English 270 - Spring, 2017

Studies in Contemporary World Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Hsu, Hsuan
CRN: 92095
Time: M 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Later American
Focus: Genre, ID, Interdiscipline, 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,” places and populations are unevenly affected by environmental risks. This seminar will look at how writers represent chemical and radioactive pollutants in a range of risk-laden places. We will read important theoretical and critical accounts of risk, as well as narrative texts from the Marshall Islands, Vietnam, India, and vulnerable sites throughout the US. Discussions will consider how environmental 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.


    attendance and participation: 20%
    presentations: 20%
    short response papers: 20%
    seminar paper: 40%


    Terror from the Air, Peter Sloterdijk
    The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi
    Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Rob Nixon
    Bodily Natures, Stacy Alaimo
    Melal, Robert Barclay
    Their Dogs Came With Them, Helena Maria Viramontes
    Telempath, Spider Robinson
    The Child to Come, Rebekah Sheldon
    Animal's People, Indra Sinha
    Heroes and Saints, Cherrie Moraga
    Hot Spotters Report, Shiloh Krupar
    Queer Ecologies, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson
    Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler
    Risk Society, Ulrich Beck