Planetary humanities

Planetary Humanities, Fall 2022

This Constellation is no longer offered, but the course is still being taught through the English department (see Course Search & Enroll on MyUW).

We live on Earth, but do we know exactly what the Earth is? Is it a mere planet wandering in a cold universe? The quasi-living ecosphere some thinkers call “Gaia”? Or a sort of “spaceship” that geoengineers can enhance and pilot?

The goal of this course is to reveal that planet Earth is both a global ecosystem in which nature and technologies are entangled and a cosmological entity belonging to our solar system. Planetary Humanities will enable students to think together these two aspects of Earth: a/the global feature that is at the core of crucial phenomena like climate change, financial crisis, and transnational migrations, and b/the cosmological aspect that has been at play since the Copernican revolution and its displacement of the Earth from the center of the cosmos.

Drawing on literature (J.G Ballard, J.M. Coetzee, U. Le Guin, M. Shelley, K. Vonnegut), music (Funkadelic, Sun Ra), cinema (Into the Wild, Koyaanisqatsi, Promised Land, 2001: A Space Odyssey), philosophy (H. Jonas, A. Koyré), sociology and history (U. Beck, D. Cosgrove), science (Copernicus, P. Crutzen, J. Lovelock, L. Margulis, J. von Neumann, C. Sagan), anthropology (J. Diamond, T. Ingold, L. Messeri), and theorists who shaped the environmental thought (R. Carson, W. Cronon, B. Latour, A. Leopold, B. McKibben, C. Merchant, R. Nixon, H.D. Thoreau), this class investigates the crucial issues of our terrestrial condition.

If we want to address the environmental problems that humans are confronted with (loss of biodiversity, technological risks, environmental inequity), we need to change our representations of earth, nature, life, humans, and technology.

ENGLISH 153/ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES 153: Literature and the Environment

3 Credits
Requisites: None
Level: Elementary
Breadth: Literature
L&S Credit Type: Counts as LAS credit
Course Options: Sustainability
Mode of Instruction: In Person

Frédéric Neyrat is a Mellon-Morgridge Professor of Planetary Humanities and Associate Professor of English with expertise in the environmental humanities and contemporary theory. He is the author of several books, including The Unconstructable Earth: An Ecology of Separation, and Atopias: Manifesto for a Radical Existentialism.

Dr. Neyrat recently launched Alienocene, an electronic journal that gathers texts, sounds, and images seeking to reshape the relationship between the human and the inhuman, the terrestrial and the extraterrestrial, the near and the distant, what is familiar to us and what persists in remaining – despite everything – alien.

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Constellations and the Environmental Studies Certificate are two separate, but highly-related programs: the Planetary Humanities Constellation can be a entry point into the Environmental Studies Certificate. Students who take the Planetary Humanities Constellation (Literature and the Environment) earn 3 credits toward the total 15 credits needed to complete the certificate.  The Environmental Studies Certificate is offered through the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

“[The Planetary Humanities class] definitely has opened my mind to the connections between nature and technology.”