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Volcanoes: The Sublime and Scientific

Semester and Year FA 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1852
Section 001
Instructor Karen Holmberg
Days F
Time 11:00 AM - 1:45 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   SCI


Class is cancelled on Friday, September 7. This class will meet for the first time on Friday, September 14.


The volcano is a double-edged sword; volcanism provides the world’s most fertile soils and useful natural resources, yet is also the source of immense natural hazard and some of the most extreme global climate changes in human experience.What are the myths, ancient and modern, around volcanoes? How was their early modern scientific observation and conception linked to the Romantic sublime? What role do they play in 21st century conceptions of geoengineering to combat climate change? And what could go wrong? Over the course of this semester, the ongoing, unpredictable volcanic activity will help determine how we cover these questions and others, so that, like our subject, our class will be a dynamic, living entity. Other themes may include fake volcanoes, deep sea vents and the first life, extinction-level events, eruptions that never happened, Caribbean slavery, and geoheritage. In addition to scientific journal articles we will draw upon a newly published open-access edited volume,  Observing the Volcano World  (2018). Discussions of who has access to science, video interviews with leading volcanologists about their research, and incorporation of creative depictions of geophysical processes in the music of Nina Simone and Bjork, films of Werner Herzog, poetry of Anne Carson, or movie depictions such as the 1913 silent film  The Last Days of Pompeii  or the 1990 Tom Hanks film  Joe versus the Volcano  are all fair game as ways to examine and explore Earth science methods and concepts and how we intersect with the Earth.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)