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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 4-5 (Teams, except weeks 4, 7, 9 in H535)
Seminar: Wednesday 4-6pm (Teams, except weeks 4, 7, 9 in Engineering Management Building, Westwood, L0.12)

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, Growthocene et al.) to further explore the challenges of reading ecological crisis and culture in an era when it is 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.

2020 syllabus

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
Bill McKibben, “The End of Nature,” The End of Nature (Doubleday): 47-91

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: Racial Anthropocene

Françoise Vergès, “Racial Capitalocene,Futures of Black Radicalism, ed. Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin (Verso, 2017)
Heather Davis and Zoe Todd, “On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene,ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 16.4 (2017): 761-780
Kathryn Yusoff, “Preface” and “Geology, Race, Matter,A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (University of Minnesota Press, 2018)

Week 4: 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
Larry Lohmann, “White Climate, White Energy: A Time for Movement Reflection?”
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 5: 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 6: 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 7: Resource wars

Paulo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (Orbit, 2015)
Sharae Deckard, “Water Shocks: Neoliberal Hydrofiction and the Crisis of ‘Cheap Water,’” Atlantic Studies 16: 108–25
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 8: 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
Filippo Menozzi, “Blue Sublime and the Time of Capital,” Humanities (2020)9, 73;

Week 9: Strange weather: media ecologies, digital labour

Ursula K. Heise, “Unnatural Ecologies: The Metaphor of the Environment in Media Theory,” Configurations 10.1 (Winter 2002): 149-68
Adam Wickberg and Johan Gärdebo, “Where Humans and the Planetary Conflate – An Introduction to Environing Media,” Humanities 2020, 9(3), 65;
Nick Dyer-Witheford, “Proletariat,” “Vortex,” “Mobile” and “Aftermath,Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex (Pluto, 2015)

Week 10: The poems of our climate change

Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (University of Chicago Press, 2016)
Thomas, Julia Adeney et al. “JAS Round Table on Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.” Journal of Asian Studies 75.4 (November) 2016: 929–955
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) (