We are, indeed, at a moment of generic toppling. By which I mean: as I spoke about at the recent "Epic Geographies" conference: if weather belongs to novels, then climate belongs to epic. So as climate appears in our weather, "we" are shifting surely from novel to epic. This is what it means when the Guardian headlines today that "Meteorologists are seeing global warming's effect on the weather"; this is what it means when Parisians stare on at the Seine, reaching its highest level since 1910 (see here). We leave the novelistic to head into epic, i.e. each gesture, each moment, is as if held onto by Poseidon's trident or Hera's anger or Zeus's lack of libido-control. And there is no way to calm it all with a "banquet des dieux."
Ken Hiltner (UCSB) gave “Epic Geographies”’ second keynote address, memorable for many reasons, of which I note only four:
The fourth and final memorable moment of Hiltner’s talk was of the meta- variety. Hiltner began and closed with the point that this would likely be his very last talk at a conference! Not because he’s retiring, but because he sees us as having reached a point: the emissions caused by conference travel are huge and unjustified. Hiltner and colleagues at UCSB are indeed organizing an upcoming “nearly carbon-neutral” conference at UCSB, “Climate Change: Views from the Humanities,” in which people participate online (Details here / CFP here).
Susanne Wofford (NYU) offered a crucial reading focused on epic similes and in particular on Spenser’s Faerie Queene, in which she made an intervention key for thinking the Anthropocene: what if we read epic similes as a way to access the phenomenology of geography? In other words: what if we look to epic similes not for their descriptions of, or references to, real (or not-real) places, but for how they “immerse us in” the experience of “being in” some place? This is key- One recurring thing we see in discussions of the Anthropocene is a flickering between saying that it defines humans “as” a geological force, or “as being like” a geological force, precisely sitting us at the frontier of literal/scientific and figurative language. (At NYU MARC's "Epic Geographies" conference.)
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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