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Every Town Our Hometown/Every Man a Kinsman

K. Abilasha

Tribes of India are a community that undergoes double oppression first by the colonial masters and then by the government that follows the same forest laws framed by the British. This law denies the rights of these tribes over the forest and makes them homeless. Most of these tribes are hunter gatherers who move around a lot and co exist with nature. The tribal community in India includes hundreds of different groups spread widely across the subcontinent and its islands. Of all the tribes, the tribes of Andaman are unique as they are black like Africans. They are Negritos. I propose to study the effect of colonialism on these tribes and their settlements by studying Deepak Dalal’s Andaman Adventure The Jarawa and Andaman Adventure Barren Island. These two adventure stories give elaborate details about the endangered species like edible nest swiftlet, sea cucumber and crocodiles. The Jarawa are one of the three tribes that survived colonial encroachment and are in the verge of extinction due to settler domination and insensate policies like construction of Andaman trunk road that runs through the heart of the Jarawa territory by the state to promote tourism. The British had changed many of the dense tropical forests of India to golf grounds, tea estates, coffee estates and eucalyptus forests which became detrimental to the ecosystem. The Andaman archipelago is not an exception to this plight but it lost many tribes too. The present pandemic also poses a threat to vulnerable poor who may have developed immunity to viruses but not to hunger. Hence it is the time for self introspection to revise our policies and develop a responsible humane attitude like the protagonists of the select stories.

K. Abilasha is an Assistant Professor of Sri S Ramasamy Naidu Memorial College, Sattur, India.

Teaching Environmental Ethics Fünf Freunde [Five Friends] (2012) and Five on Kirrin Island Again (1947)

Fazila Derya Agis

In this study, the German movie titled “Fünf Freunde” [Five Friends] (2012) and the British novel “Five on Kirrin Island Again” (1947) by Enid Blyton that inspired the movie will be compared in relation to technological changes over the course of time for the protection of the environment against climate change in terms of environmental ethics. Accordingly, (a) replacing “coal, coke and oil” (Blyton, 1947) with water or any other energy providers, (b) dog behavior for environmental protection, (c) bird migrations, and (d) the concept of nature as a shelter for psychological relief and against dangers will be analyzed eco-ethically in terms of how they are explained in two different locations and time periods, since the movie depicts a German town in 2012, whereas the novel a British town in 1947. Therefore, the unethical behavior of corrupt people trying to steal an eco-friendly research project, the ethical boundaries of the research on the use of a simple alternative energy resource instead of petroleum, coke, and coal, and humans’ behavior towards dogs and birds as animals as well as towards pure nature will be discussed together with the dire effects of climate change that may occur without ethical preventive measures. As a result, an environmental ethical literature education theory will be constructed by analyzing the importance of the use of alternative cheap and eco-friendly energies instead of petroleum, coke, and coal from a historical point of view. Thus, as opposed to the science and technology depicted as tools used by humans to destroy the earth by White (1967), eco-ethical science and technology can be the tools used to develop methods and systems to protect the environment and various species according to Blyton (1947). This study will show that Leopold wrote A Sand County Almanac (1949) for suggesting a “land ethic,” but Blyton (1947) referred to land and nature ethics two years before him and her ethical views are still valid in the 2000s for the protection of the whole earth and species, just like those of Holmes Rolston III (1975) who regarded the protection of species as a moral mission and of Stone (1972) who argued that natural objects should have had the same legal rights as those of the corporations. This study questions the differences and similarities between the eco-ethical views of Blyton (1947) and Leopold (1949), and their application and representation in a German movie, titled “Fünf Freunde” [Five Friends] (2012).

I earned my Ph.D. at Ankara University in Italian Language and Literature, having defended my dissertation on the letters of Amerigo Vespucci from an ecocritical perspective. I earned my M.S. degree in Social Anthropology from Middle East Technical University, my M.A. degree in English Linguistics from Hacettepe University, and my B.A. in Italian Language and Literature from Ankara University. I have taught courses in Translation Studies at Girne American University, and I have been teaching online World Literature and Composition courses for the University of People. I worked also as a visiting scholar in Brandeis University’s Hadassah-Brandeis Institute.

Reading South Asian Ecofiction as Counternarratives to Climate Denialism

Muhammad Manzur Alam

In this presentation, I use Anglophone South Asian ecofiction as a point of reference to discuss how literary texts can address global emergencies. Claiming that our indifference towards climate and other emergencies is part of our alienation and mechanization of emotion imposed by the advanced, capitalist order of the world, this presentation demonstrates that literary texts’ ability to incorporate interdisciplinary angles and cathartic measures can generate a counternarrative of awareness. Extractive neoliberal capitalism largely sustains by orchestrating industrial disasters and environmental pillages, followed by the narratives of denial that the perpetrators circulate to evade their responsibilities. This, in turn, has made general people inured to the reports of environmental disasters and climate change. Such denialism and indifference have, over time, culminated into the present crisis of the Anthropocene. Lawrence Buell has famously claimed that environmental catastrophes implicate a failure of human imagination in understanding our relationship with the nonhuman world. Literary texts, nonetheless, can help us reimagine the present crisis by virtue of their scope to represent emergency situations as narratives of felt experiences or tragedies. South Asian ecofiction, such as Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide and Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People, represent actual tragic stories of marginalized people who are victims of environmental derangement. If appraised from the classical, Aristotelian perspective, these stories can create catharsis of readers’ emotion and awaken them to the question of justice for subaltern communities whose victimhood is caused by an ongoing history of discriminatory capitalist interventions into their environment. Thus, the broad field of humanities can benefit from reading literary texts as counternarratives to the general sense of denial which is embedded in the creation, circulation and recognition of global emergencies.  

Muhammad Manzur Alam is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of English, West Virginia University, and is also an Assistant Professor (on leave) at East West University, Bangladesh. His research focuses on exploring the representation of postcolonial ecologies in Anglophone South Asian novels. He has made conference presentations and publications on areas such as South Asian literature, political discourses, ecocriticism, and the Indo-Caribbean writer V.S. Naipaul.

Climate Justice Now: Transforming the Anthropocene into the Ecozoic Era

Cara Judea Alhadeff

Climate Justice Now: Transforming the Anthropocene into The Ecozoic Era asks: How can citizen-activists embody symbiotic solutions as we transition from our petroleum-pharmaceutical-addicted cyber-culture to an economics of solidarity? How can we joyfully inspire, educate, and mobilize collective action among peoples of diverse backgrounds? Through an urgent commitment to creative-waste collaborations, we can transform market-capitalism’s everyday violence—consumption and entitlement—creating a bridge between infrastructural change and individual responsibility that gleans from indigenous wisdom and earth-based perspectives. Transitioning from our ethnocentric, xenophobic Anthropocene Era (plutocrat-driven democracies embedded in bacteria-phobia, commercialized-childhood, extractive industries, GMOs) into a biophilic social permaculture requires an embodied awareness of interdependency. This is a foundation for the Ecozoic Era—Thomas Berry’s concept that humans can share mutually-beneficial relationships with the world around us; intellectually, structurally, and spiritually. Rather than compete, we integrate with our natural environments.

As all forms of climate chaos/climate crises are interconnected, all forms of climate justice are equally interconnected. Like the metabolism of the human body and the earth’s tendency towards homeostasis, the metabolism of our culture must be scrutinized as a relational organism. An urgent embodiment of interrelations between environmental degradation and marginalized ethnic, racial, and economic communities in conjunction with a sense of beauty, intuition, play, and joy requires multilateral paradigm shifts. Patterns in nature and cross-cultural histories can be used as models for human interactions as we embody climate justice. Social permaculture practices this creative response to colonialist legacies of economic oppression and extractive industries—recognizing, designing, and implementing emancipatory interrelationships. It is applied ecology—co-creating new infrastructures for every social system. From this commitment, we can engage collaborative economic tools for biocultural transformation. When we implement social-permaculture-design infrastructures, we debilitate how systemic economic violences (from e-waste to 5G/AI/Internet-of-Things juggernaut) are interconnected. This urgent approach to climate-crisis mitigation weaves together simultaneous individual, community, and infrastructural change.

Cara Judea Alhadeff, PhD, author of dozens of books and articles on philosophy, art, gender, ethnic, and cultural studies—including critically acclaimed Viscous Expectations: Justice, Vulnerability, The Ob-scene (PennsylvaniaState University Press, 2014) and Zazu Dreams: Between the Scarab and the Dung Beetle, A Cautionary Fable for the Anthropocene Era (EifrigPublishing, 2017), explores global-corporatocracy, petroleum-parenting, social-ecology/permaculture, economics, eroticism, and the pharma-addictive medical industry. Her theoretical and visual work is the subject of documentaries for international public television. Alhadeff’s photographs/performance-videos are in numerous collections—including MoMASalzburg and SanFranciscoMoMA. Former professor of Performance&Pedagogy (UC SantaCruz) and Critical Philosophy (Global Center for Advanced Studies), she lives/parents a creative-waste life. (

2020 Vision: Futurity and Climate Crisis

Siobhan Angus and Samantha Spady

In this presentation, we examine the state of the field of different conceptions of climate futurity. What changes has the Anthropocene brought to what futures are now possible? Cultural conceptions of the future in Western thought have historically been rooted in ideas of linear progression. While critiques of this metanarrative have existed for centuries—especially from those whose lives are deemed sacrificable for the good of progress—the Anthropocene has introduced an existential challenge to the myth of progress. The types of futures that Western society has largely taken for granted in the past now seem impossible.

Our analysis is rooted in the Americas, with a focus in Canada. Rather than focus on academic discussions, we are interested in how the future is being imagined, prefigured, and enacted in political, economic, artistic, and activist spheres. The terrain is shifting constantly and many competing visions of the future exist. In light of this, we have selected a few sub-themes that have resonance in our current moment: the future as catastrophe, eco-modernist utopianism, the Green New Deal, extractive futurities, and Indigenous futurities. We offer an overview of each strand of futurity and an assessment of aesthetic practices that are prefiguring these futures in the face of the climate crisis.

Siobhan Angus is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University. Angus studies the history and theory of photography with a focus on artistic process, labour history, and the environmental humanities. She holds a PhD in Art History and Visual Culture from York University, where she studied the visual culture of resource extraction in Canada. In 2019/2020, she is Friends of the American Philosophical Society Fellow at the American Philosophical Society and a visiting scholar at the Center for Creative Ecologies at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Samantha Spady is an interdisciplinary scholar working in the fields of human geography, settler colonialism, feminist technoscience, and labour studies. She is currently a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta. Her work looks at the role that post-secondary institutions play in extractive economies and knowledge production. In this project she is examining how universities that have signed onto the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, are also actively soliciting money and resources from mining and oil and gas companies engaged in contested Treaty territories; tracing how universities are simultaneously extracting while reconciling. She earned her PhD in Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University in Toronto. Her PhD research examined how oil and gas workers understand the conflicts surrounding the Alberta tar sands, and the ways in which they make sense of, and make the place of their work.

Eco-Art and Sciences in an Age of Cynicism

Thomas Asmuth and Sara Gevurtz

In the report “How fast are the oceans warming?”(Cheng et al. 2019), the authors present compelling and disheartening evidence that the world’s seas are warming up to 40% faster than suggested by a study five years earlier. In the face of this, Asmuth & Gevurtz are two artists who continue to explore the boundaries of transdisciplinary investigation and creativity in the face of overwhelming climate crises.

In the past five years, Asmuth and Gevurtz have produced many installations through their project, Turbidity Paintings, that uses fieldwork as a merger of the arts and sciences. The partners use these activities as the raw materials to create objects which simultaneously exist as artifact and data measurement. In this talk, Asmuth and Gevurtz will discuss how they critically examine how ecological conditions are communicated. In question are abstract visualizations of data points and graphing normally associated with this kind of work in data science. The team is critical of the separation of the tangible experience from the observable conditions and the separation this creates psychically from the audience.

The team combines the measurements and materials (data points, photographs, water, and other items) collected during interdisciplinary fieldwork to create installation art. They attempt a more direct interaction with the viewer. They adapt pedagogies historically based on wonder and discovery to function in the age of crisis, cynicism, and uncertain ecological futures. They are compelled as artists and citizen-scientists to educate, communicate, and inspire in the shadow of overwhelming climatic upheavals.

Thomas Asmuth is a transdisciplinary artist and an Associate Professor of digital and experimental media at the University of West Florida. Asmuth collaborates with artists and scientists to study issues of water quality. His work has resulted in art/science installations and novel designs for water testing equipment. Asmuth’s awards include a Florida Humanities Council grant and a Florida Research Fellowship. Asmuth’s work has appeared at the Southeastern College Art Conference, the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, the International Symposium on Electronic Art, Balance UnBalance 2017, Laguna Art Museum, Zer01 Biennial, Montalvo Arts Center, and the Tang Teaching Museum.

Sara Gevurtz is currently an Assistant Professor at Hastings College, but will be joining the faculty at Auburn University in the fall. Gevurtz graduated from the CADRE Laboratory for New Media at San Jose State University where she received a MFA in Digital Media Art. She received her bachelor’s degree in Evolution, Behavior and Ecology Biology from USCD. Due to her interdisciplinary background, her artistic research focuses on ecological and environmental issues. Gevurtz has been working on a collaborative, interdisciplinary project with the goal to create art that is data and data that is art. This project has been presented at both nationally and internationally, including Balance Unbalance 2017 in Plymouth UK and ISEA2018 in Durban, South Africa.

Against Urgency: Post-apocalyptic Latency Poetics and Living “Here”

Stacey Balkun

In the age of the Anthropocene, it’s easy to consider the creation and deployment of nuclear weapons as an ecological threat. However, unlike weapons facilities, many nuclear energy plants exist in plain view, protected by their surrounding notions of safety despite the imminence of invisible, enduring threats.Whereas critic John Gery terms poetry about immediate nuclear threat “apocalyptic lyric,” poetry regarding the latent danger posed by nuclear power plants may appear too discreet to be “apocalyptic lyric” yet too concerned with catastrophe to be mere meditations or witness, I propose that certain texts come together beneath the umbrella of “post-apocalyptic latency poetics.” The poems investigated here suggest that the “end” of disaster is also the beginning of invisible violence which, though lacking urgency, pose an ongoing threat. Overall, the main work of post-apocalyptic latency poetics is to dismantle the link between damage and the image of a cataclysmic event, an effort which demands an examination and removal of several customary binaries. To convey the slow, ongoing threat, latent post-apocalyptic lyrics share, among other traits, a lack of closure that amplifies the sense of dormancy and danger continuously lurking in the aftermath of a nuclear event.

Stacey Balkun is the author of three poetry chapbooks and co-editor of​ Fiolet & Wing: An Anthology of Domestic Fabulist Poetry​. Winner of the 2019 ​New South ​Writing Contest as well as ​​’s 10th Annual Contest, her work has appeared in ​Best New Poets 2018​, ​Crab Orchard Review,​ ​The Rumpus,​ and many other anthologies & journals. Stacey holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Fresno State and teaches poetry online at The Poetry Barn & The Loft.

Scientists and Fishermen: Environmental Theory, Myth and Practice in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide

Akua Banful

Writing of nature’s perniciousness in A Passage to India, E.M. Forster’s narrator remarks that the invisible world of nature is close at hand, unsettling visions of human dominance. If nature is closer at hand in the global south — a result of warmer climates and underdevelopment underwritten by global geopolitics — so is the urgency of climate change. Our climate reality has, like many disasters, heightened the inequalities that plague our world. This uneven fallout has also highlighted the inadequacies of the development model — itself ridden with stadialism — that transfers theories generated in the global north to communities in the south. Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Hungry Tide offers a view of a rapidly changing landscape in the Sundarbans of South Asia. This serves as the stage for confrontations between western environmentalism and an integrated ecosystem that takes the enmeshment of the poor into account. In this paper, I will explore the circulation of Western environmental theories and histories, alongside indigenous myths of the Sundarbans in Ghosh’s novel, arguing that in striking a balance between these two environmental perspectives — all of which reckon with devastating storms — The Hungry Tide attempts to theorize environmental urgency from the south.

Akua Banful is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University who works at the intersection of postcolonialism and ecocriticism. Her dissertation “The Hostile Tropics: Towards a Postcolonial Discourse of Climate,” takes the colonial-era figuration of tropical climates as hostile to the health of European men as a launchpad for an interrogation of the ways in which notions of climate are constituted by science, as well as by discourses of imperialism, in order to ask what becomes of these notions and their cultural and political baggage in our postcolonial present.

Participatory Inclusion in Knowledge Creation in Public Posthumanities Research

Laura Barbas-Rhoden

This presentation shares tools for collaborative knowledge creation in the public posthumanities. Drawing upon scholarship by Rosi Braidotti, Arturo Escobar, and Santiago Gómez-Castro, among other decolonial and posthumanities thinkers, I briefly discuss theoretical efforts that signal the importance of co-creation of knowledge in public posthumanities endeavors. I then draw a line of sight from theory to (1) design, (2) methods for data gathering, (3) analysis of data, (4) the presentation of data, and (5) dissemination. My emphasis is on participatory inclusion in each phase and the limits and tensions that arise in institutional and community contexts when doing participatory public posthumanities research.

My discussion draws upon experiences of our institutionally-funded teams in the co-production of a suite of place-based research projects co-ideated through cross-sector conversations, carried out by bilingual teams of undergraduate students and faculty, and inclusive of diverse voices in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Spartanburg is the southernmost county in Appalachia; it is traversed by two interstate highways; contains an inland port; and is the region of the United States with the highest per capita direct foreign investment. Because equity and inclusion efforts in South Carolina have traditionally been conceptualized in terms of Black and white populations, the presence of a rapidly growing Latinx population —as well as refugee communities from Southeast Asia, Ukraine, and Africa— complicates public narratives and presents opportunities for reframing conversations about how power operates in place (and displacement or migration) and over time. Each context in which public posthumanities work is done will need to engage situational factors unique to the place or project. For that reason, this talk combines discussion of transferable frameworks, with guiding questions we asked ourselves, to make transparent our process and to underscore that the democratizing and participatory potential of work will evolve from conditions specific to each project.

Laura Barbas-Rhoden is Professor of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Wofford College; co-President of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment; founder of Alianza Spartanburg; and author of Writing Women in Central America (Ohio UP, 2003) and Ecological Imaginations in Latin American Fiction (UP of Florida, 2011). She has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters on Latin American texts, as well as on civic engagement, partnerships, and global learning.

Environmental Knowledge Production: A Case Study of Journalism Students at the University of Tyumen

Irina Beliakova and Elena Plakhina

Tyumen has been Russia’s center for oil industry since discovery of oil reserves in the region in the 1960s. For years of active oil recovery, environmental issues have been accumulating: those connected with industry’s impact on the environment (different kinds of pollution, damaging natural habitats, etc.) as well as creating infrastructure for comfortable urban environment (or sometimes failure to do it). Interestingly, the current problems we are facing now were predicted 50 years ago by the local writer K. Ya. Lagunov in several of his novels. These novels are part of the syllabus of the elective environmental journalism course in University of Tyumen. Beside this, they use a variety of other sources to create environmental knowledge and find mechanisms of its transfer to the local community.

In this presentation, we are planning to use a system operator analysis (H. Altschuller) to visualize the task of environmental education and suggest ways of its evolution. We are going to show how environmental knowledge is produced in journalism students taking into account the past, present and future perspectives within the system of university, subsystem of the Department of Journalism and supersystem of the Tyumen region. At the end of the elective course, students should have a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of ecological thinking in the region’s authorities, educationalists and intellectuals. We will interview students and let them express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the practiced system of knowledge production and the knowledge on the environmental situation in the region they acquired.

We are going to show how this production of knowledge can become biased and how journalists act as environmental influencers among the local community on behalf of the municipal government resulting in them getting caught in the crossfire between the general public and authorities.

In conclusion, we are going to suggest ways for young journalists to disseminate environmental knowledge observing the professional code of ethics.

Irina Beliakova is an associate professor at the Department of English Philology and Translation, University of Tyumen, Russia. I teach courses in English grammar and conversation; intercultural communication, lexicology of the English language and English for the Media. I defended a Candidate’s dissertation thesis (Russian PhD equivalent) on the Lexical fields of beauty and ugliness in Russian and English. My research interests include ecolinguistics and ecological esthetics, the evolution of the ideas of beauty in Russian and Anglo-Saxon literature, ethics and esthetics, development of creative skills in classes of English, digitalization of education.

Elena Plakhina is an associate professor at the Department of Journalism, University of Tyumen, Russia. I teach courses in the history of foreign journalism, mass media techniques and technologies, journalism and myths, ecological journalism. I defended a Candidate’s dissertation thesis (Russian PhD equivalent) on the Lexical field of space in the lyrics of V. Zhukovsky, A. Pushkin and M. Lermontov. I am interested in media studies, environmental journalism, cognitive linguistics, language and culture. I am a regular participant of the World Journalism Education Congress.

Purposeful Memoir as a Path to a Thriving Future: The Worldwrights Lead the Way

Jennifer Browdy

As we face the hydra-headed emergencies of climate disruption, pandemic and global economic collapse, humanities scholars have struggled to retain our sense of relevance. My 2017 memoir, What I Forgot…and Why I Remembered, explored how my education and social conditioning shifted me ever further away from the connection to the natural world that had been primary for me as a child. Finding my way back to that connection seemed urgent for me personally, and as I realized in the course of writing the memoir, it is crucial for us all at this critical juncture in human history. All of the crises that face us can be traced back to our collective alienation from the natural world, and can only be solved by recognizing our inter-being with all life on Earth and reconnecting with the sense of wonder and reverence for nature that most children instinctively feel.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, I believe that doing the inner work of purposeful memoir is a necessary prerequisite for effective action in the world. We cannot solve the crises that face us without a deep understanding of how we got here, individually, as a society, and as an Earth system, a planet. Thus I write, teach and study what I callpurposeful memoir that aligns the personal, political and planetary, setting our individual life experiences into the broader social and environmental landscapes in which we live.

In my ASLE presentation, I will discuss:

  •  The elemental journey of purposeful memoir: how the four elements, Earth, Water, Fire & Air can function as potent metaphors for different stages and aspects of life experience;
  • The value of aligning the personal, political and planetary in narrative accounts of our lives, with examples drawn from purposeful memoirists such as Terry Tempest Williams, Eve Ensler and Wangari Maathai;
  • The chronotopic reach of purposeful memoir that looks back in order to better understand the present, and to envision a thriving future;
  • The potential for purposeful memoir to have a concrete impact in the world, as I demonstrate with my current scholarly focus on the memoirs of contemporary social and environmental justice activists I call “worldwrights.”

Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D is a professor of comparative literature and media arts and head of the Division of Languages and Literature at Bard College/Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, focusing on writing for social and environmental justice, arts activism and women’s leadership. Her popular blog, Transition Times(, has explored the unfolding of the early years of the Anthropocene from a personal, political and planetary perspective, terrain she deepened in her memoir, What I Forgot …And Why I Remembered, and her award- winning writer’s guide, The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir. Through her teaching, writing workshops and media work, she seeks to draw more people into productive conservation around the urgent issues of our time so that we can work together to restore, regenerate and steward our planet into a thriving future. Find out more at

Of Sound Mind and Body: Lessons in Listening to the Jingle Dress Dance

Kristen Brown

Turning to forms of loss and their amplification during our global pandemic, this presentation considers how experiences of loss and trauma can become sites of intercultural mobilization. The sharing of jingle dances on social media, for example, illustrates a communal solidarity that counters the fear of uncertainty and isolation with resilience and recognition. Indigenous communities’ valuing of song and ceremony illustrates that settler descendant efforts toward decolonization requires what Leanne Betasamosake Simpson refers to as “profound listening” and “reciprocal recognition.” Listening to Indigenous stories and learning from consensually-shared tribal ceremonies are crucial practices for surviving on and saving a dying planet—now more than ever.

After exploring the concept of “sound” and outlining various modes of listening, I argue for the role of shared sensory experiences—specifically informed by relations to sound and music as living beings—in countering Western conventions of exclusion and accumulation. As late capitalism reaches a crisis point that forces us to slow down, how might we use this space and time to nurture new human-environmental relations that bring collective and accessible sensory experiences to the fore? In search of an answer, I investigate the role of music and dance in recent Indigenous-led resistance movements while considering how sensate epistemologies and ontologies of inclusion can open spaces (both physical and virtual) for gathering, recognizing, and reimagining a world we can collectively create and lovingly defend.  

Kristen Brown recently earned her PhD from the University of South Carolina where she has taught composition, literature, and ethics.  She has just begun an appointment as visiting post-doctoral teaching fellow at Dixie State University. Her dissertation, “A Return to Turtle Island: Eco-Cosmopolitics in American Indian Literature, 1880-1920,” explores relations among ecological health, Indigeneity, and settler colonialism.  Currently, she is researching how representations of sound and listening inform Indigenous resistance to dispossessive frameworks of settler governance.

We Are Not Beasts: Deconstructing Colonial Rhetorics of Climate Migration

Tori Bush

On January 21, 2016, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a $48-million-dollar grant for the “relocation of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, which has seen a 98% loss of land since 1955, to a resilient and historically contextual community” (HUD, 7). HUD called this grant the first of its kind to manage the retreat of communities from areas vulnerable to climate change, a process which could include over 13 million people in the United States alone by 2030 (Hauer, 2016). The fact that the first communities chosen to relocate in the United States—a nation which has and continues to consciously and aggressively release to carbon emissions—are indigenous peoples indicates that there is a reinvention of colonial traditions of displacement for the twenty-first century operating within U.S. climate policy.

This paper takes two texts: The film, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), and the website, as texts to analyze lingering colonial tropes as well as present spaces of Native agency that subvert and decolonize climate migration. Two issues dominate this essay: How do colonial rhetorics—particularly the absence of rhetoric around indigenous peoples—still exist in visual and textual representations that actively reinvent imperial traditions for the American Indian community of Isle de Jean Charles? Secondly, how does the tribal community if Isle de Jean Charles create agency for themselves in imagining the process of climate resettlement both for the tribe and for the possible millions of coastal citizens in the United States who might relocate in the future?

Tori Bush is a PhD candidate and Graduate Student Teacher at Louisiana State University with a focus on ecocriticism, Southern studies and postcolonial approaches to literature. She is co-editor on a forthcoming anthology of environmental literature of the Gulf South from University Press of Florida. She was recently awarded a Monroe Fellowship from Tulane University for this book.

A Nest of Cottonmouths: Snake Lore and White Anxiety in Southern Literature

Dixon Bynum

I would like to propose a creative nonfiction essay that examines my concern about anthropogenic climate change through lens of the biogeographical history and Southern folklore of the cottonmouth snake. As a Mississippi native, my childhood was informed by Southern snake lore, specifically the regional mythology of water moccasins. Southern and Western writers have employed that folklore in both fiction and nonfiction, and I’ll examine those instances in a small section of narrative criticism focused on one specific trope—the dreaded “nest of cottonmouths”—that appears in work of Larry McMurtry, Barry Hannah, and Willie Morris. The snake tales I heard in my childhood were the first stories I learned to analyze and reject through personal experience. And that first analysis and rejection eventually extended to other regional false narratives.

At the heart of the essay is the narrative of my job as the family snake hunter: One Sunday morning when I was eight, already in coat and tie, my

father took me out into the garage, offered a long-handled hoe held at arm’s length, and informed me that forevermore it would be my task to clear the patio of snakes before breakfast was served. He demonstrated the proper action in the air with his empty hands. I was to bring the steel down hard, let the momentum of the far end deliver the blow. Take the headless bodies back down to the creek or to the edge of the woods. And keep my distance when killing the cottonmouths.

And so, before church as a child, in my Sunday best, I slaughtered snakes.

Balancing my experience with snakes and my inheritance of snake lore is the biogegraphical history of the cottonmouth: how it journeyed to the South during previous climate change events, how it specialized to wet locations (unlike its generalist twin, the copperhead), how it now faces uncertainty as well, though physical changes and habitat alterations, during anthropogenic climate change.

I received my Ph.D. from the University of Mississippi and currently teach there as a remote instructor. A long-standing member of ASLE, my work focuses on the intersections of Southern environmental literature, history, and race. I’ve been awarded grants from the Mississippi and Tennessee Arts Commissions for creative nonfiction, and I’ve been a finalist for the Richard Margolis Award for Social Justice Writing. Born on Deer Creek in the Mississippi Delta, I currently live on the natural levee of the Harpeth River in middle Tennessee and wait for the cottonmouths to come and join me.

Black Infrastructures of Environmental Justice in Attica Locke’s Houston

Delia Byrnes

This presentation will take up critical Black geographies and environmental history to re-read Houston as a citywide energy infrastructure whose unmatched history of oil-led development animates the environmental-justice imagination of Attica Locke’s fiction. Locke’s African American detective novels ​Black Water Rising​ (2009) and ​Pleasantville​ (2015) follow erstwhile Civil Rights-activist and EJ lawyer Jay Porter through the neoliberal 1980s and ‘90s in the US petroleum capital of Houston. Through an analysis of these interconnected novels, this presentation will investigate the city’s invisibilized Black geographies as a vital way of reading—and rewriting—the United States’ most dynamic energy metropolis. I will examine, first, how conventional narratives of Houston as a postmodern energy capital are radically reimagined in Locke’s fiction as extensions of plantation modernity, and how the series “detects” the occulted legacies of the plantation in Houston sprawl, from the overgrown channels of Buffalo Bayou to the proliferating master-planned communities fueled by oil capital.

Situating my analysis within the histories and presents of Houston’s spatial logics illuminates the relationship between energy, African American place-making, and narrative form. This study is not, however, interested solely in uncovering the afterlives of slavery that undergird Houston. Rather, I am interested in theorizing the alternative spatial knowledges and attendant infrastructures—both material and symbolic—that emerge through a focus on Houston’s Black geographies. Locke’s novels, I suggest, reveal the ongoing emergencies of oil capitalism’s spatial logics for Black Houston, even as they transform the city’s geographies into liberatory sites.

​Delia Byrnes holds a PhD in English from The University of Texas at Austin. In Fall 2020, she will join Allegheny College as Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability. Her research focuses on energy, infrastructure, and environmental justice in contemporary U.S. literature and culture, and her first book project, titled ​Refining America: Energy, Infrastructure, and the Arts of Resistance​, examines Gulf Coast oil imaginaries across a range of 21st-century media, including novels, photography, and digital storytelling. Her essays appear or are forthcoming in ​Modern Fiction Studies​, ​The Global South​, ​Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies​, and ​Energy in American History​.

Observation and Conversation: Post-apocalyptic Literature and the Young Adult Audience 

Octavia Cade

Post-apocalyptic literature has been doing what the humanities have not. While science communicates – with various levels of success – the physical results of ecological threats such as climate change and biodiversity loss, the resultant social effects on communities have been left, primarily, to creative writers. Furthermore, the post-apocalyptic literature resulting from this exploration is frequently directed at young adult readers, who academics in the humanities are content to ignore entirely. 

Science communicators may be extending their skills in order to reach the young, but there is little similar effort from, for example, philosophers, historians, or linguists. This is a mistake. We live, increasingly, in a pre-apocalyptic and even an apocalyptic world, and the resulting consequences of this drastic change, and the effects they will have on younger generations especially, is given, within the humanities, limited attention. Of all people within the humanities and social science disciplines, it is the economists and, to a lesser extent the psychologists, who are engaging productively with these questions, but even their popular outreach is limited. 

How will power relationships change, in an apocalyptic world? How is food to be distributed? What changes may be encouraged – or even enforced – when it comes to human reproduction? Will the effects of apocalypse lie more heavily on some demographics than others? Furthermore, what of cultural relationships with the natural world? If the Great Barrier Reef dies, for instance, will grief for its loss impact upon the local population? How will localised environmental effects impact on surrounding populations?

Readers under eighteen, largely the objects of academic study in the humanities but rarely ever the audience for it, are having these conversations already. But they are having it in terms of post-apocalyptic literature – using these texts not only as primary sources, but as starting points for creative narratives of their own.

Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in science communication. She is the 2020 Massey University writer-in-residence, and has sold close to 50 stories to markets such as Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Shimmer. Two poetry collections, several novellas, and an essay collection on food and horror have also been published; a novel and short story collection are in press. Her academic work on speculative fiction has appeared in Horror Studies, Scandinavica, and All Round Monstrous: Monster Media in Their Historical Contexts, amongst others, and she is presenting a paper on how post-apocalyptic literature can visualise strategies for navigating environmental apocalypse at this year’s WorldCon. 

Against the Day: HathiTrust, Arks and the Emergency of the Present

Heather Christenson, Graham Dethmers, and Eleanor Koehl

An ark presents the image of a solitary unit containing a curated collection, sealed against the dangers of a future rapidly approaching. Arks are created in the hopes of seeing a time beyond crisis: whether it be climatic, pandemic, budgetary, or systemic. But this image also runs counter to the large-scale preservationist goals of a digital content store that aims for the long-term, but is also meant for engagement and use in the present.

The HathiTrust Digital Library is a collaborative large-scale repository of content accumulated through mass digitization processes, certified as a Trusted Digital Repository for long-term preservation. At over 17 million items, the collection is rich and wide-ranging. A benefit of mass digitization is the way in which content from disparate disciplines and points of view are put in context with one another. But every collection is rooted in the biases of its origins. Although for some material in the digital library there is two-by-two, or more, duplication of items, the question of the collection, and what ultimately will come onboard our “ark,” is one that we urgently need to grapple with as we plan for the climate emergency.

In our presentation we will discuss the current state, assumptions, and long-term goals of HathiTrust as it evolves and prepares to confront the challenges that are coming—or are already here. Unlike the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is built into an arctic mountain, HathiTrust’s mission is preservation with access. As we examine these two priorities, we will bring some of our challenges to the audience. How do we organize diverse stores of content to make them discoverable and addressable? Will our current assumptions regarding access, description, and copyright regimes be valid in states of exception like the existential crisis of climate change? What content makes it onto the “ark”?

Heather Christenson is the Program Officer for Collections at HathiTrust. Heather has strategic and programmatic responsibility for the development, curation, growth, and understanding of the HathiTrust digital collection. She is responsible for programs that support preservation and access for specific segments of the HathiTrust collection, including the U.S. Federal Documents Program.

Graham Dethmers is the Metadata Analyst at the HathiTrust Digital Library. He manages the flow of bibliographic metadata into and through HathiTrust Digital Library applications and services. He also works with other third-party services to improve seamless discovery of HathiTrust items in member libraries’ catalogs and discovery systems.

Eleanor Koehl is the Associate Director for Outreach and Education for the HathiTrust Research Center and Digital Scholarship Librarian at HathiTrust. She leads training and outreach for the Research Center, which facilitates computational text analysis of HathiTrust data. She works closely with humanities scholars who engage in text and data mining. Her research interests include research behaviors in digital scholarship and scholarly needs for library-supported digital humanities and computational social science research.

Always Coming Home: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Utopian Aesthetic

Lawrence Coates

At the 2019 ASLE conference in Davis, one panel’s title expressed both desperation and aspiration:  “We Need Utopian Cli-Fi, and We Need It Now.”  The panel discussed a number of works, including Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife and Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, though the panel certainly didn’t conclude that any works definitively offered the kinds of narratives we need.

I propose discussing Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel Always Coming Home as an example of Utopian Cli-Fi, even though that term was not invented when the book was published, 1985.  Amitav Ghosh argued that the literary novel has traditionally centered on the moral adventure of the individual, and that other different narrative forms may be more appropriate for addressing climate change.  Always Coming Home, though identified as a novel, is formally very distinct from most traditional novels, and indeed stands out as singular among Le Guin’s work.  It takes place in an indeterminate future in the Valley of the Na, recognizable as the Napa Valley in a time when rising sea levels have drowned the lower half of the valley.  Rather than a traditional narrative centered on a quest, for example, the novel is made up of collections of written history, oral history, poems, dramas, and songs.  The original hardcover came with a cassette tape that had on it some of the songs and chants of the People of the Na, which are now available as an MP3.

I will discuss Le Guin’s work within the context of Ghosh’s critique of literary fiction.  I will show the ways in which it depicts a post-Apocalyptic utopian setting, and I will also analyze the way, formally, it suggests different kinds of storytelling for an age where the kind of climate change that could lead to the Valley of the Na is very imaginable.  I will bring to my reading of Always Coming Home some of the insights Donna J. Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble, about the relations of human and non-human species, as well as Le Guin’s own essays “A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be” and “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” from her collection Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places.      

Lawrence Coates is the author of five works of fiction, most recently a novella, Camp Olvido.  His work has been recognized with the Western States Book Award in Fiction, the Barthelme Prize in Short Prose, the Miami University Press Novella Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction.  He currently directs the Creative Writing Program at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and he teaches literature and creative writing.  He is currently at work on a novel entitled Boom, which is set in an invented town in California and spans the time from the town’s founding during the Gold Rush to the present day.

“There’s No More Nature”: Beckett and New Materialisms

Sean Collins

Beckett’s Endgame is a play about the end of nature. Object-oriented-ontology, spearheaded by Timothy Morton and Levi Bryant, has called for the end of nature as a hegemonic and unified concept. Morton explains that “‘Nature’ fails to serve ecology well” (3) because it is ideologically burdened by a notion of purified, untainted space. Bryant rejects the holism and interconnectivity inherent in traditional conceptions of nature by pointing to the fragility of relationality as such. Bryant, like Morton, is concerned by the ways in which our ideological representations have normative effects in how we view, interact with, and politically engage nature. Bruno Latour also posits the need for an end of “Nature”, arguing that the Anthropocene forces us to reconsider any purified conception of nature and culture. Endgame, which dramatically performs the end of nature, is thus a perfect case study for thinking through new materialist orientations towards “Nature” as such.

Greg Garrard, in “Beckett’s Ecological Thought,” argues that anti-ecomimesis is more productive for thinking ecologically in Endgame. I argue that the material contexts of Beckett’s work enact new materialist thought on the stage.What Endgame adds to these theoretical frameworks is the chance to act out and to dwell within the end time realities, and, in turn, to become sensitive to the contingency of life.

I argue that Beckett presents us with a way to fiercely dwell in the present during the end of times. Endgame shows audiences how melancholy, anxiety, and laughter can reorient the self to the fragile more-than-human-world. Acting thus becomes a metaphor for learning to value the interdependence that composes our lives. Endgame presents ecological thought not only through its rejection of ecomimesis, but also through its embodied and participatory presentation of some main concerns within the environmental humanities.

Sean Collins is a third year Ph.D. student in the department of English at the University of Utah. He is currently preparing for his qualifying examinations (29 April 2020) under the direction of Dr. Vince Cheng. Sean’s research interests include modernism, ecocriticism, and the new materialisms.

The Implications of Aid in Times of Emergency: Destructive Storms, Climate Change, and Disaster Militarism

Danielle Crawford

As climate change continues to accelerate, environmental disasters, ranging from super storms to wildfires, have become a grim reality in much of the world. Record-breaking disasters that might once be considered historic anomalies are fast becoming seasonal events in an unending cycle of destruction. These disasters, which are forecasted to increase in both intensity and frequency as global temperatures increase, raise urgent questions about the role of aid and the type of aid needed in times of emergency. By focusing on the concept of “disaster militarism,” wherein military aid is naturalized as the primary response to disasters, this presentation explores the workings of U.S. military disaster aid and its implications within our era of climate change. It asks, how can the humanities apply a critical lens to our understanding of disaster aid? Moreover, how can these insights be translated to on the ground action that effectively helps communities in the throes of disaster?

To address these questions, I examine two U.S. military aid operations and their portrayals in literary texts: “Operation Garden Sweep” and “Operation Damayan.” While Garden Sweep was formed in response to Hurricane ‘Iniki, which hit Kaua‘i in 1992, Damayan was launched in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013. By analyzing Kiana Davenport’s novel, House of Many Gods (2006), and the poetry collection Verses Typhoon Yolanda: a Storm of Filipino Poets (2014), edited by Eileen R. Tabios, texts which depict these disasters and operations, I argue that Damayan and Garden Sweep worked to expand U.S. militarization in the Pacific, all while revealing the fraught positionality of the U.S. military in relation to climate change, given the extensive oil consumption of the U.S. military- industrial-complex. This presentation ultimately questions the political and environmental implications of U.S. military aid within the climate crisis.

The Posthumanities as a Way to Tackle “Emergency”

Christine Daigle

The world is in turmoil. Crises—environmental, medical, political, ethical and cultural— confront us daily. Troublingly, we seem to keep making the same mistakes and not learning from the past. I argue one of the reasons we keep failing to resolve the many problems we face is that we continue to devise solutions based on a defective humanist worldview—one that conceives of the human as exceptional, in charge, and separate from its world. If we are to respond successfully to calls such as those made by Greta Thunberg to reconsider how the developed world has approached nature, we need to move beyond the anthropocentric point of view, inherited from centuries of humanist thinking, that considers the human as distinct from and superior to the nonhuman. This is what posthumanism proposes. This shift implies the need to rethink and change how we produce and disseminate knowledge. To arrive at new thoughts, we must change the conditions in which we create our thoughts. We need to defamiliarize our mental habits and open ourselves to alternate modes of research. This is what the posthumanities, as rhizomic and supradisciplinary, stand for. By subverting and opening up objects of study and methods, the posthumanities generate new modes of thinking. The research model that privileges monographs, scholarly articles, and academic conferences needs to be supplemented with other modes of knowledge creation and sharing such as podcasts, short reflective pieces, unconferences, as well as cross-sector events at which posthumanities researchers, artists, lab and field researchers, community members, decision-makers, members of industry and business, etc. come together to think through problems and devise imaginative solutions. With this in mind, I discuss my experience with such modes of knowledge creation afforded through the Posthumanism Research Institute. My presentation adopts a hybrid format, combining video and slides.

Christine Daigle is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Posthumanism Research Institute at Brock University (Canada). She has published extensively on existentialist thinkers such as Beauvoir, Sartre, and Nietzsche. More recently, her work investigates material feminism, posthumanism, and the environmental posthumanities. She has published on sustainability and vulnerability from a posthumanist perspective and is working on a monograph exploring the ethical potential of posthumanist vulnerability. She is also interested in the power of non-conventional research and teaching methods to generate new modes of thinking and how to put those to work in her own practice.

Attunement as a Response to Climate Emergency

Trang Dang

This presentation argues that urgency as a mode of response to the current climate crisis often forecloses meaningful and effective actions that set out to tackle this crisis. This argument is put forward in full recognition of the pressing issues of climate change and the growing and ongoing pressure on world governments to take urgentaction against ‘business as usual’ and the destruction of the Earth. This presentation draws on the urgency that environmental campaigns and sustainable businesses often press for, and on the fear and paralysis that the mounting discourse of the Anthropocene tends to communicate, to pinpoint and discuss the problems of these responses. As this lays a foundation for examining different alternatives to urgency as an answer to the climate breakdown, this presentation looks to the critical work of philosophers, biologists, and anthropologists such as Timothy Morton, Donna Haraway, and Anna Tsing, and to the creative work of New Weird writer Jeff VanderMeer, especially his Borneseries (2020), for direction and analytical framework. It plans to explore these alternatives on a micro level (such as individuals and localities) rather than on a macro level (such as societies and globalities). This presentation arrives at two conclusions. Urgency as a response to the current climate breakdown, on an individual scale, is prone to cause panic and numbness particularly for those who believe in climate change and wish to do something to combat it, and on a capitalist scale, tends to give corporations and businesses the chance to impose new and improved versions of the status quo. Meanwhile, stepping back, slowing down, appreciating the present as well as attuning to and taking care of one’s surroundings are amongst the most effective responses. This is because, scaled up to the whole Earth and its inhabitants, they make an ample difference.

Quickness: Life and Speed in an Era of Extinction

Jemma Deer

Examining the perils and possibilities of quickness in the Anthropocene, this paper considers how the current extinction crisis might be thought in relation to the future and the past, to speed and acceleration, to ir/reversibility and urgency, and to the evolution of human language and consciousness. Such ideas are elaborated through engagement with J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, Jacques Derrida’s ‘No Apocalypse, Not Now’, and the October 2018 IPCC report. The paper concludes by speculating upon an answer to the following questions: if we know that there will be an end to thought, what will have been the end of thought? To what end do we think at all?

Jemma Deer is a postdoctoral researcher at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. Through readings of literature and philosophy, her work explores how environmental crises are transforming our understanding of the world and notions of human identity. Her first book, Radical Animism: Reading for the End of the World, is out this year.

On (De)Familiarizing Toxicity: Getting Intimate with Polluted Soil

Ruby de Vos

Awareness of environmental toxicity often comes as a shock: as Lawrence Buell has written, learning about toxicity often comes as a rude awakening (1998). Films such as Erin Brockovich or memoirs such as Canaries on the Rim often frame toxicity as a defamiliarizing experience (Shklovsky 1917) that makes us look anew at our living environments and consider the toxins that make them up. Yet these toxins were already there: only the awareness is new. Defamiliarization, then, often works as an aesthetic strategy by turning what is essentially an “ongoing condition” into an “intensified situation” of emergency or crisis (Berlant 2010). In this paper, I want to ask what it might look like when art turns to this ongoing condition into its focus point instead: should we get familiar with toxicity? What might that look like, and what could it generate?

 To explore this question, I draw on the work of three visual artists, namely Alexandra Navratil, Sissel Marie Tonn, and Emilia Beatriz, all of whom working on the theme of polluted soil. I explore how their art addresses the more-than-human bodily entanglements with toxicity and soil in works that allow the viewer to consider toxicity as a form of intimacy as well as a form of violence. Thus these works push beyond the temporal framework of the emergency, positing living with toxicity as a chronic situation instead, that we have to learn to inhabit. I conclude my paper by reflecting on how the arts and humanities recent embrace of such affirmative imaginings of the “crisis ordinariness” walks a difficult tightrope, subverting the feasibility of a return to a previous state of purity, but also possibly eliding questions of structural violence and responsibility. 

Alternating between visual examples and more theoretical discussions, this talk will alternate between the presentation and the speaker on the screen.

Ruby de Vos is a PhD candidate at the University of Groningen, where she is working on her dissertation about the heterogeneous temporalities of toxicity in contemporary art and literature. She was the co-editor of the journal Kunstlicht’s special issue on nuclear aesthetics, as well as of the volume Legibility in the Age of Signs and Machines. She curated and organized the cultural week After Hiroshima: Cultural Responses to the Atomic Bomb in Groningen. 

“Ancient Permanence”: Thomas Hardy and the Anthropocene 

Jacqueline Dillion

Thomas Hardy’s first chapter in The Return of the Native (1878) boldly imagines a late nineteenth-century view of the Anthropocene. Focused on Egdon Heath, the wild, “primitive” landscape, which predates and will outlast man, it both returns to and builds on the vision he laid out in chapter XXII of A Pair of Blues Eyes (1873) in which “Time closed up like a fan […].” These, and Hardy’s subsequent writings, collectively represent a proto-ecocritical approach that is critically distinct from his contemporaries, and instead anticipates the kind of abstract nature writing that Virginia Woolf experiments with in the “Time Passes” section of To the Lighthouse (1927).

While the vocabularies of later twentieth-century ecocritical studies were not available to Hardy, he demonstrated a marked resistance to conventional modes of nature writing through language: approaching the landscape through dialect, and eventually leaving prose writing for poetry, explaining in his autobiography that “the barbaric idea that confuses persons and things” is also “common to the imaginative genius – that of the poet.”

This paper will draw on archival resources, including Hardy’s notes and journals which tracked the development of his ecocritical thinking, as well as the manuscript revisions in The Return of the Native at University College Dublin, and it will build on recent ecocritical approaches, including Anna West’s Thomas Hardy and Animals, Richard Kerridge in Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism, and Lawrence Buell in The Green Studies Reader: from Romanticism to Ecocriticism, as well as recent affective ecocritical readings of Hardy by Andrew Hewitt.

Challenging Humanity: Silence, Loss, and Resilience in the Contemporary French Eco Novel

Velina Dinkova

Reading contemporary French narratives through the vantage point of the current environmental crisis and globalization beseeches us to ponder the precariousness of life on Earth in the age of the Anthropocene for All life forms, including humans, all the while strongly emphasizing the inter-connectedness and inter-dependency of Earth’s organisms and ecosystems. The works I have selected to participate in this paper impel the reader to consider the unsettling question of What if?, a question that prods one to attempt to predict, estimate and ultimately make decisions about how to confront looming risks to one’s survival.

Among one of the works of particular interest is the novel Sans l’orang-outan (Without the Orangutan, 2007) by Eric Chevillard, imagining the world without one of the planet’s most prominent species, the orangutan, in a ludic journey of loss, mourning, and existential doubts. Another gruesome view, but this time of human kind’s existence, is illustrated in a novel by Jean-Christophe Rufin, Globalia (2004), portraying a microcosm comparable to the dystopian worlds described in the classic works of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Yevgeny Zamyatin, among others. I contend that the pessimistic tone of dark or dystopian eco-narratives, such as Sans l’orang-outan and Globlia (among others), is an effective way to unravel the role of popular anthropocentric and human exceptionalist notions often deemed responsible for the global environmental crisis and ecological decline, both in objective reality and fictional texts. Furthermore, I find that these types of narratives contribute to reforming and expanding the meaning of what is and one’s apprehension of the interplay of local and global dependencies of ecosophical character. Finally, based on Chevillard and Rufin’s visions of extinction, loss, or the threat thereof, I would like to speculate that the literary imagination does have an impact on the way we formulate, consider and understand the Anthropocene, and they may inform our role in it as responsible, active, and caring agents of Humanity.

Farming Stories: Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Three Sisters” and Honorable Cultivation

Kathryn Dolan

Henry David Thoreau named the production of food simply our “grossest groceries.” This is an important time to consider food in terms of culture and consumption. The foods people eat and the stories we tell each other are two of the most fundamental components of human civilization, perhaps more significant now in terms of the effects of environmental changes and globalization as it has ever been. The French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin famously wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” Extending this, farming novels tell us what we prepare, produce, and consume, through agriculture and culture. Agriculture has been connected to literature since antiquity. Some examples of narratives of agriculture throughout history and the globe include Virgil’s Georgics, the works of Willa Cather and Wendell Berry in the United States, Stella Gibbon’s Cold Comfort Farm and James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small in Britain, and world literature like Charles Massy’s Call of the Reed Warbler (Australia) and Héctor Abad’s The Farm (Colombia). In each case, language and the land are deeply connected. I am interested in examining this connection between stories of farming and the rural life as they are used to describe and define place, authenticity, and sustainability. I argue that studying how stories have been described historically can provide a useful way to consider our present and future in terms of energy (both in terms of food calories consumed as well as energy of production) and the environment (agriculture is intimately and inherently connected to the environment). This is particularly important during a time of crisis—a time to hopefully reassess the historical model and think about new narratives.

Kathryn Dolan is an associate professor of U.S. Literature at Missouri University of Science & Technology. Her classes include early-U.S. literature, American gothic, and Latin American literatures through food. Her most recent monograph, Cattle Country, argues that nineteenth-century U.S. authors directly engaged with the agri-expansion of the time that led to industrial cattle production, and they helped establish the cow as the iconic animal of the West as well as the entire nation. She has published articles in American Indian Quarterly, American Literary Realism, and ISLE, among others. Her next project is a narrative history of breakfast cereal.

Biophony in the Anthropocene: Changes to the Avian Soundscape Since Thoreau’s Time at Walden Pond

Rebecca Durham

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden contains a treasure-trove of naturalist information important in addressing not only ecological changes that have occurred, but what these changes mean from where we stand in the Anthropocene. One major change since Thoreau penned his detailed observations of the natural world is the drastic alteration of the soundscape. Thoreau wrote at length about the sounds of the animals he encountered as well as the sounds of the ice and weather. In “Spring” he writes, “I hear a song-sparrow singing from the bushes on the shore, — olit, olit, olit, — chip, chip, chip, che char, — che wiss, wiss, wiss” (300). Any immersion into spaces dominated by non-humans undoubtedly includes attendance to the sounds of the more-than-human world. Perception of and attunement to the sounds of nature, both biophony (sounds of life) and geophony (abiotic natural sounds), constitutes an important aspect of the human experiencing of nature. Yet, as scientists are documenting, climate change is transforming the natural soundscape (e.g. Sueur et al.). In this interdisciplinary presentation I explore the population trends and biophony of the birds Thoreau documents in two chapters, “Winter Animals” and “Spring,” and investigate the changes in the soundscape. I explore what it means for us in the Anthropocene to have such deterioration of “an acoustic refuge where the human mind can recover” (Sueur 197).

Bird Count: Avian Reverence/Violence Since Thoreau’s Walden

“Bird Count” is an original poem in conversation with Henry David Thoreau. Using language, images, and science, this film explores bird and birdsong reverence alongside ecomelancholia caused by the sharp decline of avian species. An artistic distillation, this video touches on the themes of silencing of the biophony, the decline in bird populations, and avian violence, yet approaches those themes obliquely using poetry, images, and birdsong. This is the poetic pairing of the previous academic piece.

Rebecca A. Durham is a poet, botanist, and artist. Originally from New England, she also calls western Montana home. She holds a B.A. in Biology from Colby College, a M.S. in Botany from Oregon State University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Montana. For the last nine years she has been researching vascular plants and lichens at the MPG Ranch, a private conservation property. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Rebecca’s writing has appeared in national and international journals, magazines, and anthologies. Winner of the 2019 Many Voices in Poetry Contest at New Rivers Press, her debut poetry collection is forthcoming October 2020. Rebecca is pursuing her Doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Montana, immersed in poetry, environmental philosophy, and the more-than-human world.