|Some Prismatics: Eileen, Lowell, Serenella, Stacy, JJC|
I've just returned from my first Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment conference, "Changing Nature: Migrations, Energies, Limits." I'm too sleep deprived to offer a coherent narrative. Some snippets and vignettes in its lieu:
- As you might expect from an environmentally themed conference, the gathering had a low key, unpretentious feel. Folders were recycled cardboard, waste was minimized, the banquet was vegan. Striking up conversations with strangers was easy -- required, really. This was not the MLA.
- The first panel I attended was the best -- well worth getting up so early to see, despite not having slept much the night before. Called "Weather Machines," the session had Christopher Schaberg, Andrew C. Hageman and Clara Van Zanten sharing brilliant work on just how those terms intersect. It was especially good to meet Chris Schaberg, whose projects I've been following for a while. See also this, in which he is also a collaborator. I ran into Chris throughout the conference and had some great conversations.
- Prismatic Ecology had its debut at ASLE. I know the essays in the volume intimately, but having Lowell Duckert, Eileen Joy, Steve Mentz, Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann transform their written compositions into performances was awesome. Though a few of the questions afterwards were hard to interpret (the first was from a man insisting that the book's title needed to be changed to Unprismatic Ecology), the project was well received.
- If you missed ASLE, you haven't missed Prismatic: The Conference Version. While in Kansas I was notified that our iteration designed for MLA Chicago has been accepted. Stacy Alaimo, Lowell, Steve, Margaret Ronda and Tobias Menely, Will Stockton, Allan Stoekl and Julian Yates and me will perform six minute versions of our essays (Violet-Black, Maroon, Brown, Red, Beige, Chartreuse, Orange, and Grey) while our color is projected behind us, timed to fade at the six minute mark. No worries about going overtime at this one.
- The plenaries I attended were generally excellent. Rob Nixon gave an inspiring talk about reading geological strata alongside social stratification, so that the anthropocene is seen not just as a chemical imprint on stone but an accelerated widening of human disparity: that is, while it matters that carbon is readable in the lithic like never before, that change is intimate to the emergence of a worldwide plutocracy, so that every conversation about climate change needs also to be a conversation about social change.
- Stacy Alaimo and Cary Wolfe gave a terrific double plenary, one that made clear shared concerns as well as divergences. We were very much looking forward to the Q&A they were scheduled to give each other ... but somehow that portion ended before it began after an audience member took to the microphone ahead of time and posed a very long and rather baffling query.
- It was fun to hang out with Stacy (whom I'd met when she came to GW two years ago): despite the fact that she was staying in a hotel a mile from campus, our paths intersected constantly. Cary also joined us one evening in what quickly became our accustomed corner of the hotel bar -- and it was good to see him again so quickly after Elemental Ecocriticism.
- I finally got to meet Ursula Heise, and to hang out with Misty Schieberle and some current and former UK Lawrence graduate students.
- Because this was an ecology themed conference, we thought it only right to kidnap Eileen and
- Another highlight for me was finally meeting Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann. I've been collaborating with them for some time: they wrote the "Onward" for Prismatic Ecology, I wrote a foreword for a book they co-edited, they are composing an afterword for a collection Lowell and I are editing, I moderated their ASLE session on NatureCulture ... We'd been in touch so frequently that I felt like I knew them both already ... and as it turned out, I did. Serenella even got many of us to sing along, late one night, to her iPhone version of an ABBA karaoke machine. Seriously.
- The food in Lawrence, Kansas is very good and not all that expensive, as are the libations. Lowell, Eileen, Steve and I spent a great deal of time gorging and imbibing together and had a dinner escapade that will never appear in print as careers could be ruined.
- During the conference my daughter KEC called me filled with excitement at her choice to run for the Student Government office of secretary. Her slogans: "Give me the votes, I'll take the notes!" and "Don't be shy, give Cohen a try!"
- Lowell and I took an end of conference excursion to Mushroom Rock State Park. He found it, and it is exactly what its name describes. I'm grateful for his companionship.
- It was a long conference and I'm happy to be home. I've now entered the period of what I am calling Writing Lockdown. I will emerge when the fall semester begins. More on that, and maybe some related news, soon.