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New Undergraduate Course Supplement 2018


ENGL 64.06 Animal, Vegetable, Medium: Writing Nonhuman Sentience and Communication

What do animals see, hear, and smell with their different senses? Through what media do they communicate? Do plants have a kind of sentience? Given that we can never get inside the head (or leaf) of another species, can we really know anything about their consciousness? Writers and theorists have been asking these questions for centuries, often in dialogue with the science of animal behavior. This course looks at a contemporary multidisciplinary tradition that attributes sentience and communication to animals, plants, and fungi. Over the course of the term, we address three interlocking problems as they appear in a varied archive of print and visual media 1) the problem of accessing the subjective experience of other species 2) the problem of communicating with other species, and the question in what media it might be possible 3) the problem of communicating with other human beings about 1 and 2, and the question of what media best serve this purpose. We also ask what these aesthetic and theoretical traditions offer us now, during the “Anthropocene” or the current epoch when humans have become a geological force shaping the Earth. We ask whether or not they have the potential to interpret it from a different perspective, whether or not they can inform environmentalist politics, and what their implications might be for social justice. This advanced course in environmental media studies also incorporates readings that reflect on the field’s particular theories and practices.

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