Cultures of Extinction
ENGL 265A / GER 285A / ENV 495
Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:00-2:20 @ SMI 404 Fridays
Professor Jason Groves / he, him, his / firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours (DENNY 342): Thursdays 2:30-3:30 and by appt.
With the future of the Endangered Species Act and other important environmental protections at stake, this course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding one of the more wicked problems of the twenty-first century: The Sixth Extinction. Rather than approaching this event as a discrete biological phenomenon, this course looks at how current threats to biodiversity are implicated in, and connected to, long-standing and ongoing threats to cultural diversity. We will seek to understand how discourses of extinction, beginning from its scientific “discovery” in the eighteenth century, are related to fraught histories of colonialism and imperialism, whose ecological and cultural effects extend into the present and threaten to shape the future.
While the course seeks to grasp the scale of the Sixth Extinction, it will also critically reflect upon, and propose alternatives to, the dominant apocalyptic narratives in which extinction is framed in the popular imagination. This is a course about world-building as much as it is about taking stock of what has been lost: rather than dwelling on the approaching end of the world, we will seek to move beyond the end of the world by attending to those who argue that we already live in a post-apocalyptic present in the wake of historical and ongoing genocides, forced migrations, and other forms of dispossession and displacement. Course readings drawn from across the arts, humanities, and social sciences will explore and critique various framings of “the end,” while other readings from decolonial speculative fiction will offer resources for imagining and cultivating a more just world. Readings and discussion in English, originals in other languages will be made available wherever possible.