Spring 2020

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? Readings will include Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, James Welch’s Winter in the Blood, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Wallace Stevens, and Elizabeth Bishop. A background in the natural sciences is welcome but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Sanborn.

If Overenrolled: If over-enrolled, enrollment will be by permission of the instructor, on the basis of written account of need and desire for the class.


Attention to Writing


2020-21: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2020