Planetary Humanities, Fall 2020

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: Literature and the Environment

Class Number: 74930
Lecture: Mondays & Wednesdays, 11:00 AM – 11:50 AM
3 Credits
Requisites: None
Course Designation: Breadth – Literature & counts toward the Humanities req.
Level – Elementary
L&S Credit – Counts as Liberal Arts and Science credit in L&S

Level: Intermediate
L&S Credit: Counts as Liberal Arts and Science credit in L&S
Course Options: Sustainability

As a Constellations class, support is offered for the pre-med intensive writing requirement

ENGLISH 153: Literature and the Environment + Astronomy 104: Our Exploration of the Solar System

For Fall 2020, Constellations is offering a special opportunity for student interested in exploring planetary science and humanities: one section of ENGLISH 153 and one section of Astronomy 104 have been reserved for students who want to take both classes and share the experience with their peers.

Students can enroll in English 153, section 306, and Astronomy 104, section 305, concurrently by placing both sections in their cart and selecting enroll.

English 153: Students should enroll in section 306 (74938)

Astronomy 104: Students should enroll in section 305 (65312)


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.