Toward an Ecopoetics of Randomness and Design (Ecozon@ Issue 10.1, Spring 2019)

deadline for submissions: 
July 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Ecozon@ - European Journal of Literature, Culture, and Environment

Issue 10.1 Spring 2019. Toward an Ecopoetics of Randomness and Design. Guest Editors: Franca Bellarsi and Judith Rauscher. Université libre de Bruxelles and Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg. (Submissions open on 15 May 2018 and close on 15 July 2018).

What ecopoetics is and what it does, how it relates to but also exceeds ecopoetry, and the nature of its relationship to the more general poiesis (‘making’) at work in the material universe remain open and thorny questions. Conceived of as a form of investigative writing practice, ecopoetics approaches the environment as a site of exploration, attention, and exchange (Jonathan Skinner 2004-05). As such, ecopoetics not only opens up human making to the processes and agentive forces governing the non-human world: it also sees aesthetic fashioning as part and parcel of, and not an obstacle to, the effort of (re-)thinking ecological relationships.

For this Special Focus section of Ecozon@, we invite scholars from across disciplines to investigate how ecopoetics manifests not only in poetry, but also in genres different from poetry, as well as in other products of human creativity such as architecture or landscaping. In addition, we would like contributors to discuss and share their perspectives on the role that the principles of randomness and design play in ecopoetics’ exploration of the complex relationship between artifice and the natural environment in and beyond writing. 

Combining concern with the ecologies of naturecultures (cf. Donna Haraway) with an interest in poetics as a form of critical consciousness and socio-political engagement, ecopoetics has been described in the Anglo-American tradition as a “mobile contamination unit,” a practice “crossing and acknowledging linguistic, cultural and species borders” (Jonathan Skinner, 2001) as well as a practice revelling in the ecological tensions at the boundary between different habitats, disciplines, and ways of thinking (Christopher Arigo, 2008). In the French tradition, the term “écopoétique” has been used as a general synonym for literary ecocriticism, but also characterises, more specifically, a countercultural discourse that “re-inscribes ecology in art and art within nature” and attempts to “modelize human interaction with the environment,” while constantly “re-inventing” such modelizations (Nathalie Blanc, Denis Chartier, Thomas Pughe, 2008; transl. Bellarsi). Seeking to foster a comparative conversation that probes into these different framings of the biophysical and sociocultural dynamics governing naturecultures past and present, we encourage contributors to draw from different critical traditions in their discussion of ecopoetics and its ‟defamiliarizing” strategies (Scott Knickerbocker, 2012).

As a way of focusing the discussion on ecopoetics in this Special Issue, we propose a foregrounding of notions of randomness and design. Many recent theorizations in the field of ecocriticism, from poetry scholarship to materialist approaches, have touched on issues related to randomness and design (cf. Angela Hume et al., 2012; Stacy Alaimo 2010; Serenella Iovino & Serpil Opperman, 2012), but these concepts would reward deeper investigation. Besides pervading artistic practice at large, randomness and design also course through various forms of experimental eco-aesthetics, such as Adam Dickinson’s “metabolic poetics,” the collaborative ‟avant-garde(n)” compositions of Ian Hamilton Finlay and Sue Finlay at “Little Sparta,” or Jay de Feo’s ever evolving experimental sculpture “The Rose.” Similarly, subatomic/quantum physics and systems theories have repeatedly highlighted that pattern and indeterminacy are central to the processual dynamics of the living, alternating as it does between order and chaos, temporary equilibrium and instability, chance and necessity (Ilya Prigogine & Isabelle Stengers 1984; Fritjof Capra 1975, 1996; Herbert Maturana & Francisco Varela, 1979, 1984). Randomness (trajectories of becoming dictated by chance and unpredictability) and design (trajectories determined by laws leading to certain patterns) are thus at the centre of the relational activity and transformation underpinning the self-organization and configuring of many systems. It is also with this type of poiesis and re-inscription within naturecultures that ecopoetics grapples and engages.

Possible perspectives on an ecopoetics of randomness and design include—but are not limited to—the following questions/approaches: 

  1. How might individual case studies of ecopoetic texts and practices help us to re-examine the enmeshment between natural and cultural ecologies in relation to processes such as collaboration, assemblage proliferation, dissipation, collapse, contamination, pollination, decay, erosion, accretion, sedimentation, etc.?
  2. How does an ecopoetics of randomness and design relate to or diverge from poetic practices such as “zoopoetics” (cf. Aaron Moe, 2014) and “geopoetics” (cf. Kenneth White)?
  3. In what respects do continental European discourses on ecopoetics differ from those cultivated in the Anglo-American tradition? How may these discourses be brought together in productive ways to examine literature and other kinds of natural and cultural creations organized around principles of randomness and design?
  4. What are the political and ethical ramifications of an ecopoetics of randomness and design?What might a feminist, Marxist, or postcolonial critique of such an ecopoetics look like and how may it open new perspectives on concepts like ‟agency” or ‟wildness”?
  5. How may the foregrounding of notions of randomness and design in ecopoetics help us to bridge different orientations within ecocriticism and ecology, such as cognitive, materialist and environmental justice approaches?
  6. How might an ecopoetics of randomness and design provide new ways of bringing together literary environmental criticism and the hard sciences, for example through chaos theory or evolutionary biology’s views on art and aesthetics as an adaptative tool and “mapping device” (Joseph Carroll, 2012; Nancy Easterlin, 2012)?

Please direct any queries to Franca Bellarsi ( and Judith Rauscher ( Manuscripts of 6000-8000 words may be submitted via the journal platform as early as 15 May 2018 and no later than 15 July 2018. Authors must comply with the guidelines indicated on the platform, including the title, abstracts, and keywords (in the language of the article, English, and Spanish). MLA style should be used for citations. Permission must be obtained for any images used, and the images should be included in the text. Manuscripts will be accepted in English, French, and German.

We highly encourage potential authors to make prior contact with the editors and submit an abstract proposal by January 2018 (approximately 500 words).