Humanities Center Director: Thomas Wilson

Srinivas Aravamudan

Dean of the Humanities and Professor of English and the Program in Literature, Duke University

Anticipating the Anthropocene: Climate Change and Contemporary Disaster Movies

Thursday, April 3 • 4:10 p.m. • Taylor Science Center G027

What form of narration can lend itself to a passage of time that is geological in scale?  In this regard, the genres of climate change narrative appeal to older mythologies, as did nuclear Armageddon summoning the Book of Revelation before us.  When experienced first-hand, natural disasters—whether hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or floods—communicate viscerally as well as linguistically.  Previously associated with the divine or the chaotic, natural disaster acquires a different anthropogenic valence the more that the management of the planet achieves omnipotence and converts external dangers into risks internal to human systems of governance.  In this context the disaster movie, with its vapid clichés concerning the indomitable human spirit when confronted with literally earth-shattering events, endures as a staple Hollywood genre.  The talk will discuss several movies about climate change and interpret the philosophical issues that they pose, as well as avoid.

Srinivas Aravamudan was appointed Dean of the Humanities at Duke University in July 2009. At Duke, he is a professor in the departments of English, Romance Studies, and the Program in Literature. He directed the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute (2003-2009) and was president of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes from 2007-2012. Among some of his publications are Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 (1999, Duke University Press); Guru English: South Asian Religion In a Cosmopolitan Language (2006, Princeton University Press and 2007, Penguin India); and Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel (2012, University of Chicago Press), which won several prizes.

Sponsored by the Dean of Faculty