Vegetal Humanities: Paying Attention to Plants in Contemporary Art and Culture





Carrie Lambert-Beatty (Department of History of Art and Architecture and Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies)
Freshman Seminar 63W 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

This class invites you to practice a new kind of plant-consciousness. Our guides will be contemporary artists and thinkers who are encouraging new relationships between human and vegetal life, or recalling very old ones. Suddenly, we have plant protagonists, gardens in galleries, and botany-based forms of philosophy, architecture, music and more. Following the lead of these culture-makers and their work, we will draw on the new science of plant communication and learning in this class; uncover plant-based histories and renew ancient understandings of human-plant relations. But plants themselves will also be primary sources, as each student follows a sequence of exercises to deepen understanding of a plant "interviewee"—one they'll grow at home from an unidentified seed. At the same time, we will ask critical questions: with climate crisis upon us, in a time of social inequity, poisonous politics, and mass dislocations, why this attraction to plants? Is the vegetal turn a diversion from tough human problems? Or is there reason to think a cultural change could, even now, change the fate of nature?

See also: Spring 2023