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Cold Pastoral: Literature, Nature, and the Anthropocene

at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research - Brooklyn

(17)
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$315
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Location:
Brooklyn
68 Jay St
Btwn Water & Front Streets
Brooklyn, New York 11201
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Description
Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14

What you'll learn in this literature class:

What do ideas of nature have to tell us about literature and how it works? Through the medium of the pastoral—variously defined as a genre, a set of rhetorical moves, or an uneasy collection of tropes—writers have evoked, described, and accounted for nature and humanity’s place within it. From visions of Arcadia to Paradise to the Golden Age, the pastoral theme has always been intertwined with a series of philosophical, aesthetic, and historical claims—about freedom, deprivation, labor, technology, human primacy, and notions of the good. What use is literature as a means of envisioning, describing, delimiting, and relating to nature? And how, as occupants of the Anthropocene—an era of the world in which human activity is a determinative force across ecologies and time—are we to read and use the pastoral today?

By considering a range of texts—from Hesiod’s Works and Days to the “cold pastoral” of Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” by way of selections of Virgil, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser, and Milton—this class will examine the pastoral mode and how it has been used. What does a theory of the pastoral entail? How do pastoral theories or practices intersect with accounts of aesthetic value, ethical value, or the value of the non-human? Is pastoralism necessarily an idealization of nature; or can it communicate something darker—intimations of human frailty, vanity, and finititude? Students will also read these texts for their formulations of politics, gender, sexuality, empire, and race and, under this rubric, consider various counter- or anti- pastoral responses by, among others, Vievee Francis, Joyelle McSweeney, and Annie Seaton. Critical supplements are likely to include Paul Alpers, William Empson, Donna Haraway, Frank Kermode, Karl Marx, Friedrich Schiller, Raymond Williams, and Spinoza, among others.

There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.

Instructors will contact students approximately one week prior to the first class with reading assignments and details about the course location.

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Refund Policy
Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a class up until 1 week before its start date. Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to a 75% refund. After the first class: 50%. After the second: 25%. No refunds will be given after the third class.

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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (17)

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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