Wednesday, November 01, 2017


by J J Cohen

Dear friends,

Stacy Alaimo and I have been nominated to run for the next co-presidents of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment). Please read our statements at the link below (I hope that you will agree with the ethos we try to articulate) and -- if you are an ASLE member -- please consider supporting our candidacy. Thanks!

(An interesting fact: ASLE has never had a medievalist lead it.)

Jeffrey Cohen (George Washington University) and Stacy Alaimo (University of Texas at Arlington)

I am honored to run for co-president. Over the years no professional organization has meant as much to me as ASLE. Its community has long been a welcoming home, and I am eager to serve the membership, intensify our strengths, and work to ensure a vibrant future. In these times of ecological peril, I look forward to increasing the visibility of its activism as well as our ability to work in tandem with other like- minded organizations to effect social change. I have enthusiastically participated in the ASLE Mentoring Program and am especially dedicated to ensuring that emerging writers, authors and theorists are adequately supported. With Stacy Alaimo, Stephanie LeMenager and Sharon O’Dair I am a founding member of the MLA “Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities Forum”. I am committed to collaboration and believe that ASLE offers a powerful structure for scholars and artists to work across fields and disciplines. My scholarship includes a trilogy of edited collections (two co-edited with Lowell Duckert) that gather more than 50 writers thinking about the future of the environmental humanities, and attempt to bring writers together across time periods as well as disciplinary training: Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory Beyond Green; Elemental Ecocriticism: Thinking with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire (2015); and Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thinking (2017). With Stephanie LeMenager I co-edited a special issue of PMLA on “Assembling the Ecological Digital Humanities” (2016). None of this work would have been possible without the inspiration of ASLE conferences (where much of it began) and its congenial community of scholars, writers, artists and thinkers. With planetary scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton, I wrote a book on Earth (2017) for a general audience. With Julian Yates, I am currently finishing a book on the myth of Noah’s Flood and climate change. Finally, my book Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (2015) was awarded the René Wellek Prize for best book in comparative literature this year.

I am honored to run for co-President of ASLE. The nomination provides the opportunity to give back to an organization that has long been such a vital intellectual community for me. There are few scholarly organizations with such a strong sense of community, comradery, mentorship, and shared ethical and political orientations. I became a member of ASLE soon after the organization was formed, participating in listserv discussions in the early 1990s, while writing my dissertation on topics that would become “ecocriticism, “ecocultural studies,” and “the environmental humanities.” I’ve served as the ASLE Liaison to the SLSA (the Society for Literature Science, and the Arts) from 2004-2009, organizing panels at both of their conferences to promote more cross-fertilization between environmental studies and science studies. I have also served on the Book Awards Committee and as an official Graduate Student Mentor from 2004-2008. It has been exciting to see the organization grow and the field flourish. With Jeffrey J. Cohen, Stephanie LeMenager and Sharon O’Dair I served as a founding member of the MLA “Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities Forum,” and as its first chair. At the University of Texas at Arlington, I served as the co-chair for the President’s Sustainability Committee--working on everything from food services to landscaping to academic programs. I also established (with two colleagues) a cross-disciplinary minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, which I then directed for five years. My own scholarship includes about 45 scholarly essays, as well as the books Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space (2000); Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self (2010), which won the ASLE book award for ecocriticism; and Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times (2016).

Among the issues we would like to work on as co-presidents: how to ensure that at time of dwindling institutional support our membership can still access ASLE conferences, events and resources; fostering more intense collaboration between ASLE’s humanists and natural scientists; finding new ways for our artistic and scholarly branches create things together; ensuring that the work of our membership finds as wide a public as possible (because what we do matters); working with institutions to ensure that a diverse cohort of emerging scholars and artists is being cultivated so that the future of the field will be a more heterogeneous one; ensuring that the biennial conference is site-specific, meaning memorably and tangibly part of the place in which it is held. We share a strong ethical and political commitment to environmentalism, environmental justice, and social justice. Even as the environmental humanities are flourishing nationally and internationally across fields and disciplines, it is important to support ASLE as a vibrant and distinctive organization that has been invaluable for the development of environmental and environmental justice scholarship, practice, and activism.

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