Caliban and the Witch


Fall 2015 quarter

Taught by

fiction, nonfiction, and contemporary literature
economics, political economy
English literature, theater studies

How can monsters and witches, figured so closely in relation to animals both in being endangered and dangerous, help us think about climate change, the 6 th great extinction we are currently undergoing, transition, transformation, and adaptation? How might these—monsters, witches, and climate change—be tied to social movements and social change?

This intensive literature, creative writing and political economy program will help students develop critical and creative writing and reading skills, as well as knowledge of relationships between climate change, inequality, and capitalism. The program is focused on Shakespeare's The Tempest— whose anti-hero, Caliban, has become a symbol of resistance to colonization—and our title is taken from Silvia Federici's study Caliban and the Witch, an illuminating analysis of the movements and peoples who had to be suppressed in order to build the foundations of modern capitalism.

Using these two texts as our focal points, we'll study a wide range of artworks, stories, poems, performances, and essays. Students will be introduced to key concepts in Marxist, feminist, economic and post-colonial theory, as well as experimental approaches to contemporary storytelling, including feminist and post-colonial appropriations, and will be invited to rethink the geopolitical underpinnings of inherited conceptions of space and knowledge.  We will study the changes in the global political economy from early modernism to the present. We'll also consider the dominant role that storms, shipwrecks, and other disasters have played in social change by studying canonical and contemporary art, and participate, along with a consortium of other programs in the sciences and the humanities, in shared curriculum focused on climate change.

In other words, the goal of this program is to introduce students to several conceptual frameworks from different disciplines within the humanities and social sciences, and to anchor that interdisciplinary investigation in the study of a single play —The Tempest —and the profound issues it raises about the relationship between the “natural” and the “human.” No prior coursework in literature is required, but students should be prepared to do a great deal of reading, critical and creative writing, and intensive collaboration each week as we explore these ideas together.

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

graduate study in the humanities, writing, and theater.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day and Evening


Buy books for this program through The Greener Store.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.


Date Revision
July 22nd, 2014 Peter Bohmer has joined this program; it is now offered to Freshmen-Sophomores.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 60


Course Reference Number not yet available.

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