It's About Time

Stories for Curriculum Studies in the Beforemath


  • Susan H Edgerton Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts



Anthropocene, Currere, autobiography, speculative fiction


The existential threats we face today are so vast and complex that we can barely imagine the future.  We have done this to ourselves and other species—hence, Anthropocene—and that makes facing it utterly overwhelming. The 17th Century French Philosopher Francois de La Rochefoucauld said “Death, like the sun, should not be stared at” (Maxim 26).  Our predicament portends our possible extinction, not merely our individual deaths. What sort of ‘eye protection’ do we need to enable us to look deeply and honestly at this quagmire? Neither rose tinted glasses nor blinders will do. We need stories that light up the imagination, provoke courageous action, and cultivate wisdom. Such stories can neither strain credulity with unwarranted optimism, nor can they simply pretend not to see at all. The stories I seek are carefully crafted to encourage a reader to grow and act without despair, hopelessness, or sentimentality. 


My address will ask us to exercise our imaginations through stories of pasts not our own and possible futures, and to bring that imagination to bear on the present – a kind of currere’ for the biosphere. The stories I have found most useful have come from history, autobiography, and literature –especially speculative fiction.  Stories that offer plausible alternative worlds and ways of being can be antidotes to despair and encouragement for action. I will argue that consciousness of The Problem needs to permeate everything we teach. It should become part of the air we breathe, the ground on which we walk.  “What’s good is what’s good for the biosphere” (Robinson, 2021).