As an Undergraduate Humanities (Cultural Studies; Literature; History) teacher, you can use this lesson plan as part of a course in Environmental Geography, Environmental History, General Criticism and Critical Theory.
‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’, by Ghosh can be used to acquaint students with Environmental History of the planet and in India in particular. This work along with the debates generated by Dipesh Chakrabarty’s 2009 essay, ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’ can be used as texts to better situate the topic of climate change in the humanities classroom. In this lesson plan students will review Ghosh’s book based on the theme of climate change in India. It includes writings on the stories, history and politics related to one of the most critical issues of our times.
The use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Humanities. This is a teacher-contributed lesson plan by Dr Maya Dodd, FLAME University, Pune, India.
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Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:
- Discuss why climate change has not caught the collective imagination of writers?
- Explain what Amitav Ghosh refers to as ‘The Great Derangement’ in the book.
- ‘The Anthropocene presents a challenge not only to the arts and humanities, but also to our commonsense understandings and beyond that to contemporary culture in general’- How does Amitav Ghosh justify this statement in the book?
- What might a sustainable world look like? Respond to this question with reference to Ghosh’s ‘The Great Derangement’?
About Lesson Plan
|Discipline||Humanities (Cultural Studies, Literature, History)|
|Topic(s) in Discipline||Environmental Geography, Environmental History
General Criticism, Critical Theory, Literary Analysis
Climate Literature, Non-fiction, Fiction- Speculative
Realism, Epic, Documentary, Narrative, Storytelling, Historicization
|Climate Topic||Climate and the Anthroposphere|
|Access||Online, some resources are available offline|
|1-2 sessions of 45 min|
|An article by author Amitav Ghosh about the absence of climate change in contemporary literary fiction.|
|A brief write-up about the novel, ‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’ from the author’s website.
Note: The book will have to be procured for the purpose of this literary analysis.
|A discussion about the aforesaid novel to encapsulate points for discourse in the literary analysis of the book.|
Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.
Step 1: Topic introduction and discussion
Use the article in The Guardian by author Amitav Ghosh, ‘Amitav Ghosh: where is the fiction about climate change?’ to discuss his views on the evolution of the narrative in novels and why it has been resistant to include the topic of climate change. Use the text to explain how climate fiction (Cli-Fi) differs from science fiction (Sci-Fi) in the treatment of the narrative. Explain how fiction derived from climate change deviates from trends of ‘gradualism’ in contemporary narratives and yet does not belong to ‘surrealism’ and ‘magic realism’ due to its nature of being ‘real’. Thus, use the reading to emphasize the difficulty of writing about the nature of climate change and why it does not yet have a large presence in fictional works of the literary world.
This can be accessed here.
Step 2: Introduce the novel using the author’s note
Use the write-up on author Amitav Ghosh’s website as an introduction to his non-fiction book, ‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’. Begin by discussing the title of the book- what is the ‘great derangement’ and why is climate change ‘unthinkable’ according to Ghosh. Use the brief text to introduce the different sections of this non-fiction book- literature, history and politics.
This can be accessed here.
Finally, ask your students to read the non-fiction book, ‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’ as a home assignment. Note that the book will have to be procured for this assignment. Instruct them to makes notes of the key points and arguments presented whilst reading the book.
Step 3: Summarize the key-points and arguments presented in the book
Play the video, “A Conversation on Amitav Ghosh’s ‘The Great Derangement’” by Dr Maya Dodd (Literary and Cultural Studies) with Paloma Chandrachud (Environmental Studies), FLAME University, India, that highlights the key points presented by the author Amitav Ghosh in the book.
This can be accessed here.
Use the following points raised in the conversation to facilitate classroom discussions for better understanding of the reviewed material:
- Why, according to Ghosh, is climate change unimaginable or unthinkable?
- Why can we not narrate the story of our times (in the context of climate change)?
- Why is the current cli-fi primarily speculative and not in the mode of realism?
- Explain why Ghosh believes that the missing narrative of climate change requires the unmasking of ‘unbelievable choices’ we have made in the past. Use the case of a high-risk area Bombay/Mumbai as an example.
- Describe some ‘unbelievable choices’ made by us that have become the new normal.
- Discuss how the rift in narrative between the human and the non-human has come about. Explain how this differs from older narratives especially in the context of Asian/Indian literature.
- Explain how Eastern philosophy of the ‘sacred’ or the ‘divine’ bridges the gap between humans and non-humans.
- Historically, discuss how the association of nature and culture has evolved.
- Explain how Western individualism as opposed to non-Western collective values affects climate action.
- Discuss the role of denialists and activists in influencing climate consciousness.
- Explain why a more philosophical approach with the contextualization of history is needed to deal with global climate change where a technical fix like adhering to the Paris Agreement is not enough.
- Debate the argument that Asia’s ‘delayed start’ abrogates its responsibility of reducing carbon emissions or sharing the burden of climate mitigation.
- Discuss how ‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’ by Amitav Ghosh can be considered as the fourth book to the Ibis trilogy by the same author.