Untimely Endings: The Mimesis of Fiction as a Response to Ecological Crises

deadline for submissions: 
March 8, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Felicity Gilbert & Gavin McLoughlin, MIC, University of Limerick.

Untimely Endings: The Mimesis of Fiction as a Response to Ecological Crises

 

Postgraduate Conference

 

 

https://untimelyendings2019.wixsite.com/untimelyendings

 

 

Location: Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland.

Date: Thursday 25th April 2019

Abstract Submission Due Date: 8th March 2019.

 

Organisers: Felicity Gilbert, Department of English Language and Literature, and Gavin McLoughlin, Department of Philosophy, MIC.

 

Contact: Felicity.Gilbert@mic.ul.ie, Gavin.McLoughlin@mic.ul.ie

 

 

Keynote Speaker: Dr Graeme MacDonald, Associate Professor, University of Warwick.

 

 

 

 

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

“The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

 

The reflective truth of fiction transcends the artifices of societal, cultural, and political divides. It reaches for an inclusive belonging with our interdependent ecology. This has never been more vital to humanity’s continued existence than in the face of our current ecological catastrophes, such as climate change, the mass displacement of people due to modern warfare, and the destruction of natural animal habitats; all of which disrupt the accomplishment of authentic relationships within the Earth’s ecosystem. We want to recognise ourselves in stories while retaining the comfort of not actually being a part of the story. It is this parallel recognition of our shared humanity which allows literature to serve as a mimetic representation of real-world issues, and our potential selves.

 

It has been, arguably, necessary in the development of our socio-political and cultural world to prioritise the ethical consideration of human welfare over the natural world. However, our interdependent relationships with the natural world are too often dismissed. We are conditioned to identify ourselves within the artifices of the human world and the anthropocentric subjugation of nature that this entails. Martin Heidegger describes our perception of nature as a mere “standing reserve” for human manipulation brought about by technological modernity. We therefore forget how our prosperity, and continued existence, is in fact enabled by the earth: “it is also necessary to civilize humans in relation to nature” (Victor Hugo). Although work has begun in earnest, we are still in the nascent stages of the ethical consideration of nature, plants, animals, as having value independent of the instrumental value we impose on entities in the world.

 

We call for new, transdisciplinary perspectives dealing with the necessity of a symbiotic balance between humanity and the natural world that surrounds and includes us. We witness the need for balance and respect for both the natural and human worlds through fictional texts such as The Lord of the Rings. The inhabitants of Middle Earth have long cared for the forests, until evil forces seek to abuse and destroy natural resources in order to fuel their war machines. In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, we are presented with a fictional documentation of the catastrophic human cost of the American Great Depression, where the priority of neo-colonial economic imperialism ensures the destruction of the people who are most connected to their natural environments.

 

Similar themes are explored in Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli movies, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind or Princess Mononoke, where we witness the downfall of human society as they seek to advance themselves by carelessly taking from the natural world. Similarly, we have other contemporary movies such as WALL-E or Interstellar, which also deal with the catastrophic destruction of nature. These are but a few examples of how pervasive environmental issues are in fiction. As we tap into the fictional stories we invest ourselves in; they may act as a cautionary tale.

 

In examining the history and progress of human civilisation and the creation of our world upon the Earth, Heidegger posits the following on the interdependence of the Earth and the human world that relies on it; “World and earth are essentially different from one another and yet are never separated. The world grounds itself on the earth, and earth juts through world. Yet the relation between world and earth does not wither away into the empty unity of opposites unconcerned with one another.” This succinct expression of our dynamic ecosystem, where conflict too often overshadows harmony is in essence the fundamental theme of the conference. Rather than ecological conflict, our variant constituent parts need to “raise each other into the self-assertion of their essential natures.”

 

We are inviting abstracts for papers pertaining to environmental issues across disciplines within the Arts; including Philosophy, English Literature, History, Media Studies, and other areas. We welcome new and engaging perspectives relevant to theories and topics within varying research disciplines.

 

Successful applicants will be asked to limit their presentations to twenty minutes. 

 

 

 

 Topics for papers include but are not limited to:

 

  • The ecological impact of economic imperialism (neoliberalism/neo-colonialism).

 

  • Interpretations of the divisive and destructive immanence of contemporary political dictators, such as Trump and Putin.

 

  • Language of exploitation: ecofeminist narratives on the parallels between the androcentric exploitations of women and nature.

 

  • Ecocritical readings in literature, film and television, such as nature ‘fighting back’.

 

  • Science Fiction or space exploration narratives as a representation of humanity as a destructive force and the desire to escape our planet and ourselves.

 

  • Fiction as pedagogy: the importance of fiction in educating future generations.

 

  • The end of progression as reflected in literature, television and film: dystopian fiction/apocalyptic themed works as a reflection of ecological collapse.

 

  • Possible phenomenological themes - Merleau Ponty’s Chiasmic Ontology in relation to Nature, Heidegger’s Gelassenheit (letting be/releasement/openness) and Ereignis (appropriation, thrown-open), power of language as the House-of-Being.

 

  • Ethics - What does value mean? What does nature mean? Do these things actually exist or are they merely concepts that have proven to be destructive?

 

  • Derrida - Deconstructing our perception of nature.

 

 

Abstracts should contain a maximum of 300 words and be sent to untimelyendings2019@gmail.com by March 8th.