Virtual Event: Martin Puchner
Literature for a Changing Planet
in conversation with WAI CHEE DIMOCK
January 12, 2022
7:30 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes MARTIN PUCHNER—the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University and author of The Written World—for a discussion of his latest book, Literature for a Changing Planet. He will be joined in conversation by WAI CHEE DIMOCK, the celebrated author of Weak Planet: Literature and Assisted Survival.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Literature for a Changing Planet on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About Literature for a Changing Planet
Reading literature in a time of climate emergency can sometimes feel a bit like fiddling while Rome burns. Yet, at this turning point for the planet, scientists, policymakers, and activists have woken up to the power of stories in the fight against global warming. In Literature for a Changing Planet, Martin Puchner ranges across four thousand years of world literature to draw vital lessons about how we put ourselves on the path of climate change—and how we might change paths before it’s too late.
From the Epic of Gilgamesh and the West African Epic of Sunjata to the Communist Manifesto, Puchner reveals world literature in a new light—as an archive of environmental exploitation and a product of a way of life responsible for climate change. Literature depends on millennia of intensive agriculture, urbanization, and resource extraction, from the clay of ancient tablets to the silicon of e-readers. Yet literature also offers powerful ways to change attitudes toward the environment. Puchner uncovers the ecological thinking behind the idea of world literature since the early nineteenth century, proposes a new way of reading in a warming world, shows how literature can help us recognize our shared humanity, and discusses the possible futures of storytelling.
If we are to avoid environmental disaster, we must learn to tell the story of humans as a species responsible for global warming. Filled with important insights about the fundamental relationship between storytelling and the environment, Literature for a Changing Planet is a clarion call for readers and writers who care about the fate of life on the planet.
Praise for Literature for a Changing Planet
“In this eloquent and heartfelt book, Martin Puchner advocates ‘stories for the future’ of a world imperiled by wrenching environmental changes—changes that have been deepened by the stories people have always told themselves about the world and our place in it. Ranging from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Communist Manifesto and environmental fiction, Literature for a Changing Planet is itself a manifesto for a world literature adequate to a world in crisis.” —David Damrosch, Harvard University
“A mesmerizing account of what humans have done to the planet, and what we might yet do to avert disaster. Martin Puchner’s erudition, passion, and precision are never more gloriously on display. Literature emerges here as almost a force of nature, exacerbating climate change but also suggesting a way out, claiming a future other than extinction.” —Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University
“In this powerful, lucid, and urgent study, Martin Puchner argues for the necessity of narratives, with brilliant readings of the earliest epics, and shows that the sharing of stories is essential if we are to confront climate change. World literature and the survival of the planet are deeply intertwined. A necessary book.” —Laura Marcus, University of Oxford
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