Big History & Creative Writing



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Course Description

What is the universe? What is it made of? How does it work? How did our planet and solar system form? How did humans come to be? And why? Artists and writers have always pondered such questions and explored their meanings in their work.

Likewise, the young transdisciplinary field of Big History is an attempt by thinkers in many disciplines to weave a metanarrative from the sum of human knowledge that explains reality and frames human existence. Big Historians consider the origin and history of the universe itself; of galaxies, stars, and the complex chemical elements forged in their furnaces; of our solar system and earth; the evolution of life and the human species; the history of humans and human civilization to the present day - and, ultimately, what the recurrent patterns in the story may suggest about possible futures. What better way to consider what this all means than through creative writing?

In this course, we will explore the Big History metanarrative and engage it through creative writing practice in various genres. You might write a poem about the birth of a planet, a dialogue between two subatomic particles, a short story about a romance between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis, a song sung from the point of view of a civilization in transition from agrarian to industrial, or a teenager crossing the Bering land bridge from Asia to North America, 15,000 years ago. What was the New Horizons probe thinking as it flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015? How did Pluto feel? How does Earth feel about humans? Or about the moon?

We'll read a Big History account, such as David Christian's Maps of Time or Cynthia Stokes Brown's Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present. We'll also look at written creative work that engages this story or incorporates its elements. We'll use elemental analysis to understand how writing works, and to critique each other's writing in constructive, friendly workshop.

Credit/evaluation: writing assignments including analyses of and creative responses to published works; 2-3 major creative works; possible revision; regular class attendance and participation, particularly during written and oral workshop/critique of classmates' work.

Texts: TBA. Will include a Big History account such as Christian's Maps of Time, Brown's Big History, Eric Chaisson's Cosmic Evolution, or Fred Spier's Big History and the Future of Humanity. Additional works in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, drama, will be provided by the instructor.


Spring 2016