinary origins. The module allows students to navigate their own subsequent pathways through the MA in Environmental Humanities, depending on individual research interests. You will develop an informed perspective on a variety of areas, from debates over nature to the cultural registration of natural ecologies, extinction, climate imaginaries, histories and trajectories of pollution and waste, ecopoetics, the emergence of the Anthropocene/Capitalocene, the energy humanities, cultures and contexts of activism, ecological imperialism, speculative environmental futures, emergent cultures of degrowth and more, all analysed through a world-ecological lens unique to Warwick Environmental Humanities. The module will provide a focused understanding of the cultural challenges in responding to such topics as climate change, environmental despoliation, species extinction, media ecology and truly sustainable futures

Syllabus 2023/24

NB - the shorter readings for class are hyperlinked in the titles. The actual book/journal titles link to the full text for further reading.

Week 1: Introduction: The Environmental Humanities IntroPPT

Deborah Rose, Thom van Dooren, Matthew Chrulew, Stuart Cooke, Matthew Kearnes and Emily O’Gorman (Editorial Team). “Introduction: Thinking through the environment, unsettling the humanities.” Environmental Humanities Vol. 1 (2012): 1-6.

Andrew Hubbell and John C. Ryan. “Introduction.” Introduction to the Environmental Humanities, History and Theory. London: Routledge (2022). 1-18.

Robert S. Emmett and David E. Nye. “The Emergence of the Environmental Humanities.” The Environmental Humanities A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press (2017). 1-22

Ursula K. Heise. “Introduction: planet, species, justice and the stories we tell about them.” The Routledge Companion to The Environmental Humanities. Edited by Ursula K. Heise, Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann. London: Routledge (2017). 1-10.

Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Jill Didur, and Anthony Carrigan (eds.) “Introduction: A Postcolonial Environmental Humanities.” Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities Postcolonial Approaches. NY: Routledge (2015). 1-32.

Week 2: Questioning Nature/Questioning Environments PPT

Raymond Williams. “Ideas of Nature.” Problems in Materialism and Culture. London: Verso (1980): 67-85.

Kate Soper. “Introduction" and "The Discourses of Nature.What is Nature? Culture, Politics and the Non-Human. Oxford: Blackwell (1995): 1-37.

Ramachandra Guha and J. Martinez-Alier. "The Environmentalism of the Poor." Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South. London: Earthscan (1997): 3-16.

Paul Warde, Libby Robin and Sverker Sörlin. “Prologue" & "Road to Survival.” The Environment: A History of the Idea. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press (2018).

Deeper Cuts

Jennifer Wenzel. "Introduction: Reading for the Planet." The Disposition of Nature. NY: Fordham UP (2020): 1-46.

Rob Nixon. "Introduction." Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor." Princeton: Princeton UP (2011): 1-44.

Week 3: Anthropocene: A New Approach to. the Humanities? [ week 3 slides]

Rachel Carson. “A Fable for Tomorrow and The Obligation to Endure.” Silent Spring (Penguin, 1962)

Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin. “The Meaning of the Anthropocene.” The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene. London: Pelican (2018).

Kathryn Yusoff. "Preface" and "Geology, Race, Matter." A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None. University of Minnesota Press (2018).

Roy Scranton. “Coming Home.” Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: reflections on the end of a civilisation. City Lights Press (2015): 1-14.

Kyle P. Whyte. “Indigenous Science (fiction) for the Anthropocene: Ancestral dystopias and fantasies of climate change crises.” Environment and Planning 2: Nature and Space Vol. 1 (1-2) (2018): 224-242.

Deeper Cuts:

Françoise Vergès. “Racial Capitalocene.” Futures of Black Radicalism. Eds. Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin. London: Verso (2017).

Jason Moore. “The Capitalocene Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis." Journal of Peasant Studies. 44:3 (2017): 1-40.


Week 4: Energy Cultures week 4 slides

Dominic Boyer & Imre Szeman. "Introduction: On the Energy Humanities." Energy Humanities: An Anthology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press (2017).

Bob Johnson, “Preface: A Postcard from the Birthplace of Oil & "Mineral Rites: The Embodiment of Fossil Fuels.” Mineral Rites: An Archaeology of the Fossil Economy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2019. i-xiii, 17-31.

Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore. “Cheap Energy.” A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. Oakland: UCLA Press (2017): 161-179.

After Oil Collective. "Excerpts" from Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice. Ayesha Vemuri & Darin Barney (eds.) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2022).

Deeper Cuts:

Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger. Fueling Culture: 101 Words for Energy and Environment. New York: Fordham University Press (2017).

Cymene Howe. Ecologics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene. Durham. Duke University Press (2019). (NB, this is a "Duograph", with Dominic Boyer's Energopolitics: Wind and Power in the Anthropocene. Both are Open Acess, through the library).

Karen Pinkus. Fuel: A Speculative Dictionary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2016).

Cara New Dagget. The Birth of Energy: fossil fuels, thermodynamics, and the politics of work. Duke University Press (2019).

See also the Cultures of Energy Podcasts, hosted by Boyer & Howe.

Week 5: More than human: species studies and extinction week 5 slides

Ashley Dawson, "Excerpts" from Extinction: A Radical History (OR Books, 2016)

Thom van Dooren, "Excerpts" from Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction (Columbia, 2014)

Vicki Hearne, "Excerpts" from Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name (Simon and Schuster, 1986)

Anna Tsing, "Excerpts" from The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton, 2013)

Deeper Cuts

The Un-Glacier

Joshua Schuster. What Is Extinction?: A Natural and Cultural History of Last Animals. New York: Fordham University Press (2023).

Nik Taylor and Richard Twine. The Rise of Critical Animal Studies : From the Margins to the Centre. London: Routledge (2015).

Week 6: Climate Imaginaries Week 6 Slides

Andreas Malm. "Introduction: Theory for the Warming Condition." The Progress of This Storm: on society and nature in a warming world.” Verso (2018): 7-20.

Jennifer Gabrys & Kathryn Yusoff. “Climate Change and the Imagination.” WIREs 2:4 (2011): 516-534.

Dipesh Chakrabarty. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35. 2 (2009): 197–222.

Amitav Ghosh, “Stories.” The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. University of Chicago Press, 2016. 1-33.

Climaginaries, “The Museum of Carbon Ruins: An Exhibition of the Fossil Era

Deeper Cuts:

Timothy Clarke, “The Tragedy that Climate Change is Uninteresting.” Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. London: Bloomsbury (2015).

Climate Songs Challenge - bring a playlist to class.


Week 7: Ecopoetics

Margaret Ronda, “Mourning and Melancholia in the AnthropoceneLink opens in a new window

Juliana Spahr, “Gentle Now, Don't Add to HeartacheLink opens in a new window” from Well Then There Now (Black Sparrow, 2011).

Ed Roberson, “be carefulLink opens in a new window” from Just In: Word of Navigational Challenges (Talisman House, 1998); “To See the Earth Before the End of the WorldLink opens in a new window” from To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan, 2010); “We Must Be CarefulLink opens in a new window” from Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 2009).

CAConrad, (Soma)tics: SelectionsLink opens in a new window, from You Don't Have What It Takes to be My Nemesis (Penguin, 2023); SelectionsLink opens in a new window from Amanda Paradise: Resurrect Extinct Vibration (Seattle: Wave Books, 2021); SelectionsLink opens in a new window from While Standing in Line for Death (Seattle: Wave Books, 2017).

Layli Long Soldier, "38Link opens in a new window" (includes audio link) from Whereas (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2017).

Deeper Cuts:

CAConrad interviewLink opens in a new window with excerpts from Listen to the Golden Boomerang Return (forthcoming, Wave Books, 2024) and audio, Velvet Giant, Issue 7 (Spring 2022).

The Dakota Access Pipeline in ContextLink opens in a new window (for "38").

Jonathan Skinner, "EcopoeticsLink opens in a new window" from American Literature in Transition: 2000-2010, ed. Rachel Greenwald Smith (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Week 8: Activism Week 8 Slides

Mel Evans. Selections from Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2015).

Andreas Malm. Selections from How to Blow Up a Pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire. London: Verso (2021).

Jeff Diamanti & Mark Simpson. "Five theses on sabotage in the shadow of fossil capital." Radical Philosophy 202, June (2018): 3–12.

Greenpeace and Steve McQueen: "Don't Stop" (Dir. Samona Olanipekun)

Week 9: Degrowth Week 9 Slides

Robert S. Emmett and David E. Nye. “Putting the Brakes On: Alternative Practices.” The Environmental Humanities: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press (2017): 117-138.

Jason Hickel. “Degrowth: A theory of radical abundance.” Real-World Economics Review (2019): 54-68.

Pierre Charbonnier. Risks and Limits: The End of Certainties & Self-Protection of the Earth. Affluence and Freedom: An Environmental History of Political Ideas. Cambridge: Polity (2021): 187-196, 237-258.

Listen to Cultures of Energy Podcast on ‘Degrowth’, with Dominic Parrique

Deeper Cuts

Kohei Saito. "The Abundance of Wealth in Degrowth Communism." Marx and the Anthropocene: Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism. Cambridge: CUP (2023): 216-44.

Vincent Liegey, Anitra Nelson, Jason Hickel. Exploring Degrowth: a critical guide. Fireworks (2020).

Week 10: Futures/Futuring Week Ten Slides

Visit to Coventry Biennial, Herbert Gallery. “Like a short cut through the brambles.”

Troy Vettese and Drew Pendergrass. Selections from “Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change, and Pandemics.” London: Verso (2022). Play the Game

Eric Holthaus, “2040-2050: New Technologies and New Spiritualities.” The Future Earth: A radical vision for what's possible in the age of warming.” Harper One (2020).

Christina Figueres & Tom Rivett-Carnac. “The World We Must Create.” The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf (2020).

David Wallace-Wells. “The Uninhabitable Earth.” New York Magazine. July 10, 2017.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. “The Frenzy of Fossil Fuels.” The Collapse of Western Civilization: a view from the future. NYC: Columbia (2014): 11-33.

The Rough Planet Guide to Notterdam. (Reinvent Decarbonisation Project, 2020)

Assessment method: Extended essay of 5,000 (for 20 CATS), 6,000 or 7,500 words (for 30 CATS) See Centrally Published Essay Deadlines.


Still Life

Woman at War

Enys Men


The Forgotten Space


The Wandering Earth