Imagining Nature in the Anthropocene

Literature of the Environment: Speaking for Nature

4-week session | May 20–June 13
Monday-Thursday, 9:30 a.m.–noon
3 credits

Restricted to undergraduates with sophomore standing or higher


Heather Swan

Course Description

During this course, students will practice identifying and analyzing the ways in which contemporary writers/filmmakers are representing the environment and thinking about “nature” in a historical moment coined the Anthropocene. The course will examine recent works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and film.

What exactly is natural in a human-dominated world? What responsibility do we have to human and nonhuman others on a planet facing dramatic environmental change? The course will be divided up into three units of inquiry on the following topics:

  • Wilderness and resource depletion
  • Human/nonhuman relationships in the age of extinction
  • Slow violence and resilience in the “Anthropocene”

At the outset of the course, we will be introduced to some more traditional concepts of nature — the romantic sublime, the wild, etc. — in order to interrogate their evolving meanings in this contemporary moment.

Some of the concepts we will explore as we move through the course are:

  • Wilderness
  • The Anthropocene
  • Consumerism
  • Globalization
  • Extinction
  • Apocalyptic narrative
  • The industrial sublime
  • Slow violence
  • Toxicity
  • Techno-optimism
  • Resilience
  • Sustainability

We will also examine the ways in which these ideas intersect with issues of gender, race, ethnicity, and social and economic mobility.

Reading, discussion, writing assignments, and experiential projects will all be important components of the class.

Fulfills Environmental Studies


UW Designations