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English 1110, Fall 2018

Literary Interpretation:

Climate Change Refugees

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
                                                 -- Robert Frost

Climate change may be the most momentous challenge human beings have ever faced. During your lifetime, it will profoundly shape the world and impact all life on earth. As drought, sea-level rise, and other human-caused "natural" disasters increase, the numbers of climate refugees, migrants, and displaced people will swell from currently tens of millions, to the hundreds of millions.

How do we understand this problem?  What are its human dimensions?  What ethical questions does it raise?  What should we do about it?

Climate change and associated issues are often considered too big, too complicated, too distant, indeed, "unimaginable."

Welcome to an experimental section of Literary Interpretation where we will attempt to use the human imagination, especially the literary imagination, to begin to understand the experience of climate refugees and the issues they raise for our common humanity.

We will begin with perhaps the most honored American novel ever written -- winner of the National Book Award, and the Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes -- The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck.  We will follow with other contemporary climate and refugee related fiction, "cli-fi," magical realism, young adult literature, poetry, essays, films, etc.

Students will engage in extensive and careful reading, write literary analyses, blog commentaries, a short story, and comparative essays. They will also make class presentations and engage in a community-based activity.

This class will develop skills of literary interpretation relevant to advanced work in English and to global citizenship.

Students in this course are expected to keep up with current events regarding the course theme. I urge you to take advantage of the WMU library making the NY Times available to WMU students for free.

This class is experimental and the syllabus provisional and under development.

Course Success

Since the class is discussion-based, attendance and preparation are essential to your own learning and to the learning of your classmates. It is vital that you acquire, borrow, or rent ALL of the required books and that you carefully complete ALL of the reading and viewing.

Missing any classes will affect your learning. Missing 3 classes or more will lower your grade and missing 5 classes may lead to failing. Study my philosophy regarding discussion, preparation, participation, attendance, grading, and learning!

Your final course grade will be an average of grades for the major assignments, listed and weighted below.

This course will follow WMU policies regarding academic honesty.

WMU has many resources to foster student health and well being. If at any point in the semester if you feel stress, English 1100 does offer free on-line therapy from Eliza!

My office is 723 Sprau Tower, 387-2605. Office hours are before and after class and by appointment. You can always reach me via email.



Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. (1939)

Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Water Knife. (2015)

Gratz, Alan. Refugee. (2017)

Hamid, Mohsin. Exit West. (2017)

Additional reading and viewing as indicated by the syllabus.

Major Assignments


Literary Analysis Paper (20%) Due: 9-24            

Blog (20%) Due: see syllabus below

Presentation (10%) Due: throughout semester

Community Involvement (10%): Due: before 12-3

Short Story Fragment (10%) Due: 12-5

Class Participation (10%)

Final Exam (20%) Due: 12-10

Electronic Syllabus

Aug 29: Introductions

1. Join our class phone message system, Remind by: on your smart phone open your web browser and go to: rmd.at/4dhh63 and follow instructions, OR on your text phone sending this message, "@4dhh63" to this number "81010" or 5863590468 (your cell phone number will remain private). [If you don't have a cell phone the website allows you to sign up to receive messages via email.]

Sep 5: Drought

1. Read carefully through the entire on-line syllabus, including all assignments. Bring any questions about the syllabus and assignments to class.

2. Read: The Grapes of Wrath, Chapters 1-11

Sep 10: Migration

1. Read: The Grapes of Wrath, Chapters 12-21

Sep 12: Migration Con't

Sep 17: Life in the New Land

1. Finish Grapes of Wrath, Chapters 22-end

2. Send to me the URL of your blog.

          Grapes of Wrath, directed by John Ford, staring Henry Fonda

Sep 19: Writing about Grapes of Wrath

1. Write a blog post on the topic of your paper - post by 10 pm Tuesday.

2. Read other student blog posts and comment on at least 5.

Sep 24: Climate Change 

1. Grapes of Wrath Literary Analysis Paper DUE

Sep 26: Religious/Ethical Perspectives on Climate Change

1. Read: Encylical Letter Laudato Si' by Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home (Word version)

Oct 1: Future Drought

1. Read: Water Knife, Chapters 1-18

2. Read: Climate Change Evaporating Colorado River 9-7-18

Oct 3: Future Drought Con't

Oct 8: Water Rights 

1. Read: Finish Water Knife, Chapter 19 to end

Oct 9: Last day to register to vote in November

Oct 10: Water Rights Con't

1. Write: Blog Post inspired by Water Knife 

Oct 15: The Wall

1. Read: Selections from Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security by Todd Miller (2017)

2. Write a Blog Post inspired by Storming the Wall

Oct 17-21 Fall Break

Oct 22: Refugees 

1. Read: Refugees to page 186

Oct 24: Refugees Con't

1. Read: Convention on Status of Refugees & Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Oct 29: Refugees Con't

1. Read: Finish Refugees

Oct 31: Refugees Con't

1. Write a blog post about Refugees.

Nov 5: Contemporary Refugees

1. Watch Human Flow 

Nov 6: Election Day

Nov 7: Climate Change Video

1. Find and watch a documentary film at least an hour long addressing 1) climate change refugees/migrants, 2) climate change, or 3) refugees/migrants internally diplaced people -- and prepare a report for the class.

Nov 12: Climate Change / Raps

Trees Are Dying
, Dr. Octagon (lyrics);
Dear Future Generations (Lyrics), Man vs Earth, (Lyrics), Prince Ea;
Climate Change, Coma Niddy;
Global Warming, Make It Hot, Baba Brinkman

Climate Summit "Poem to My Daughter" Lyrics

Nov 14: Refugee Poetry

"Home" by Warsan Shire

Read 10 poems and choose one to share with the class from Poetry Foundation, Warscapes, Verbal Remedy, Hello Poetry, Poem Hunter, or ?

Nov 19: Future Global Migration

1. Read Exit West Chapter 1-6

Nov 21-25: Thanksgiving Break 

Nov 26: Future Global Migration, Con't

1. Read: Finish Exit West, Chapters 7-12

Nov 28: Ethical Questions

1. Exit West Blog post

Dec 3: Your Vision of the Future

1. Write: Draft of Short Story

2. Final day to complete Community Involvement 

3. Final day to complete Presentation

Dec 5: Your Vision of the Future

1. Due: Short Story, Prepare to describe and read a section to the class.

Dec 10 - 14 Finals Week

Dec 10 (Monday) 5:00-7:00: Final Exam:

Based on comparison/contrast questions and ideas we develop all semester.