Friday, September 05, 2014


The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment is a list serv I’ve followed for more than a decade.  It has changed over the years.  Just now a member has challenged the lack of online “discussion” which I suppose might be interpreted as a lack of argument or personal opinion.  Instead, the complainant, who was immediately joined by a few others, says the listserv is dominated by appeals for textbook ideas for courses, or book announcements (sometimes written by members) or a constant stream of Calls for Papers (CFPs).  Granting that it’s true, and also it’s true that we’ve become kind of humorless, what I think I’m hearing is loneliness.  I am not lonely.  I do not want to be argued down.

ASLE folks in person.

I’m doing a cut-and-paste of three recent CFP’s so you can see them, because I suspect that most people don’t even realize that intense and gifted people are closely scrutinizing these topics.  Personally, I learn a lot just from reading the thinking that went into framing the question, though there’s no chance at all of me attending, much less submitting a paper.  That’s about all this particular post of mine is: samples of what I read daily and sometimes respond to here.  But I know some of my readers are active participants, so I left the particulars at the end intact.

WWI trench warfare.

"Ecology and War: "In the Trenches: Ecological Subtexts of War and Protest Literature"

In honor of the centenary of World War I, this panel aims to address the part that ecology and other environmental images/narratives play in capturing the tensions and terrors of war, conflict, protest, and resistance. The concept of the trench inspires the topic of this panel, as the trench was conceived of as a way to protect combatants from death and/or disfigurement. Those that resorted to "trench warfare" overlooked the fact that in protecting soldiers from the scars of war, the trenches would instead indefinitely scar the earth. We can see this most evidently in the fields of France where the deep wounds in the ground are still healing, now grown over and caved in as the land reclaims itself for its own. In keeping with the conference theme of "underground," we will be exploring how the various parties within a conflict -- from the combatants on the battlefield, to the citizen opponents and enemies of the state -- must seek shelter within the earth, either metaphorically (as in political parties that must "go underground" to survive) or literally (for example, the poets of the Great War who wrote from the trenches). 

An anthology of poems and "comics"

The panel is open for broad, global interpretations of the relationship between war, literature, and ecology; scholars of all geographies and languages are welcome to submit to the panel. As we are in the centenary years of the fighting of World War I, papers on the literature of the Great War are of particular interest, but are not intended to be the sole focus of the panel. Please submit 250-word abstract and brief bio, along with any audiovisual specifications that would be needed for the presentation to the chair before November 1, 2014. For any inquiries and to submit to the panel, please send all correspondence to Anna Hiller at Idaho State University  ( . 

Anna E. Hiller, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Spanish
Department of Languages & Literatures
Idaho State University
Pocatello, ID  83209


"Fractured Ecopoetics from the Beat Underground"

As direct heirs to Dostoyevsky's bleak vision in Notes from the Underground, the Beat Generation also wrote from the cultural and poetic underground of the twentieth century at a pivotal moment of transition in Zeitgeist.  As avant-garde, subterranean writers, the experimental lifestyle and poetics of the Beats were forces that shaped one of the most important forms of contemporary subculture—a fact that has been largely recognized.  However, a fact that has remained mostly unrecognized to this day is that Beat experimental procedures, from sketching composition to cut-ups and Buddhist-inspired poetics—also belong to the precursor forces that fractured the pastoral and the romantic, and laid the groundwork for contemporary forays into the territory of wild radical avant-garde ecopoetics.  

Indeed, with the exception of Gary Snyder, what the Beat Generation brings to ecopoetics has been largely disregarded.  Yet, the Beats' grounding in the urban, the toxic, the "wilderness of the mind," and the experimentally aesthetic offers a fluid poetics of field-being that invites us to rethink both physical and mental ecologies, as well as the link between them.  

Open to both scholars and practising poets/artists, this panel wishes to explore how the Beat underground and its experimental practices are soils nourishing and renewing our understanding of experimental ecopoetics and its contemporary offshoots.  Papers/creative contributions investigating, but not limited to—the following questions are sought: 

To what extent do concepts like composting, accretion, sedimentation, recycling, waste, rhyzomatic proliferation, fractals, fracking, and others help us to understand Beat poetics as an ecopoetics?

Conversely, to what extent do Beat poetics anticipate/partake of some of the varieties of radical landscape poetry today and wild avant-garde experimental practices (including digital poetry)?

How do Beat writings fracture, bend, and renew the pastoral into the post-pastoral, the romantic into the post-romantic?  To what extent do Beat writings mesh with the concept(s) of "dark ecology"?

What light do Beat experimental practices throw on the question of  flow and fracture between eco-aesthetics and eco-ethics? 

How do the shifting structures, processes, and material agencies underground help us to understand the Beat underground better in terms of a transitional avant-garde formation?  And by extension, how does the physical underground below our feet help us rethink the avant-garde and the cultural underground?  How can we reconceptualize the avant-garde and its different waves anew by using material underground forces as a reading grid?

Please send 300 word abstracts for 15 minute papers & a biosketch to both Franca Bellarsi ( and Chad Weidner ( by 20 October 2014.

Dr. Franca Bellarsi
Associate Professor (English and American Literature)
Université Libre de Bruxelles
CP 175
+ 32 (0)2 650 67 47


It's not just an idea.

“What Lies Beneath the Clothes of Culture? Cannibalism in Fiction” 
ASLE 2015 Call for Presentation Abstracts for an organized panel submission
11th Biennial Conference, June 23-27, 2015 in Moscow, Idaho
CFP Deadline: November 30, 2014

From ancient Greek myths to 21st century post-apocalyptic novels, cannibalism abounds, forcing us to reconsider easy binaries of self and other or civilized “us” and a savage “them.” As Maggie Kilgour argues in From Communion to Cannibalism, incorporation—the most basic example of which is eating—“depends upon and enforces an absolute division between inside and outside; but in the act itself that opposition disappears,  dissolving the structure it appears to produce”. What, then, when the food being eaten is human flesh?
This panel proposes to examine the various ways literature explores acts of cannibalism to break down notions of absolute difference and articulate the dual fears of anthropophagy: the fear of being cannibalized and the fear of becoming cannibal, the fear of becoming human meat and the fear of eating it. Often considered the demarcation of civilization and barbarism, cannibalism in fact explores the problem of our status as human beings who become hungry: the specter of our common animality. As Simon Estok points out, “Cannibalism is an unambiguously ecocritical issue.”  One cannot be a cannibal without also being human, and meat cannot be but human flesh to mark the consumer of it “cannibal.”
Following the conference theme, then, this panel explores “the importance of experiences that lie beneath (and before and after) the shiny edifices of progress, rationality, and industry […]. to consider what lies beneath us” in terms of culture, definitions of humanity, and what makes us human via explorations of fictional anthropophagy and what those representations mean.
Please see for the full conference description and keynote speakers. 
Please submit 300-word abstracts of proposed 15-minute presentations to Sarah E. McFarland ( by November 30, 2014. Questions are welcome!

As constant readers will know, I’ve already written about some of these concepts.  They seem to be the shared product of people going deeper into thought about the world, almost Jungian as a shared unconscious.  

Sometimes I get exasperated that all these highly educated academics DO is talk and fly around from one nice place to another to have conversations.  But I appreciate the fact that this hermit has the chance to consider such issues.  I don’t necessarily have to be there.  And I don’t necessarily want to argue about the topics.  I am solitary but not lonely.  

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