No sooner had NPR aired a story nationwide about the emerging ‘cli-fi’ literary genre than a California literature professor named Stephanie LeMenager announced she would be teaching a winter 2014 seminar titled ”The Cultures of Climate Change.”
LeMenager (photo at right), who got her PhD from Harvard in 1999, teaches at the University of California in Santa Barbara where she is an associate professor in the English department, and where her interests include 20th century U.S. literature, environmental criticism and cultural geography.
When I emailed her for a course description, LeMengager told me:
“This course will take global anthropogenic climate change (AGW) as a case study through which to explore the interdisciplinary axes of the environmental humanities. We will also examine the cultures of climate change from the perspective of academic humanists and artist-activists.
“To complement the critical reading, students will explore the recently named genre of “cli-fi” or climate fiction (see the novels of Nathaniel Rich and Daniel Kramb) and we will foray into the methods of documentary literatures and film.”
While many colleges and universities currently offer literature and film classes focusing on climate-themed novels, short stories and Hollywood movies and documentaries, LeMenager’s seminar is the first out of the gate to consider the genre of cli-fi as part of the course.
When I learned of the graduate seminar focusing on cli-fi, which will be taking place at the University of Oregon, I sat down a few days later to make a chatty, informal (and a bit surreal) video introduction to how the cli-fi term was coined and why, and it is now up on YouTube as a non-TED lecture with a TED-themed focus. Readers can view it here; it’s also embedded below.
I made the video in Taiwan with a tape-recorder replaying my spoken introduction while the camera whirred in a quiet alcove in a small photo gallery. Eddy Lee shot the video and I uploaded it the same day. I hope it will serve as both a cli-fi archive and as a way to communicate with the students in Dr. LeMenager’s cli-fi class next winter in Oregon.