Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Bryon Hawk


The Anthropocene is an era characterized by human alteration of the planet at deep geological levels and permeation of anthropogenic damage across all biomes. The primary crisis of this era is climate change, which is understood broadly as the anthropogenic disruption in weather patterns and global temperature averages caused by carbon emissions and other pollutants, as well as extractivism and terraforming (deforestation, monoculture farming, desertification and alterations of waterways, for example). Though popular media tends to frame climate change as a looming but always future problem, it is currently producing casualties, both human and nonhuman. The ongoing great extinction correlates with climate change, which is simultaneously exacerbated by and coproduces its effects. This dissertation responds to this already present but continually emerging scene by developing “Anthropocene Composition,” a pedagogical re-situating in a time of multiform planetary crises. To be in the Anthropocene is to be in a weirded oikos, to be faced with increasing unfamiliarity, hostility and contingency in one’s own home. This weirdness is a disorienting thing in which to write, and perhaps a greater challenge to pedagogy. I situate Anthropocene Composition in what Paul Lynch calls the Apocalyptic Turn—“in which the end of the world looms ever larger in our disciplinary and pedagogical imagination” (458). As such, it challenges the “critical impulse” and it eschews simple solutions. Following Latour’s “Compositionist Manifesto,” Anthropocene Composition seeks neither to critique, nor to solve. Pedagogically, it asks what it means to teach terminal generations of students to face insurmountable, ecological trauma. It cultivates skotison—obscurity that embraces confusion rather than seeking clarity—and dwells in the impossibility of the present, indulging absurdity in the face of horror, and recognizing the trauma of the present. Anthropocene Composition finds enmeshedness and contemplation at the limits of knowledge and ventures, unburdened by hope, into the darkness at those borders.


© 2023, John Michael Purfield