Back to the Future

Summer 2020
McKenna Rose
ENGL 1101

The cumulative consequences of the Anthropocene—warming, carbon emission, species loss, deforestation, melting, ocean acidification, and the global waste crisis—make the future of life on earth difficult to imagine. Throughout most of human history, we have relied on models such as generational inheritance or market growth to figure what lies ahead, but if the last few years are any indication, the rhetoric we use to project the future is increasingly insufficient. In response to this figural exigency, students in this class will draw on rhetorical forms and figures from the Sciences, Humanities, and sustainable development initiatives in Atlanta to invent new metaphors, stories, and models that describe contemporary environmental degradation, potential responses to it, and the world to come. Students will begin by illustrating concepts of “the future” and “futurity” through contemporary media, and then expand their insights through theoretical and political texts to imagine a world free from the terminal effects of climate change. To expand on their initial research, and also uncover ways in which our present is partially determined by the future we imagined hundreds of years ago, students will also analyze the history of the future as environmental rhetoric popularized in early literature such as Thomas More’s Utopia and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Using a WOVEN approach to communication, which considers the interrelationship between Written, Oral, Visual, Electronic, and Nonverbal modes, this course invites students to articulate their own ideas about the future through a multimodal argument, a creative world building project, a collaborative video, and a final, showcase portfolio. In collaboration with Serve-Learn-Sustain, we will welcome lectures and workshops from community partners; participate in required sustainability track workshops; and exhibit our work in a virtual, student gallery space at the conclusion of the class. Please note that due to the health restrictions caused by the Pandemic, this class is both remote and asynchronous. While you are not required to meet face-to-face, you may be asked to meet remotely with classmates and me at times that work best with your schedules.

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