CFP: [Science] The Ugly and the Environment (11/1/08; ASLE, 6/3/09-6/6/09)

full name / name of organization: 
Justin Eichenlaub
contact email: 

Pre-formed Panel Proposal
ASLE Biennial Conference, June 3-6, 2009, University of Victoria, Victoria,
British Columbia

The Ugly and the Environment

Mark Cousins revises traditional accounts of ‘the ugly’ with the aid of
psychoanalysis, arguing that aesthetics has never been able to give a full
account of ugliness and its experience. The ugly thing threatens to
overwhelm and engulf the subject, and we respond with flight and evasion.
This positive account of the existence of the ugly, against the traditional
accounting of the ugly as a mere lack in relation to beauty, is productive
and helpful in rethinking the function of the ugly in thinking about the
natural world and within the discourses of environmentalism.

Cousins is one of an impressive array of theorists who have offered
accounts of the ugly, the disgusting and the dirty: Immanuel Kant, Theodor
Adorno, Mary Douglas and Julia Kristeva, among them. As the field of
environmental criticism moves beyond appraisals of nature writing and
explores other genres, new conceptual frameworks acquire pertinence. This
panel will explore what role "ugliness" might play in the continued
theorization of environment and literature, asking how this concept
contributes to or complicates the literary and cultural debates in which
ecocriticism intervenes. As this panel will be charting unexplored
territory, we invite creative interpretations of the concept of "ugliness"
and the works to which it applies. Solely theoretical papers are welcome
as are ones that address literary, cinematic and visual art as well as
communications and new media.

Questions that may be addressed include, but are not limited to:

What are the stakes in representing or aestheticizing the "ugliness" of
environmental change and crisis?

Can we trace the place and function of ugliness through standard literary
periodizations or genres? For instance, how does literature’s and
culture’s relationship to representations of ugliness differ between
British Romantics and Victorians? What new genres enter our sights when we
open ourselves up to the ugly?
Does the representation of ugliness obstruct or encourage one's response to
a cultural text, especially if that text has an activist agenda?

What (extra-)aesthetic terms become relevant when we shift focus from
beautiful, inviting representations of the environment to repulsive,
unappealing ones? How relevant are aesthetic ideas to contemporary
environmental issues?

Considering Yi-fu Tuan's notion of "topophilia," is there such as thing as

* *
The panel will consist of three talks, each limited to twenty minutes.
There is one position still open on the panel. We are in the process of
securing a respondent. Please send 250-word paper proposal or abstract and
a C.V. or brief biographical statement by November 1, 2008 to or:

Justin Eichenlaub
Department of English
Stanford University
460 Margaret Jacks Hall
Stanford, CA 94305

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Received on Wed Sep 10 2008 - 18:56:38 EDT