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Courses and research opportunities abound in FRIT for students interested in cultural production on environmental problems, from climate change to global warming, pollution and deforestation, as well as migration and urbanization. French and Italian studies have long taken up such topics of the Environmental Humanities, or the cross-disciplinary study of the complex interaction between humans and the environment. Moreover, informed by literatures and histories of transnational spaces – including Europe, North America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean – our focus on environment is tightly connected to the lived experience of oppression and injustice, and to the inherent links between environmental racism and structural inequality.

Faculty and students in FRIT engage in research on a wide variety of environmental topics, including urban mobility and vulnerability in Haiti; linguistic diversity in the prairies of Western Canada; representations of transgender persons in rural France; the industrialization of the French landscape in the 19th century; narratives of insularity and dispossession in literature of the Indian Ocean; the intersection of marvelous realism and sea migration in Senegalese film; natural resources in Italian Renaissance books of islands (isolario); geocriticism and the construction of Sicilian spatiality; suburban spaces, universalism, and the challenge of Hollywood in French banlieue cinema. Graduate students also have the opportunity to apply for a Teaching Apprenticeship in Green France, an innovative undergraduate course on ecological thought and environmental challenges in France and the French-speaking world. A fund for advanced undergraduate research on this topic was recently established.

This research network participates in environmentally focused work in several schools at the University of Pittsburgh. These include other departments and centers in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences (English, Film and Media, History, Sociology, History of Art and Architecture, Environmental Studies, Urban Studies, and the Humanities Center); the University Center for International Studies (Global Studies, European Studies, and Center for Latin American Studies); and the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the Swanson School of Engineering. Global Studies hosts an active research cluster in Critical World Ecologies. Faculty and graduate students also take part in the Environmental Humanities Research Seminar, a joint collaboration between Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University.

Recent events in the Environment Network

  • Pitt-CMU Environmental Humanities Curriculum Workshop, November 3, 2023
  • "Islands in Flux: Migration and Ecological Change in Early Modern Isolari (Books of Islands)," James Coleman, Feb. 23, 2022
  • “A Decolonial Ecology: Perspectives from the Caribbean World,” with Malcom Ferdinand (Université Paris Dauphine), March 19, 2021
  • “Grasshopper Cages for the Humanist Anthropocene,” with Philip Usher (NYU), October 29, 2020
  • "Of Shores and Waves, and Marine Tales: Islands, Oceans, and Fallacies of Colonial Geographies in the Indian Ocean," with Emanuel Bruno Jean-François (Penn State), March 19, 2020
  • "Bucolic Movements: 'Transing' the Pastoral," with Cole Cridlin (PhD student), January 15, 2020
  • Book Launch Event | Royal Attachments in France and Eco-Archives in Haiti: New Books in French Studies, September 4, 2019
  • "The Urban Environmental Imaginary of Haitian Literature," with John Walsh, November 6, 2019

Sample Graduate Courses

  • Climate Fictions of the Global South, Fall 2021
  • Reading Archipelagos: Mediterranean and Global Networks and Texts, 1300-1700, Spring 2021
  • Metropoles and Megacities: Urban Imaginaries in the Global South, Spring 2020
  • Animality, Gender, Sexuality, Spring 2020
  • Theories of the Global / Global Theories, Spring 2018
  • Caribbean Literature in the Anthropocene, Spring 2017

Current PhD Students Working in This Network

  • Leopold Mvuezolo

Alums Working in This Network

  • Cole Cridlin, Pat Nikiema

Sample Undergraduate Courses

  • Global Literature of Climate Change (in translation), Fall 2022
  • Thinking the Earth: French and Francophone Theories of the Environment, Spring 2022
  • The French Atlantic, offered every year
  • Global French, offered regularly
  • Paris: Urbanism Past and Present, offered every year
  • Green France: Environmental Situations, Spring term each year
  • French Environmental Thought, in development
  • The Eternal City: Rome from Antiquity to Today, offered regularly
  • Italian Mobilities, in development

Undergraduate Research Projects in this network

  • Jeanette Schwalm, Honors Thesis: “La souveraineté et l’héritage colonial du développement linguistique et culturel” (John Walsh, dir.), Spring 2019
  • Julia Hartigan, Honors Thesis: “Les écrivaines haïtiennes et la migration genrée: réconcilier un passé violent et l’identité nationale” (John Walsh, dir.), Spring 2019
  • Emily Calabria, Honors Thesis: “Des histoires graphiques: la migration dans Je me souviens: Beyrouth et l’Arabe du futur” (John Walsh, dir.), Spring 2017


Network Coordinator: John Walsh