The MLA's new forum titled "Ecocrititicsm and the Environmental Humanities" and whose executive committee is made up of Sharon O’Dair, Stacy Alaimo, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, and Stephanie LeMenager (all professors of English) defines ecocriticism, astonishingly, as "a scholarly practice within English Studies." As one person, Beatriz Celaya, comments: "I am not in English Studies, should I not be interested in ecocriticism? I hope the mistake was involuntary." Indeed. No further comment necessary.
A fabulous discovery: the work of Stephanie Posthumus, who speaks as follows of her current work on her faculty webpage:
"Constructing an ecological perspective for examining 20th and 21st Century French literary texts has been the main goal of her work since she finished her doctoral thesis in 2003. As she has argued in several articles, ecocriticism, while based on a concern for global environmental problems, is not transferable from one national literature to another. The traditions, philosophies and representations of the non-human world that influence and are influenced by literature create important cultural differences that do not allow for a global ecocritical perspective. Working to develop a French ecocriticism, she draws on ideas such as l’esthétique environnementale (Nathalie Blanc), la nature-culture (Bruno Latour) and le contrat naturel (Michel Serres). Her recent articles demonstrate a move from this theoretical foundation to its possible application in the analysis of landscapes in contemporary French literary texts (see her articles on Jean-Christophe Rufin, Michel Houellebecq, Marie Darrieussecq and Michel Tournier). Her work in this field was recently acknowledged as being both original and important when she was awarded the prize for the best article published in 2009 by a member of the APFUCC (Association des professeurs de français aux universités et collèges canadiens).
A second branch of her work looks at representations of animals in contemporary French literature. Whereas ecocriticism remains on the periphery of French literary studies, the animal question has garnered much critical attention. Researching different disciplinary work on animals, from philosophy (Derrida, de Fontenay, Lestel) to ethology (Cyrulnik, Chapouthier), from literary criticism (Desblache, Simon) to animal ethics (Vilmer), Prof. Posthumus aims to define the animal question with respect to the French contemporary context. At the same time, she is interested in comparing this context to that of other European countries as the European Union has become an important ruling body for establishing laws about animal well-being and rights in Europe. The relationships between local, regional, cultural differences in a global landscape are at the heart of Dr. Posthumus’s work on ecocriticism and animal studies."
As someone who works in a French department, of late on questions that rarely observe national or linguistic boundaries, it's a joy to come Posthumus who is clearly grappling with what it means to think about literature's relationship to environmental questions from an academic "home" whose definition seems to make such questions seem too big, or out of place. Posthumus clearly draws the lines a bit differently to me, focusing on Francophone theorists and French literature, whereas I perhaps make different boundaries: I seek to be in the early modern, as a place to be situated, while allowing different languages to blow in on the winds. In any case, let's all go read Posthumus!
Interesting piece here about NASA's JPL's recent release of (retro-style) posters about the future of space exploration, to promote travel to other planets. All can be downloaded here.
I've been thinking and writing a lot about the ex-terranean, for the book On the Exterranean, which is almost done. An article in the Guardian today reminds me that the concept will take on its full force as a singular kind of material connection once "mining" no longer means, by default, "mining the planet." The newspaper reports that Luxembourg this week aims to play a major role in asteroid mining; which comes indeed after November's decision by the US to grant "space resource rights," meaning that--and despite the international treaty that would seem to make this impossible, miners of asteroids or other planets would be able to keep whatever they find. I'll forego the obvious comments on this. Twenty years from now, I'll perhaps be writing a new book, then, On the Ex-Asteroidean, about what these bits of asteroids, brought down to Earth, "mean," what we "do" with them, how we perceive them, etc.
Project THE HUMANIST anthropocene
is a thought archive and workspace of Phillip John Usher (NYU) at the crossroads of early modern humanism and the problems and insights of the Anthropocene. Main Research Page.
ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment)
Environmental Humanities (journal)
Resilience (A Journal of the Environmental Humanities)
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