I’m busy planning the course I’m teaching in the fall at Harvard University titled “Gods and Giants in the French Renaissance,” a course intended as an invitation to think about “supersized agencies” (like those of all anthropoi as a “geological force”) from the perspective of early modern literature. The aim of the course is to see how early modern writers imagined and pictured such agencies, in order to explore how formulations of “huge” agencies relate to political ecologies. One train of thought will be the question of gender: giants (though not gods) tend to be masculine, and fighting a giant often has to do with proving/defending a certain culturally constructed notion of masculinity. Thanks to this particular train of thought, then, I’ve come across some interesting articles and reflections that will figure somehow in the course.
In the Guardian in October 2014, Kate Ranworth asked “Must the Anthropocene be a Manthropocene?,” pointing out that: “Leading scientists may have the intellect to recognise that our planetary era is dominated by human activity, but they still seem oblivious to the fact that their own intellectual deliberations are bizarrely dominated by white northern male voices.” More recently (May 2015), Noah Theriault responded to Ranworth’s article, to ask the more theoretical question: “How does our perspective on the Anthropocene change when we take gender into account?,” to which a first answer is given: “Our conversations about habitability are inevitably about power and difference and thus also inevitably about gender” (emphasis mine). In a word, “Difference matters, even (and perhaps especially) in a time when global accountability and cooperation seem increasingly necessary.” Theriault concludes: “What habitability means in the Anthropocene is a question fraught with many others. For whom do we hope the planet will be habitable? Whose voices define habitability? Which earthly beings have a right to habitability? And so on. We cannot convincingly or justly answer such questions—and thus we cannot convincingly or justly address habitability—without a gendered perspective on the world we inhabit and the challenges we face.” (My emphasis). A number of scholarly articles also call to be read in this context: Gibson-Graham’s piece on “A feminist project of belonging for the Anthropocene”; Haraway’s piece on “Making Kin.” There is also the recent book by Wendy Harcourt and Ingrid L. Nelson about “Practising Feminist Political Ecologies.” (Nelson teaches at the University of Vermont- her page is here)
Project THE HUMANIST anthropocene
is a thought archive and workspace of Phillip John Usher (NYU) at the crossroads of early modern humanism and the problems and insights of the Anthropocene. Main Research Page.
ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment)
Environmental Humanities (journal)
Resilience (A Journal of the Environmental Humanities)
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