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ENGLISH 131D: Imagining Adaptive Societies (CSRE 161, CSRE 261, SUSTAIN 131, SUSTAIN 231)

The ecological, social, and economic crises of the Anthropocene suggest it is time for us to re-imagine how best to organize our communities, our institutions, and our societies. Despite the clear shortcomings, our society remains stuck in a rut of inaction. During periods of rapid social and economic change, segments of society become gripped by a nostalgia for idealized pasts that never really existed; such nostalgia acts as a powerful force that holds back innovation and contributes to a failure of imagination. How, then, might we imagine alternative social arrangements that could allow us to thrive sustainably in an environment of greater equity? Moshin Hamid reminds us that literature allows us to break from violent nostalgia while imagining better worlds, while Ursula K. Le Guin notes that "imaginative fiction trains people to be aware that there are other ways to do things, other ways to be; that there is not just one civilization, and it is good, and it is the way we have to be." There are - there has to be - other and better ways to be. In this multi-disciplinary class, we turn to speculative fiction as a way of imagining future societies that are adaptable, sustainable, and just and can respond to the major challenges of our age. In addition to reading and discussing a range of novels and short stories, we bring to bear perspectives from climate science, social science, and literary criticism. We will also be hosting several of the authors to talk about their work and ideas.
Terms: Win | Units: 3
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