Philip R. Polefrone: 'Herland (1915), Earth Abides (1949), and New York (2140) - Part 1

Thursday, August 2, 2018, 2 - 3pm

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Phillip R. Polefrone is a PhD candidate at Columbia University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature and Architecture Writing Fellow at the Cooper Union’s Center for Writing whose work focuses on the intersections of American fiction and ecological science from the twentieth century to the present. His dissertation (in progress), “Literary Naturalism and the Anthropocene,” traces the intersections of American literary naturalism and early ecology, arguing that the genre’s unrecognized environmental ethos anticipates contemporary theories of a geological epoch defined by human activity. 

This lecture will present a triptych of speculative fiction novels spread over roughly a century, each using representations of architecture to address the challenges of its ecological moment. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915) creates a utopian space that unites socialist, feminist, and environmental reform in the face of population pressures and concerns about soil health. George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides (1949) measures the magnitude of humanity’s planetary influence through the durability of physical infrastructure. Finally, Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 (2017) imagines possible modes of architectural and social resilience in the face of climate change, asking what urban space and culture would look like after fifty feet of sea level rise.

Presented as part of the Master of Architecture II Summer 2018 Lecture Series.

Room 315F. 

Located at 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.