This course will reexamine the idea of "the human." Readings will be drawn from graphic novels, post-apocalyptic narratives, classical and contemporary theory, science fiction, and recent work in cultural and environmental criticism. Through our reading, we will reconsider the distinctions between humans, nonhumans, and the idea of the natural. The often-porous borders between species, technologies, and environments will also allow us to ask questions about the future of the humanities. If we unsettle prevailing assumptions about the meaning of "the human," what will the humanities look like in the coming decades? What is the future of humanistic study in an age when digital technologies have become a common feature of everyday life and environmental crises pose existential threats to the planet and our species?
In order to reconsider what we mean when we talk about "the human," we will need to trek across diverse intellectual terrain. We'll consider narratives that imagine a future continuum of human-cyborgs, reflect on vast spatial-temporal scales that call into question the significance of our species, probe the assumptions about race and gender underlying popular American ideas about nature, and evaluate scenarios in which the natural becomes "uncanny" even as the technological becomes "organic."
The course will require three seminar-style projects, regular engagement in discussion, and a final class assignment in which students imagine the future shape, practices, and concerns of the humanities.
Satisfies the Literary, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric distribution requirement.
Satisfies depth or breadth course requirement in Humanities Track of the Environmental Studies major or interdisciplinary minor.
First-year students require permission of the instructor.