Panel on Religion and Environmentalism in Literature - ASLE 2011 (6/21-6/26)

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Andrew Hatcher / Indiana University
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Thomas R. Dunlap provocatively argues, in his book Faith in Nature, that environmentalism can be interpreted “as an expression of the human impulse toward religion,” defining religion, with William James, as the “belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto” (4-5). In a similar fashion, Lawrence Buell suggests, in an essay for the collection There Before Us (ed. Roger Lundin), that, “however much religion is repressed or theorized out of existence by western intellectual discourse, its resources will still be needed and called upon not just to dramatize but also to conceptualize humankind’s relation to the nonhuman” (235).

This panel-in-formation seeks abstracts of 600 words that deal with the question of the relationship between religion and environmentalism in literature. What are some examples of environmental literature that might, under these or other paradigms, be read as also religious (or, conversely, religious works that might be read environmentally)? What do the religious aspects (formal, theological, or otherwise) of those literary works contribute to the overall goals of environmentalism, especially to the task of, as Buell puts it, “conceptualiz[ing] humankind’s relation to the nonhuman”? Additionally, papers might address the question of whether or not it is necessary, as Dunlap seems to imply, that environmentalist works subscribe to a belief in an “unseen order,” encouraging humans to strive for “harmony” within that comprehensive order. Do literary works help us formulate any alternative versions of religious environmentalism that do not rely on the language of “order,” which might be difficult to square with a Neo-Darwinist, non-teleological understanding of nature?

Please send 600-word abstracts to Andrew Hatcher ( by October 1, 2010. The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment's (ASLE) Ninth Biennial Conference will be held June 21-26, 2011, at Indiana University in Bloomington.

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