This course will be offered on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and can be paired with Drones in Marine Biology, Ecology and Conservation OR with Conservation Biology and Policy. 

In the fall of 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the coast of Texas, turning Houston—the fourth most populous city in the nation—into a shallow sea. Hailed as unprecedented, Hurricane Harvey muddied the waters, blurring distinctions between land and sea, weather and climate, and raising an important question: Is this what climate change looks like? Our class will attempt to answer this question and more as we peer through the eyes of storms, both real and fictional, to consider what meteorological maelstroms in film, photography and science unearth and unsettle about humans and their relationship to the ocean.  

From Ang Lee’s Life of Pi to Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, our course will draw upon visual, media and literary theory to explore how perceptions of storms have changed over time and how these stories impact our social realities, constructing what we have come to know as the Anthropocene—the current geological age dominated by humans. We will ask such fundamental questions as, what is climate change and how do we understand it? How can we imagine, and in turn, weather the stormy effects of climate change? Our course will approach storms as more than mere barometers of climatic shifts. The current refugee crisis, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and plastic pollution—all staged at sea—will figure in our course as storms of (in)humanity, as unique confluences of political, environmental and social forces that arise from and intensify environmental and structural violence. 

Throughout the summer, we will engage with photography, films, scientific reports, and a number of shorter literary works. Assignments will include a film review (2-3 pages), an op-ed (4-5 pages) that translates a scientific issue for a larger audience, a research paper (8 pages) that tracks the reception of a storm across multiple genres, and a final photography portfolio that allows students to develop their own persuasive and creative arguments regarding storms. No exams will be given. Local trips around Beaufort, NC.  

Instructor: Kathleen Burns