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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 2-4pm (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): 171-180
Jeremy Davies, “Introduction” and “Chapter 2: Versions of the Anthropocene” from The Birth of the Anthropocene (University of California Press, 2016): 1-14, 41-68
Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, "Welcome to the Anthropocene," The Shock of the Anthropocene (Verso, 2016)): 16-28

Week 2: Contesting the Anthropocene

Andreas Malm, “The Anthropocene Myth,” Jacobin (2015):
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)
Andreas Malm, “Introduction: Theory for the Warming Condition, ” “On the Use of Opposites: In Praise of Polarisation,” The Progress of this Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World (Verso, 2018)

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” and “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Henry Holt, 2014): 13-44, 158-189
Ashley Dawson, “An Etiology of the Present Catastrophe” and “Capitalism and Extinction,” Extinction: A Radical History (OR Books, 2016): 19-63
Ursula K. Heise, “Multispecies Fictions for the Anthropocene,” Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (University of Chicago Press, 2016): 202-237

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)
Mike Davis, “The Coming Desert: Kropotkin, Mars and the Pulse of Asia,” New Left Review 23 (January-February 2016): 23-43
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
Herman Melville, “The Pacific,” Moby Dick; or, The Whale [1851] (Norton, 2002)
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): 124-133
Ben Lerner, “Plume,” The Claudius App (
Margaret Ronda, “Mourning and Melancholia in the AnthropocenePost-45 (2013) (