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400 Level Winter 2019


ENGL 486.1 Lecture 01: "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Multi-Species Communities"
Instructor:  Pamela Banting
Schedule: Tue/Thu 2:00-3:15


Christopher Manes, critiquing the environmental damage made possible in part by anthropocentrism, observes that “To privilege intellect or self-consciousness [or language], as opposed to photosynthesis, poisoned fangs, or sporogenesis, may soothe ancient insecurities about humanity’s place in the cosmos, but it has nothing to do with evolutionary theory and does not correspond to observable nature.” In this course we will explore the emerging field of multispecies ethnography, a field in which anthropocentrism is shown to be inconsistent with modern science, ecological networks and “companion species” are revalued, and the category and nature of life itself is being rethought. We will examine introductions to this new field and key works in rethinking the nature of and relationality between and among animals, plants and minerals, as well as microbes, fungi (mushrooms), water, air, and soil. Sub-topics for analysis may include corporeality (bodies), inter-species encounters, animality, wildness, post-humanism, biophilia, plant-thinking, extinction, indigenous science and cosmologies, interdisciplinarity, new materialism, animism, and more. If, as science demonstrates, trees communicate and cooperate with other trees and care for their offspring, how does this knowledge change how we view the world? How can the subject-object binary be rethought? How do we transform western ideologies such as humanism and individualism to take into account not just humans but the entire rest of the living, breathing, transpiring, gurgling world? How does it feel to be alive? How can we open ourselves to the vital possibilities of multispecies communities?