English 250

Research Seminar: Ecocriticism Meets Biopolitics


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2008 Francois, Anne-Lise
Francois, Anne-Lise
M 3-6 204 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Coetzee, J.M., The Lives of Animals; Wordsworth & Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads; Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein; Thoreau, Henry David, Walden

Description

"This research seminar addresses two areas of literary and critical theory concerned with animal/human divides and the relationship between place, language and politics. ""Biopolitics"" commonly refers to the politicization of those areas of life that the human shares with other animals, and to the interest the modern state takes in �making live� and in the regulation and rendering productive of life functions�through statistics on population, sexual habits, health, sanitation, etc. �Ecocriticism,� on the other hand, usually refers to the study of the relationship between literature and something called �nature� and is often defined by narratives of human destructiveness and difference. As we compare different definitions of �nature��as a set of finite, exploitable resources, a normative authority limiting human experimentation, a repository of traditional ways of doing and knowing, and a site of vulnerability in need of protection from extinction�we will also explore the alternatives to the nature/human binary developed by the writers in question. This research seminar addresses two areas of literary and critical theory concerned with animal/human divides and the relationship between place, language and politics. �Biopolitics� commonly refers to the politicization of those areas of life that the human shares with other animals, and to the interest the modern state takes in �making live� and in the regulation and rendering productive of life functions�through statistics on population, sexual habits, health, sanitation, etc. �Ecocriticism� usually designates the study of literature in relation to something called �nature,� and is often defined by narratives of human destructiveness, difference and lost connection. What insights can these two fields bring to bear on one another and what role does the study of literature and linguistic experience play in either? How and why has the ethical turn toward nonhuman others�evident in the emerging field of animal studies--coincided with the industrialization of food production and modern consumerism? Other topics will include: the conflict between �modernity� and �modernization� and the role of marginalized communities; agriculture as a border-space between �culture� and �nature�; fantasies about ecological disaster, social catastrophe, and science�s (or poetry�s) ability to save or destroy humankind.

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