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C LIT 396 B: Special Studies In Comparative Literature

Cultures of Extinction: Contemporary Challenges to Diversity

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 2:50pm
Location: 
JHN 175
SLN: 
11854
Instructor: 
Jason Groves

Syllabus Description:

German 298 / Comp Lit 396B / CHID 270E / ENVIR 495A / ENGL 265A

Cultures of Extinction

T/TH 1:30-2:50 JHN 175

 

Professor: Jason Groves / jagroves@uw.edu / Office: CDH 704 / Office Hours: Tues. 3-4 and by appt.   

TA: Olivia Albiero / albieroo@uw.edu /Office: CDH 803 / Office Hours: Tues. 11-12, Thurs. 9:30-10:30 and by appt.

 

INTRODUCTION:

This course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding one of the more wicked problems of the 21st century: mass species extinction, or The Sixth Extinction, as it is often known. Rather than approaching this event as a discrete biological phenomenon, this course looks at how current threats to bio-diversity are implicated in, and connected to, threats to cultural diversity, in particular language loss. We will seek to understand how discourses of extinction, beginning from its “discovery” in the 18th 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 (post-)apocalyptic narratives in which extinction is framed in the popular imagination. Course readings and critical texts drawn from across the humanities and social sciences will explore and critique various framings of “the end” in literature, art, music, and film.

English is the language of instruction and course readings. This course satisfies the diversity requirement &VPLA.

 

READINGS:

Course Reader (available at Ram’s on the Ave, 4144 University Way NE) and Oryx and Crake (UW bookstore).

 

TEAM LEARNING:

This class is taught in the team learning approach Students will join groups of six or seven members that work together as a cohesive learning team throughout the quarter (teams will be formed at the beginning of the quarter and will assure maximum balance of assets and liabilities). Students are expected to attend each class period with all assignments completed by the beginning of class and ready to engage in discussing the topic of the day with their learning team, with the instructors, and with other teams. In this course, team assignments will take three main forms: discussions of readings/viewings; unit projects; and unit tests. A fourth feature of team learning is peer evaluation.

In-class discussion: During most class periods, the instructor will begin with a lecture on the assigned readings/viewings to provide background, context, and preliminary interpretive strategies. After this, groups will then launch into a discussion about the reading based on provided questions, and from there will work on group prohects.. The discoveries you make with each other’s help will be the true learning experience of the course.

Unit Projects: All three units will culminate with a group project. All of these five assignments will receive comments and feedback as a way of preparing for and improving your team’s final portfolio: a paginated exhibition (a book) showcasing the projects. Details about each project will be made available soon.

Testing: At the end of each unit, we will make sure students are conversant with the main philosophical ideas and literary texts that have been under discussion. Each student will take an Individual Critical/Analytical Thinking Test (I-CAT) that consists of questions about the unit’s readings, viewings, and lectures. Next, the same test will be re-taken by the group as a Team Critical/Analytical Thinking Test (T-CAT).

Peer Assessment: At the end of the quarter, team members are given the opportunity to evaluate one another’s contributions to the activities of the team in a peer assessment process (each team member is given a maximum number of points to distribute among the group). Students prepare along the way for this process by keeping an ongoing log of observations about how their team has functioned.

 

REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING

In addition to reading and preparing all materials before class, each student is expected to:

  • participate in class discussions and group activities on a regular basis
  • complete all of the assignments described below.

Your course grade will be calculated in the following way:

            200 points for IRATs (50 each) = 15%

50 points for TRATS (12.5 each) = 5%

100 points for peer assessment = 10%

            300 points for team portfolio (100 points for each project) = 30%        

350 points for final group project (the book, a paginated exhibition) = 35%

Because each assignment (and each unit) builds upon the previous one, no late work will be accepted. 0.1 points will be taken off your final grade for each absence beyond two excused absences or for each unexcused absence since in-class work is essential for this pedagogy.

 

POLICIES

Attendance: In-class work is essential for this pedagogy (TBL). You have two free

absences, excused or unexcused. After that, 0.1 point will be taken off your final grade for each absence. Also, if you are absent on a test day, you will simply lose the points for that test. No retakes.

Contact And Questions:

If you cannot come to office hours, e-mail is the best way to contact the TA or myself with questions or concerns.

  • We generally do not read or respond to email during weekends or evenings.
    · We generally do not respond to emails asking questions that are answered by the syllabus.
    · We are happy to discuss your ideas or outlines for written work and group projects during office hours, but we cannot read or comment on drafts of your work.

 

GRADES GRIEVANCE POLICY: If you disagree with the grade you have been awarded and wish to appeal your grade, you must follow the policy outlined below. We will make no exceptions to this policy, and reserve the right to refrain from considering your complaint if you do not follow the policy.

  • Wait twenty-four hours from the time you receive the grade.
  • Deliver a written statement explaining your complaint to the instructor: Prof. Groves. No emails or telephone calls.
  • Make an appointment with the instructors to discuss your written complaint in person (email is fine).
  • We will indicate our final decision to you by email within twenty-four hours of our meeting.
  • If you disagree with our final decision, please file a written request to meet with the instructors and the Chair of Germanics, Prof. Brigitte Prutti.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: The University of Washington is a community dedicated to learning. Students belonging to the community adhere to the ethical obligations outlined in the student conduct code. Plagiarism, cheating, and disruptive behavior in class violate the code, and harm everyone’s learning. Any violations of the code in connection with the course will result in referral to the University administration for appropriate action. Plagiarism of any sort will automatically result in a grade of 0.0 for the assignment as well as referral to the University administration, and may lead to harsh measures including expulsion.

ACCESS AND ACCOMMODATIONS: It is crucial that all students in this class have access to the full range of learning experiences. At the University of Washington, it is the policy and practice to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Full participation in this course requires the following types of engagement:

  • the ability to complete up to 50 pages of reading or 4 hours of video viewing in preparation for each class;
  • the ability to attend bi-weekly lectures of 30-60 minutes with 60 other students
  • the ability to work in a learning team with 6-7 students on group discussions and projects (creative and analytical);
  • the ability to complete in-class written quizzes questions AND then to discuss the same questions in your team;
  • the ability to write an analytical essay and descriptive articles.

If you anticipate or experience barriers to your learning or full participation in this course based on a physical, learning, or mental health disability, please immediately contact the instructor to discuss possible accommodation(s). A more complete description of the disability policy of the College of the Environment can be found here. If you have, or think you have, a temporary or permanent disability that impacts your participation in any course, please also contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) at: 206-543-8924 V / 206-543-8925 TDD / uwdss@uw.edu e-mail / http://www.uw.edu/students/drs.

LEARNING GOALS:

By the end of the quarter students will have developed a better sense of the role of literature and culture in discussions around species extinction. This overall objective encompasses many particular goals as well. As a result of this class, you should be able to explain key concepts of environmentalism, identify a range of approaches to the study of the environment, read and analyze texts closely and work in teams, apply the questions in each unit to a variety of cultural contexts, improve active learning through group work and individual research.

 

Nota bene: teams are responsible for self-management. The instructors will not supervise student activities outside of class, mediate in the case of differences of opinion, or get involved in any way in terms of fixing group dynamics etc. Team’s self-management is part of the pedagogical goals that we strive for in this class and a great modeling exercise to prepare students for real-life professional contexts.

SCHEDULE

*Syllabus liable to alterations. Any changes will be announced in class and posted on canvas.

 

Unit 1. What is Missing? (Monuments)

Week 1 Introduction

Tues., Jan. 5: Introduction. Maya Lin, “What is Missing?”

 

Thurs. Jan. 7: Sherman Alexie, “Evolution”

Michael Rothberg, “Theorizing Multi-directional Memory in a Transnational Age” (1-12)

Homework: Research monuments and museums around questions of endangerment.  

Suggested sites: whatismissing.org, @extinctsymbol, extinctionradio.org, http://extinctionstudies.org, racingextinction.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_Project

In-class: Group Project #1: Brainstorm potential extinction memorials (to lost species, culture, civilization)

 

Week 2 The Discovery of (the Sixth) Extinction

Tues., Jan. 12: Darwin, “On Extinction,” from The Origin of Species

Elizabeth Kolbert, “Chapter 1” in The Sixth Extinction

John Vidal, “As forests are cleared and species vanish, there’s one other loss: a world of languages”;

In-class: Group Project #1: Continue to develop memorial, now in context of 6th extinction

 

Thurs., Jan. 14: Alicia Escott, “Letter to a Brontomerus Mcintoshi”

Suggested: Gillian Beer, “Darwin and the Uses of Extinction”

Suggested: Barrow, “Bones of Contention” from Nature's Ghosts

Suggested: Bratlinger, Dark Vanishings (1-12)

Homework: Write a love letter to an extinct species of your choice

In-class: Group Project #1Continue to develop memorial, cognizant of ideological “uses” of extinction

 

Week 3: Forms of Extinction

Tues., Jan. 19: Joseph Meeker The Comedy of Survival (excerpt)

David Quammen, The Song of the Dodo (excerpt)

                       Watch: Last Chance to See, Kakapo episode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Opv8vZ6RvB0)

             In-class: Group Project #1: Continue to develop memorial, cognizant of multiple narratives

IRAT and TRAT #1

 

Thurs., Jan. 21: Presentations of Project #1

 

Unit 2. Last People, Last Words (Robinsonades)

Week 4: Postwar Post-Apocalypse

Tues., Jan. 26:    Arno Schmidt, Dark Mirrors (start)

   In-class: Project #2: Develop a Robinsonade (a pre-enactment of a current or future disaster)

 

Thurs., Jan. 28:  Arno Schmidt, Dark Mirrors (finish)

   In-class: Project #2, cont.

 

Week 5 Cold War Post-Apocalypse

Tues., Feb 2.: Marlene Haushofer, The Wall (excerpt)

                     In-class: Project #2, cont.

 

Thurs., Feb 4.: Watch: Julian Pölsler, The Wall

                        In-class: Project #2, cont.

                       IRAT and TRAT #2

 

Week 6 Native American Post-Apocalypse

Tues. Feb.9:   Gerald Vizenor, “Voices” from Dead Voices: Natural Agonies In The New World

                        Suggested: “Head Water: An Interview with Gerald Vizenor”

                        In-class: Project #2, cont.

           

Thurs. Feb. 11: The Bureau of Linguistic Reality, “A Dictionary for the Future Present”

Suggested: Perley, “Remembering ancestral voices”

In-class: Salon for new words for the Anthropocene

 

Week 7 Afrofuturism

Tues. Feb. 16:   Watch: Wanuri Kahiu, Pumzi (https://vimeo.com/46891859)

Suggested: Mark Dery, “Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate, and Tricia Rose."

In-class: Project #2, cont.

              

Thurs. Feb 18: Presentation of Project #2

 

Unit 3: De-extinction and other Post-human futures (Museums)

 

Week 8 Postnatural History

Tues. Feb. 23:   Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, Chapters 1-4

Homework: Find a news item that highlights a contemporary, real-world scientific or technological practice that relates to the novel.  

In-class: Begin Group Project #3: Museum Exhibition for the Center for Postnatural History

 IRAT and TRAT #3 

Thurs. Feb. 25: Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, Chapters 5-6.

             In-class: Project #3 cont.: Develop museum exhibition

       

Week 9 Postnatural History, cont.

Tues., Mar. 1: Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, Chapters 7-10.

IRAT and TRAT #4 (Oryx and Crake, Chapters 5-10)

                       In-class: Project #3 cont.: Develop museum exhibition

Thurs., Mar 3: Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake, Chapters 11-12.

Group Project #3 Presentation

 

Week 10: After Extinction

Tues. Mar. 8: Finish Oryx and Crake

Homework: Compile all projects into paginated exhibition; design cover, TOC, etc. send to printer

 

Thurs. Mar. 10: Presentation of final project, paginated exhibitions

Additional Details:

This course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding one of the more wicked problems of the 21st century: mass species extinction, or The Sixth Extinction, as it is often known. Rather than approaching this event as a discrete biological phenomenon, this course looks at how current threats to bio-diversity are implicated in, and connected to, threats to cultural diversity, in particular language loss. We will seek to understand how discourses of extinction, beginning from its “discovery” in the 18th 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. Course readings and critical texts drawn from across the humanities and social sciences will explore and critique various framings of “the end” in literature, art, music, and film.

This course is open to majors across the university. English is the language of instruction and course readings. This course satisfies the diversity requirement as well as VPLA.

Catalog Description: 
Offered by visitors or resident faculty. Content varies.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Elective
GE Requirements Met: 
Diversity (DIV)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
September 13, 2016 - 9:12pm
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