Nature and Narrative: Writing, Literature and Pedagogy in the Anthropocene

deadline for submissions: 
March 31, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Saint Louis University Madrid

Conference to be held in Madrid on June 22-23, 2018


Keynote speakers: Dr. Joni Adamson and Dr. Scott Slovic


Since the discovery of DNA the metaphor of writing to the genetic makeup of living beings has been a tempting one to engage. As George and Muriel Beadle wrote in 1966 (and as Marcello Barbieri points to in his essay “What is Biosemiotics?”) “The deciphering of the genetic code has revealed our possession of a language much older than hieroglyphics, a language as old as life itself, a language that is the most living language of all—even if its letters are invisible and its words are buried in the cells of our bodies” (Beadle and Beadle 1966). 


If indeed bodies are “written” in something akin to what we consider language, what does this say about the relationship of narrative to Nature? And, what implications might this have for the teaching of writing and the study of literature? How does this begin to alter traditional views of subject/object relationships and ideas of autopoiesis? How has the relationship between Nature and narrative been imagined historically, and how has ever expanding scientific knowledge and an increasingly technological human habitat influenced our understanding of the relationship?


Do the stories we tell have material environmental impacts as Adrian J. Ivakhiv has argued? Should we take the signs that permeate the biological world as “readable” messages that can be interpreted? Can “interpretation” be said to exist in the mimicry that permeates cellular reproduction? Can we read narrative written in the inanimate world as well as the animate? If so, what impact does this have on the study of literature, the teaching of writing, and our understanding of the origins of narrative?


Potential topics include but are not limited to: 





-Poetics and Nature 

-Travel Narrative 

-Nature Writing 

-Indigenous Literatures 

-History of Science 

-Nature in Science Fiction


-Material Ecocriticism 

-Narrative Scholarship 

-Complex Systems Theory