This year, Professor Laura Moss, the Brenda and David McLean Chair in Canadian Studies, offers CDST 450B: “Poetics of Warning: Canadian Environmental Art, Film, and Literature”. This seminar is offered in Term 2 (January-April 2020). The class will meet on Wednesday morning from 9am to 12pm.


Couse description:

Nature has always been at the core of Canadian artistic production. Over the past two hundred years, however, creative responses to the environment have changed dramatically. In the past few decades, with the “ecological renaissance” and the “social turn,” artists are less apt to either passively address the land or render it sentimentally, and more apt to imagine an altered state of environmental change, even degradation. Contemporary artists often look at the effects of human interaction, resource extraction, and economic exploitation on Canadian land and waters. One strand of nature writing employs a poetics of warning as writers speculate on the effects of the tar sands on global warming, the relationships between Indigenous land claims and strip mining, the impacts of oil transportation on British Columbian riverbeds, or the consequences of the genetic modification of crop plants on prairie ecosystems. In parallel to the creative work, much scholarship has turned to discussions of human/non-human interaction, bioregional studies, postcolonial ecocriticism, and the development of the Energy Humanities. In this course we will read global critical work about the environment alongside fiction, poetry, drama, film, and visual art. We will begin with nineteenth-century artistic responses to the land then trace the history of environmental engagements in Canada. We will end by exploring how collaborative poetic projects have functioned as a kind of political activism for environmental causes as we look at how artists have addressed government decisions about water rights and oil and gas development through communally created and published poetry.


For more information, please contact Laura Moss at