English 270 - Winter, 2015

Studies in Contemporary World Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Hsu, Hsuan
CRN: 93576
Time: T 3:10-6:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Later American
Focus: Interdiscipline, Other National, Method, Theory


    Today we don’t just live in toxic environments—we are born with toxins in our cells, we eat and drink chemicals and absorb radiation, & we all learn to navigate and manage risks. Although the risk theorist Ulrich Beck has claimed that “Poverty is hierarchical, smog is democratic,” groups and places are not equally affected by environmental risks. This class will look at how writers represent chemical and radioactive pollutants in a range of risk-laden places. Through readings of important theoretical and critical accounts of risk—as well as narrative texts from Polynesia, South Korea, India, and different US communities—we will discuss how literature negotiates the subjectivity of risk perception, exposes invisible, incalculable, and time-delayed sources of harm, and explores the ethical and narrative implications of the vulnerable bodies produced in risky places.


    short writing assignments=10%
    attendance & participation=25%
    2 presentations=20%
    annotated bibliography=10%
    final essay=35%


    Risk Society, Ulrich Beck
    Contagious, Priscilla Wald
    Sense of Place and Sense of Planet, Ursula Heise
    Bodily Natures, Stacy Alaimo
    Eco-Sickness, Heather Houser
    Environmental Other, Sarah Ray
    Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Rob Nixon
    thisconnectionofeveryonewithlungs, Juliana Spahr
    from unincorporated territory [saina], Craig Santos Perez
    Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
    Family of Fallen Leaves, Charles Waugh and Huy Lien
    Animal's People, Indra Sinha
    Book of the Dead , Muriel Rukeyser
    Melal, Robert Barclay
    Gain, Richard Powers