N.K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season

Instructor: Joseph Earl Thomas
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy—a sprawling, multigenerational epic set in a far-future Earth plagued by periodic ecological and civilizational catastrophe—is the first, and only, science fiction trilogy to have won the prestigious Hugo Award for each of its three installments: The Fifth Season (2015), The Obelisk Gate (2016), and The Stone Sky (2017). Spanning centuries, yet narrated through intimate and always-shifting changes in perspective, Jemisin’s work asks crucial questions regarding the transformation of living beings and the environment on the scale of geological and generational time. The trilogy taps into the power of science fiction to refract our all-too-human realities, fears, hopes, and dreams—even as the world it builds feels wholly original, both human and strikingly not. While often read as allegory for modes of racial domination, marginalization, enslavement, and oppression (though in Jemisin’s world, the allegory is necessarily intricate and ethically nuanced), we will ask: What other avenues of inquiry does The Broken Earth—specifically The Fifth Season—open up? What structures of feeling does speculative fiction in particular make possible? And what kind of light do imagined, even fantastical, social and political forms shed on the real ones in which we live?

In this course, we will read the first volume of the The Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season, giving special consideration to the forms of radical new humanism and utopia that the novel proposes. What are the limits of allegory and representation in literary form? What do speculative fiction(s) offer that realism(s) do not? Our inquiry into Jemisin will be complemented by readings from Sylvia Wynter, Anahid Nercessian, Sianne Ngai, and Samuel Delany.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
October 16 — November 06, 2023
4 weeks


Registration Open

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