Acting Environmentally: Environmental Art, Action, and Activism

Dr. Amanda Starling Gould

Lit 290 | Environ 290 | Eng 290 | CulAnth 290

What are environmental actions? What are environmental protests? How do we communicate protest? How can we leverage the Environmental Humanities alongside environmental protests to help make change in the world? How can the Humanities, most particularly the literary and visual arts, help us understand, practice, and promote environmental acts and activism? How can the stories we tell about humans and the environment be used to cultivate more sustainable classrooms, communities, and cultures? In the face of EPA cuts, environmental justice crises, and the Anthropocenic deterioration of the planet, how can the humanities provide hope? And how can that hope lead us to more sustainable futures?

In order to answer these questions we will read environmental novels and short stories like Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, Linda Hogan’s Power,  and Nnedi Okorafor’s “Spider the Artist.” We will look at activist art, listen to radical rap songs, watch environmental films and documentaries, and investigate the visual and spoken language(s) of recent environmental protests. We will ask questions about race, gender, sexuality, and class in so far as they affect and are affected by environmental issues. We will explore the theoretical methods of the literary and environmental humanities and will put our lea(r)nings into practice by collaborating with local partners, such as the Duke Farm, the Durham Public Schools Hub Farm, Sustainable Duke, Healthy Duke, Triangle Ecycling, and the Durham Scrap Exchange, to act environmentally by creating public—and perhaps digital—environmental humanities projects.