Laura Wright: Using Cli-Fi at Western Carolina University
About this courseA graduate-level seminar in literature.
African Literature course syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 188kB Dec31 15)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
Teaching the module in this course was not my original plan; I attempted to pilot in the fall of 2014 an undergraduate contemporary literature seminar focused entirely on "Cli-Fi." I was unable to complete the pilot, as it became clear that our team needed to do further work to make the materials accessible to teachers and students in the humanities. So I piloted it in this graduate seminar, even though the course material was not particularly amenable to the pilot. But: one thing that happened this fall was the Global Climate Change Conference in Paris, which allowed us to talk about the global consequences, politics, and intercultural interactions of multiple nations as they tried to work toward a protocol for dealing with the consequences of climate change. I chose literature from various countries in Africa that deals with environmental issues, many of which are the product of, or exacerbated by, climate change. The short stories we have included in the module both deal with the West—the United States and England—and
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate MaterialsThe module was taught as a component of my African Literature graduate seminar. The summative assessment was given during the final exam period.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
We started talking about the module on the first day of class, and I told my students that part of their task was to help me figure out how to make sense of science in a literature class. So in this sense, I am lucky to have been working with graduate students, many of whom are teaching their own college-level composition classes and several of whom are high school English teachers; these are students who are also teachers and who are very interested in pedagogical exploration. We talked quite a bit about the science of climate change before implementing the module, and my students looked at the NOAA data at the beginning of the semester in order to have context for undertaking all aspects of the module and for thinking about climate change in the context of Africa.
AssessmentsMy students did the various formative assessments along with each of the units in the module. The summative assessment was completed during the final exam period. Because the final exam was a three-hour class, we discussed "Diary of an Interesting Year," the role of climate change and environmental degradation in the literature that we read, and the complexities of utilizing science in a literature class. We also concluded that literature—whether or not it "accurately" depicts the science of climate change—may very well have a greater impact in terms of its ability to shape consciousness with regard to activism and engagement with ways of addressing the problem of climate change.
Because of the nature of the course in which I piloted, I was primarily concerned with being able to complete the pilot, to make the material relevant to my students, and to feel confident discussing disciplinarily unfamiliar material. I feel that I largely succeeded and that my students were interested and engaged with the concepts covered in the module. I hope to be able to utilize the module in a future course that is more focused on environmental/climate change literature, but I am also very interested in further exploration of a truth that was revealed to me during this pilot: climate change literature, in its current manifestation, is very much a Western genre that, I hope, I can read into more international contexts.