Energy Humanities and the Anthropocene, Spring 2015

650:280 Obermann Center Special Topics Seminars: Energy Humanities and the Anthropocene is a 1-credit, pass/fail course which will involve five meetings leading up to the March 5-7, 2015 Obermann Humanities Symposium, Energy Cultures in the Age of the Antrhopocene, as well as full attendance at the symposium and a follow-up session.  The course will focus on the ideas, values, and aesthetics that shape the way fuel our lives and transform our environments.  Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, humans have altered environments and ecosystems on a large scale, so much so that in 2000, the Nobel laureate and atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen, suggested that we were no longer living in the Holocene geologic age, but rather in some other age.   Human intervention in the earth¹s carbon, nitrogen, and hydrologic cycles has accelerated to such an extent, he argued, that we need a different geological name to describe this age ­ the Anthropocene, or the Age of Humans.  The Anthropocene, by definition, posits humans as agents of change.  Humanists therefore, should play a central role in analyzing such change.  Meeting this challenge requires an investigation of energy not simply as a force of nature or economic calculus, but as a social relation.  Energy systems are products of political and social struggles, cultural mediation, and technological choices.  A humanistic approach to making sense of energy in the Age of the Anthropocene is crucial to negotiating the indeterminate boundary between what is ³natural² and ³man-made,² between the multiple ways humans experience and react to the passage of time, and between the unequal social impacts of human-altered and fossil-fueled environments around the world.

We welcome participants with openness to learning new and unfamiliar material as well as those already engaged in studying energy and environmental topics.

We will conduct a survey of writing on energy cultures and the Anthropocene, including interdisciplinary writings by plenary speakers Lonnie Thompson, Rob Nixon, Sandra Steingraber, and Charles Mann, as well as other participants in the symposium.  Requirements will includes discussion of reading as well as documenting the conference for an interactive website (interviews, blog entries, critical commentary, photo essays, or other creative responses).  Instructors are Tyler Priest (History and Geographical and Sustainability Sciences), Barbara Eckstein (English), and Bradley Cramer (Earth and Environmental Sciences).

Course participation from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm on January 28, February 4, February 11, February 18, and February 25, and full participation in the conference (March 5-7) is required.

 Instructor of record: Teresa Mangum

Headshot of Teresa Mangum
Director , Obermann Center for Advanced Studies , Director
A Professor in the Departments of Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies and English and Affiliate Faculty with the Public Policy Center, Mangum was appointed as Director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in 2010. She is the author of Married, Middle-brow, and Militant: Sarah Grand and the New Woman Novel (1998); editor of A Cultural History of Women: Volume 5: The Age of Empire, 1800–1920 (Berg 2013); and guest editor of special issues of Philological Quarterly, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Victorian Periodicals Review, and the Journal of Aging...