by J J Cohen
Five years ago Sharon O'Dair, Stacy Alaimo, Stephanie LeMenager and I founded the MLA Forum on Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities. We've been surprised and pleased at the success of this new community, gathering scholars across disciplines and time periods for some vibrant conversations. This year -- my last on the executive committee, and therefore my year to chair -- brings our annual gathering for a happy hour as well as what appears to me to be one of the most environmental humanities rich MLA annual meeting we have had. Here are some of the events collated; please let me know if I forgot anything. If you will be in NYC this January, we hope you will join us.
Thursday January 4
12:00 PM Early Modern Biopolitics: Race, Nature, Sexuality
This session explores the utility of biopolitics to early modern English and to early American literatures, leveraging early modern culture to retrace the genealogy of biopolitics. Topics include sixteenth-century Atlantic slavery, Restoration-era conceptions of sovereignty and race, seventeenth-century sexuality and population theory, early American racial theories of Protestant lineage, and pan-European early modern cartography.
AND ALSO AT 12:00 PM: Performance, Materiality, and Ecology in Early Modern Literature
This session examines how early modern performance might inform ideas of agency emerging from contemporary materialist theories. Presenters explore how different categories of matter perform, considering the mineral, the vegetal, and the human outperformed by one of its parts. The presenters and audience debate how thinking about material performance can shift the conversation about agency, acting, and actants.
3:30 PM Anthropocene Reading
This session considers how different practices of critical reading—symptomatic and surface, formalist and materialist, philological and computational—facilitate approaches to literary studies in the Anthropocene.
5:15 PM Responding to Extinction
AND ALSO AT 5:15 PM “Uncer giedd geador”: Feminist Studies in Old English
MLA Ecocriticism & Environmental Humanities Forum Happy Hour
An MLA and ASLE happy hour at 5th&Mad for anyone interested in the environmental humanities and their friends. Please come and meet some new people in the field!
Friday January 5
12:00 PM Climate Science, Climate Narrative: Historical Perspectives
1:45 PM Teaching and Learning the Stories of Standing Rock and #noDAPL
Speakers facilitate a reflective conversation about how the dynamic stories of indigenous-led environmental justice activism at Standing Rock may be taught and learned. Participants share their engagement with Standing Rock and #noDAPL through diverse pedagogical and educational experiences, ranging from working at the Defenders of the Water School to designing university courses to collaborating on open-access resources and public curriculums.
Field trip to Newtown Creek! In tandem with the "Site Specifics" session on Sunday (see below), a group of intrepid MLAers are gathering to explore this place of beauty and toxicity. We will take public transportation and have a considerable walk so please come with a transit card and warm clothing. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot; spaces are limited.
Saturday January 6
8:30AM Early Modern Women and the Environment
Panelists discuss early modern women’s negotiations with built and natural environments. Topics include Vittoria Colonna’s garden at Ischia; biopolitical readings of visual and textual representations of gypsies; Ursulines’ utopian project in New France; literary garden of Lucy, Countess of Bedford, at Twickenham; and women’s manuscript recipes’ engagements with household and natural domains.
12:00 PM Weak Environmentalism
The urgency, high stakes, and planetary scale of climate change have produced commensurately strong environmentalisms. Panelists consider the work that a weak environmentalism might do, as alternative or supplement to strong. The subjects addressed include small-scale actions and ideas, low-intensity affects and social ties, and weak frontiers between species or between animate and inanimate matter. What is the environmentalism of stone?
AND ALSO AT 12 PM Afro-Natures and Afro-Futures: Speculation, Technology, and Environment in African Literature and Film
AND ALSO AT 12 PM Environmental Humanities and Italy
3:30 PM Literature of Waste and Environmental Insecurity in Central and Eastern Europe
5:15 PM Legal Ecologies
The Anglo-American legal tradition is fundamentally anthropocentric and individualist. This session pushes back against this tradition by considering how the theoretical tools developed by ecocriticism might help us redescribe legal experience in terms that don’t depend on the grammar of I and me. Participants also consider the implications of this conceptual reorientation for the practice of environmental justice.
AND ALSO AT 5:15 PM Reclamation Ecopoetics of the African Diaspora
Sunday January 7
12:00 PM Site Specifics
How does place matter, even at a hotel-centric MLA conference? This session focuses on topics related to New York City environs (e.g., the Hudson, urban parks and ecosystems, tectonics, superstorm impacts, and environmental justice) but also on “climate controlled” and other kinds of spaces.
AND ALSO AT 12 PM “Of Strangers Is the Earth the Inn”: Still Life, Scale, and Deep Time in Emily Dickinson