Instructor: Carlson | TR 2:00 PM – 3:20 PM

How did the “environment” and “ecology” get invented? The idea of a holistic earth in which humankind is just one species among many dates from writers and artists of the Romantic period (1780-1850). Erasmus Darwin (Charles’s grandfather) coined the term “economy of vegetation” for it. William Wordsworth wrote of a world where humans were “rolled round in rocks and stones and trees.” John Clare described the life of birds with an intense scrutiny that was unprecedented. John Constable and JMW Turner made clouds and light, instead of gods and goddesses, the heroes of their paintings. Since then, writers have been prophetic, imagining a modern world tipping frighteningly out of balance. Byron, seeing the destruction of nature by capitalist greed, predicted climate change and mass extinction, as did Mary Shelley, fictionalizing pandemic plague in The Last Man. Contemporary films such as Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1982), which blends landscape and urban-industrial footage with a mesmerizing musical score, Rivers and Tides (2002), The Road (2009), Little Joe (2019), and Dark Waters (2019) extend the work of earlier verbal and visual artists in shaping our understanding both of a holistic earth and of humanity’s destruction of it. The imaginative worlds created by writers, artists, and filmmakers will be the major concern of this class; we shall investigate the literary, pictorial and cinematographic techniques they have used to make their talismanic fictions.