Spring 2016

Literature and the Nonhuman World

Listed in: English, as ENGL-395


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


Like every other aspect of human culture, literature interacts with biology–with, in Elizabeth Grosz’s words, “a system of (physical, chemical, organic) differences that engenders historical, social, cultural, and sexual differences.”  The aim of this course is to make that fact as intellectually fruitful as possible.  What happens to our understanding of literature if we think of it as an expression of life?  What happens, that is, if we think of literature as one of the countless things that emerges from a non-personal, non-teleological process of evolution?  And what happens if we think of individual works of literature as potential ways of getting closer, conceptually and sensually, to life, to the difference-making process within which we all find ourselves?  Critical readings will include selections from Grosz’s Becoming Undone and Timothy Morton’s The Ecological Thought; literary readings will include Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Thoreau’s Walden, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World.  A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Spring semester.  Professor Sanborn.


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020