Instructor: Carlson T/R 12:30 – 1:50pm
From the early nineteenth century to the present, literature and film have brought the natural world into powerful visual focus and also depicted a modern world frighteningly out of balance. The 2019 Todd Haynes film Dark Waters, about DuPont’s chemical pollution of West Virginian waterways and the Cincinnati-led class-action suit against the company, is one manifestation of this trend that this class will address. Others are the cult film Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1982), which blends landscape and urban-industrial footage with a mesmerizing musical score, and Thomas Reidelsheimer’s Rivers and Tides (2002) and Leaning into the Wind (2018). How such films extend the work of earlier verbal and visual artists in shaping our understanding both of a holistic earth and of humanity’s domination of it will be a major concern of this class; others will be the literary and cinematographic techniques they have used to do so. For example, John Clare described the life of birds with an intense scrutiny that was unprecedented in poetry, echoed in the spare prose of Aldo Leopold, and made cinematically dynamic in Winged Migration (2001). Byron, seeing the destruction of nature by capitalist greed, predicted climate change and mass extinction, and, with Shelley’s Frankenstein, made possible the apocalyptic-warning film There Will be Blood (2007). Course members are asked to try to watch Dark Waters (in theaters now) before the semester begins.