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Eco-Entanglements: Ruin, Grafting, Stratification [c. 920-2020]

Graduate Conference

February 22, 2020


Keynote Speakers: Jean Feerick & Heide Estes


What are the ecological affordances of thinking with the medieval and early modern past? How can the environmental humanities inspire eco-mimetic modes of thinking and writing? This think-tank conference invites research-in-progress that parses logics of environmental entanglement (ruin, grafting, stratification) across pre- and early modern networks of cultural artifacts, earthy matter, and temporality of human timescales. Our conversation will open onto how medieval and early modern ecocritical scholarship is speaking directly to contemporary environmental concerns. 


The conference will include three panels, grouped thematically according to distinct modes of ecological entanglement:


~ Ruin: Texts, often imperfectly preserved, testify to the ruinous forces of nature as experienced in earlier centuries. The cultural artifacts damaged by water, rot, and fire evinced a “human” struggle with and against the “natural” world. The vast cultural, material, and textual ruins of medieval England were unearthed, consumed, and repurposed by early moderns in myriad ways. How might these entanglements of the past inform a modern posture toward environmental catastrophe? Do contemporary scholars have an obligation to salvage “dead” languages, “primitive” technologies, and “erroneous” science, and why?


~ Grafting: For the pre/early modern scholar, grafting is a motif and conceit that provides a model for ecocriticism that is entangled with the nonhuman world. Inspired and provoked by the early modern debates about the ethics of human gardeners mixing breeds and types of plant life, this panel is especially interested in experimental, multimodal, and/or interdisciplinary projects which articulate ecological questions across historical periodizations and traditional disciplinary divides. For instance, how might we “graft” a pre/early modern cultural or material artifact onto 21st -century economics in order for that particular, vibrant object to bear fruit? What are the ethical and intellectual hazards of doing so?


~ Stratification: Ruptured, layered, diachronous and synchronous, the geological record has produced a rich repertoire for rethinking human temporalities. Entangled with non-literary environments, literary texts often re-imagine futurity, causation, and pattern. How can ecological readings of literary texts help to uncover alternatives to disciplinary periodization and heterolinearity? How might these texts prompt 21st century readers to be more receptive to, for example, “queer” temporalities or “crip” temporalities? In what ways does ecocriticism interrogate “medieval,” “early modern,” even “the humanities” as temporal constructions?


Each panelist will offer a 10-minute thought-piece aimed at generating conversation. Emphasis will be placed on sparking exploratory, lateralized conversations between panelists and audiences. Click here to submit an abstract. Abstracts must be submitted by December 8, 2019.