Very excited about Premodern Ecologies, happening at University of Colorado, Boulder, this week. I'll be speaking about "On the Exterranean" and, more importantly, listening to fabulous keynotes and papers by the likes of Steve Mentz, Miri Rubin, Paolo Squatriti, and many others.
Premodern Ecologies: An Interdisciplinary Conference on
Human Interaction with the Natural World
in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
October 20-22, 2016
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20
5:00-6:30pm Fourth Annual James Field Willard Lecture:
Location: British and Irish Studies Room, Norlin Library
Miri Rubin (History, St. Marys University of London)
“The Ecology of the Medieval Parish”
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21 (all events in UMC 247 unless otherwise noted)
8:30-9:00am Registration & Coffee
9:00-9:15am Conference Introductions
9:15-10:15am Plenary Lecture 1
Paolo Squatriti (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor)
“Worrisome Weeds: Exotic Plants and Biological Invasions
in the Early Medieval Mediterranean”
10:15-10:30am Short Break
10:30am-12:00pm Session 1: Conditions and Perceptions in the Early Middle Ages
Danielle Joyner (Southern Methodist University)
“A Savin Bush in the Cloisters: The Art of Nature in the Plan of St. Gall”
Tim Newfield (Princeton Environmental Institute)
“Complicating Climate-Dearth Linkages in the Carolingian World”
Renée Trilling (University of Illinois at Urbana-Campagne)
“Marking time: The Place of the Human in Anglo-Saxon Cosmology”
12:00-1:00pm Catered Lunch
1:00-2:30pm Session 2: Intentional Sustainability in Premodern Woodlands
Richard Keyser (University of Wisconsin at Madison)
“Medieval Conservation: Definitions and the Example of French Woodlands”
Abigail Dowling (Mercer University)
“Pour la grante richesse: Sustainable Natural Resource Management
at the Estate of Hesdin, 1302-1329”
Sara Morrison (Brescia University College at Western University)
“Traditional Woodland Management in Seventeenth-Century
2:30-2:45pm Short Break
2:45-4:15pm Session 3: Rocks and Roots in Early Modern Europe
Harriet Archer (Newcastle University)
“Retributive Earth: Exemplary History, Posthumanism, and John Higgins’
Histories of King Forrex (1574 and 1587)”
Phillip John Usher (New York University)
“On the Exterranean: Towards of Phenomenology of Extraction”
Perry Guevara (Emory University)
“Milton’s Root Brain: Minimal Cognition in the Garden”
4:15-5:00pm Break with coffee, tea, and cookies
5:00-6:00pm Plenary Lecture 2
Ann Harris (Depauw University)
“Entangled Ecologies: Stone and Will in Pre-Modern Brittany”
Location: 5th Floor Lounge and Terrace, UMC Building
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22 (all events in UMC 247 unless otherwise noted)
8:30-9:00am Coffee & Pastries
9:00-10:00am Plenary Lecture 3
Steve Mentz (St. Johns University)
“Dissolving Hamlet: An Anthropocene Reading”
10:00-10:30am Short Break
10:30am-12:00pm Session 4: Calamity and Control in the High Middle Ages
Tobias Hrynick (Fordham University)
“Water as Labor, Water as Weapon: Mill Dispute and Water Power
in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem”
Manon Williams (University of Colorado at Boulder)
“Rights and Usage of Woodlands in Thirteenth-Century Normandy”
Elizabeth Swedo (Western Oregon University)
“Mundane Disasters: Icelandic Society and Environment
in the Late Middle Ages”
12:00-1:00pm Box Lunch
1:00-2:30pm Session 5: Hagiographic and Literary Landscapes
Britton Brooks (University of Hawai’i at Manoa)
“Eco-Criticism and the Natural World: Native Soundscapes in Felix’s
Vita Sancti Guthlaci”
Andrew M. Richmond (The Ohio State University)
“Evaluating the Spaces of Romance: The Savage Nature of Civilized Land
in Sir Degrevant”
Shannon Garner-Balandrin (Northeastern University)
“Into a Cloven Pine: The Ecological Uncanny in Early Modern Romance”
2:30-2:45pm Short Break
2:45-4:15pm Session 6: Birds and Bugs in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Cristina Martelli (University of Maine at Orono)
“Sustainable Practices, Territorial Control and the Capture of Game Animals
and Birds: Examples from North and Central Italy between 1300 and 1550”
Nodin de Saillan (University of Colorado at Boulder)
“Worms, Rats, and Ravens: Charting the Cultural Construction of Vermin
from Edward II to James I”
Roya Biggie (CUNY Graduate Center)
“The Pedagogical Potential of Beetles in Thomas Moffet’s
The Theater of Insects and Shakespeare’s Cymbeline”
4:15-5:00pm Break with coffee, tea, and cookies
5:00-6:00pm Reflections by Richard C. Hoffmann (York University)
followed by a general discussion open to all conference participants
6:30-10:00pm Conference Banquet
Location: Café Aion, 1235 Pennsylvania Ave. Boulder
Summer 2016: The World's a Mess; Let's Teach Complexity Awareness- And "On the Exterranean" is done.
It’s been a terrible summer. That’s an understatement.
On June 23, 2016, 51.89% of the British electorate voted to leave the European Union in the shameful shambles known as Brexit, which lead to the pound falling to its lowest value in thirty years, the resignations of the British Prime Minister David Cameron and of the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, a new Prime Minister, Theresa May who elected Boris Johnson to the post of Foreign Secretary—so that he could keep on insulting the world on behalf of the UK… It’s a catastrophe for the UK, its economy, its politics, and ethics. It’s also a personal catastrophe for so many folks who grew up, like me, never having not been European—our passports used to open up nearly thirty countries; we grew up learning European languages, making European friends and lovers; building our personal and professional lives around being European. That all ended. The future for the UK is not bright.
In July, the police shot dead Alton Sterling in Louisiana; the police shot dead Philando Castile as he reached for his driver’s license, as he had been asked—his girlfriend live-streamed the whole thing; the police shot a black Florida man, Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist caring for his autistic patient, who, was lying down on the floor with his arms up; a terrorist driving a truck killed more than eighty people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice; a terrorist in Germany armed with an axe and a knife injured four people on a train, followed by the shooting at a Shopping Mall in Bavaria—nine killed and twenty-one people dead, by a machete-killing in Reutlingen (one dead) and an explosion at a German music festival, which killed one man and injured twelve; much blood was shed during and after a coup d’état in Turkey; a priest was killed during an ISIS-sponsored hostage-taking situation in Rouen; and on and on and on. Meanwhile, the US presidential elections go from bad to worse. Little need be said of Trump—Brexit proves he could get elected, that the worst could happen. There are various camps of people who will likely vote for HRC, from the lovers to the haters, but the DNC’s crooked and dishonest support for her, as shown in the Wikileaks’ release of DNC emails, sully this second convention.
All summer, it’s been a slow erasure of that easy response: “Well, yes, this place is a mess, at least there’s….”—but no, all the places I call home are a total mess. Which has made it particularly trying to keep thinking about global warming, about the Anthropocene, to keep writing about that—yet we must. If the summer’s left me one thought beyond despair, it’s the thought that education is the only way forward for the world. Whether you study Physics of 8th-century German poetry, whether you’re into the history of optics or cancer research, whatever you study, you’re going to be less likely to accept other people’s opinions, to ignore when facts don’t fit together, and more likely to think for yourself, to learn how to disagree with people in a way that doesn’t demand a gun or a machete. Education’s main goal—and main takeaway—is the realization that there are no simple answers, that things are complex, and that if someone is offering you a simple solution, it’s probably the wrong one.
I finished my book on extraction, “On the Exterranean”—it’s now with a publisher. Watch this space.
Big fan of Evariste Richer’s work “Fulgurite” (2008), seen at the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris this weekend. When lighting—very hot lightening—strikes silica or other common (semi-)conductive minerals or substrates, it creates a fulgurite (<Lat. fulgur = lightening), strangely shaped rock-like objects. But here, the fulgurite is crossed through by a beautifully industrial blue neon tube. The museum notice sees in all this an emblem of Latour’s nature/culture problem…
They’re gone. There are no more of those rodents known as Bramble Cay melomys (or alternatively as mosaic-tailed rats). They are extinct. The Guardian notes that this event is “the first recorded extinction of a mammal anywhere in the world thought to be primarily due to human-caused climate change.” Last seen in 2009, and after extensive searches, these Bramble Cay melomys have been judged gone, once and forever. A moment to remember that to still talk of the “environment” is to perpetuate the problem, as Michel Serres argued long ago, for the word “assumes that we humans are at the center of a system of nature” and thus that we look out and see “the” environment suffering. Ecology, Ecology, Ecology is the way to go.
Remember this? "Now it’s really time to get serious about climate change"
The Guardian reports today on the Carbfix project: "The new research pumped CO2 into the volcanic rock under Iceland and sped up a natural process where the basalts react with the gas to form carbonate minerals, which make up limestone. The researchers were amazed by how fast all the gas turned into a solid – just two years, compared to the hundreds or thousands of years that had been predicted."
The Guardian reports--in a thoroughly anthropocentric mode--how spiders, too, become climate refugees as tens of thousands of spiders engage in a "mass ballooning event" in an attempt to fine a region's remaining dry spots.
The Guardian reports on how "The Louvre's closure proves art cannot survive climate change."
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."
George Eustice grew up at, and worked for (for 9 years), a fruit farm--this fruit farm, in fact. It's a farm where you can "pick you own," something I did a lot as a kid growing up in England. The Trevaskis fruit farm says that "Even if the rain sets in, welly boots and puddles are great" (see their website). In 2000, he promoted the "No" vote regarding whether or not the UK should adopte the euro as its official currency. And now, and now, he is the farming minister in the Conservative party. And he can't wait for the UK to leave Europe--so that the UK can get rid of those pesky European environmental laws: "If we had more flexibility, we could focus our scientists’ energies on coming up with new, interesting ways to protect the environment, rather than just producing voluminous documents from Brussels" (source: Guardian). As the Guardian reports, Eustice wants to bring US-style environmental politics to the UK: "On pesticides, Eustice said the EU’s precautionary principle needed to be reformed in favour of a US-style risk-based approach, allowing faster authorisation." In other words: a Brexit would likely spell many things--but it would surely mark the end of a communal approach to ecology. A fruit farm-- it sounds nice, right? "Pick your own"--who doesn't love that? I remember as a kid, picking strawberries, walking on hay, and wondering why I got these sores on my arms. Fabulous. Yes. More of that please.
The Guardian brings good news and bad news: (1) that "With women at the top, UN climate body has chance for real change"; and (2) how "fracking can contribute to climate change" as seen from the emissions measured atop the Swiss Alps.
Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, was shot dead on Friday in Cincinnati after a 4-year-old boy got into its enclosure. Articles and Facebook posts have proliferated (like this one from Time), most of them either (1) wholly anthropocentric, or (2) wholly gorilla-centric, asserting something like (1) we have to protect the child or (2) we should have protected the gorilla. The child's mother has been harassed. Comments on Twitter were equally mean and lacking critical distance. A Facebook page has been set up in support of the mother (Michelle Gregg). The whole tragic affair reminded me of the Australian ecofeminist Val Plumwood's experience--she was almost eaten by a crocodile, an experience she recounts in several places, most fully in the posthumous Eye of the crocodile (read it for free here). The situation is obviously different, and we can't confuse the two, but critical distance is what's needed.
Giving Twitter a try. From now on, all new blog posts will also be posted to Twitter.
Follow here: https://twitter.com/h_anthropocene
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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