Course content

During the last decade or so attentiveness to the more-than-human has impacted the Humanities, which had led to a new focus on the exploration of the complex links between human, animal and environment. This interest in the more-than-human coincides with the awareness that we are living in the Anthropocene, an age so marked by human actions, preferences, and value systems that we are now faced with climate change on a planetary scale, endangering the longterm survival of both human and animal. To meet these challenges, technical and scientific solutions need to be augmented with combined insights from many research fields, actively engaged in the rethinking and extension of notions of nature, agency, materiality and what it means to be human.

The point of departure is that we need the Humanities to make sense of the human in the era of the Anthropocene, as biological, geological and cultural agent. In this regard, the Humanities and Cultural studies provide openings that can help us understand as well as change ways of thinking, value systems and practices, thereby enabling environmentally oriented activities. Academic subjects such as the history of ideas, literary and language studies as well as cultural heritage and archeology have much to contribute to address current ecological crises, not least in terms of their ethical, cultural, philosophical and historical perspectives.

The course problematizes the Humanities from this interdisciplinary perspective in order to forge reconfigurations and extensions of the field that take into account new models of environmentality, understanding human and nonhuman ecologies in terms of the more-than-human. It is in this respect that the Environmental Humanities come to the fore. This burgeoning field of studies engages creatively with sustainability issues, problematizes the ways in which the human has overstepped his mark and by so doing jeopardizes the future of the entire planet. Environmental Humanities is not only concerned with questions of value but aims to change the field of the Humanities by challenging traditional notions of human exceptionalism in resituating the human within the environment, as an agent among other agents. In this way the course aspires to contribute both to our understanding of what is at stake in discussions of environmental issues and to extend and develop the Humanities beyond their traditional framework.

Important issues on the agenda of the Environmental Humanities:

  • What can the Humanities contribute faced with climate and environmental challenges?
  • How can conceptual neologisms such as hyperobject, slow violence, transcorporeality, faciliate the understanding of ongoing changes?
  • How to understand and problematize the nature/culture divide?
  • In what ways can we understand, problematize and develop ideas of the Anthropocene?
  • How can we imagine a colloboration (including expected contributions) between academic research and non-academic agencies?
  • What potential has the more-than-human or environmental humanities to change the field of the Humanities as such?

Learning outcomes

In order to pass the course, students are expected to be able to demonstrate:

  • the ability to comprehensively present the research field of the Environmental Humanities
  • the ability to use, discuss and problematize a selection of key concepts and positions in the field (such as sustainability, Anthropocene, and more-than-human entanglements)
  • insights into the ways in which the environmental humanities engage in the rethinking of the human vis-à-vis the environment

Practical information

Active participation in seminars and completion of all written assignments are mandatory elements of the course.

The course is examined orally through seminar participation and through written assignments in the form of blog posts. After each seminar, students are expected to post their comments on the literature and their responses to seminar discussions on the shared course blog. This blog site is linked to the Seedbox blog, the national node for the Environmental Humanities, in order to facilitate the dissemination of the students' work.

Period: Spring semester, 2018.

Language of instruction: English

Course responsible: TBA

Course name in Swedish: Miljöhumaniora — en introduktion

The course is offered by the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies.