Environmental Awareness in Contemporary American Literature and the Arts

The course is devoted to those American writers and artists who explore in their work the relationship between people and the environment, both the natural and the man-made. Besides texts that deal with the more obvious connections – between the environment and human fates, between place and individual psyche, character, language and imagination – students explore various artistic statements which deny the distinctions between the natural and the artificial or between people and the environment, as well as reflect on environmental responsibility (for the future of the earth, but also of urban habitats), articulate and advocate environmental ethics, speak for reinhabitation, call for environmental action, and endorse or denounce ecoterrorism. While most of the texts diagnose the current state of affairs, some envisage the ecocatastrophes of the future or explore the environmental utopias of the past. The reading/viewing list ranges from Avatar to the poetry of Gary Snyder and stories by Ernest Hemingway and Paul Auster, and from the ecomanifestoes of Derrick Jensen to the comics by R.Crumb and the paintings by Alexis Rockman.