Ecospirituality in Twentieth Century Literature (NeMLA, March 15-18, 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
Kelly C. MacPhail
contact email: 

Ecospirituality in Twentieth Century Literature
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
43nd Annual NeMLA Convention March 15-18, 2012
Rochester, New York – Hyatt Rochester
Host Institution: St. John Fisher College
Keynote speaker: Jennifer Egan, 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad
For further information, see

This panel will seek to understand how Anglophone literatures in the twentieth century challenged or supported the notion of an ecology rooted in a broadly conceived sense of spirituality, either within or beyond the geography of orthodox religious traditions. The first half of the twentieth century witnessed a dramatic change in the portrayal of nature due to the urgent crises caused by technology, war, overpopulation, pollution, and consumerism. Increasingly urbanized and secularized modern populations began to denigrate the importance of the natural world and rethink the role of humans within it. This was in turn challenged by some writers with the result that ecology as represented within their literary texts was conceptualized as a spiritual movement through, for instance, Deep Ecology or neo-Romanticism. Such an ecospirituality can also be found, in different forms, in the theories of figures such as Arne Naess, Bill Devall, Alan Drengson, Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, and David Suzuki. The goal of the panel will thus be to explore how literature offers a philosophical and practical approach to nature that is grounded in a spiritualized understanding of the interdependency of humans and the environment, of the need for direct local action to combat the problems represented by overpopulation and over-consumption, of the inherent and sacred value of the richness and diversity of human and nonhuman life-forms, and of a recognition of the rapid worsening of the planet's environmental crisis that obligates all humans to respond with an ethics of sustainability.

Please send 250 word proposals to Kelly MacPhail, McGill University, at by September 30, 2011.
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
A short biographical statement (apr. 100 words)
Email address
Postal address
Telephone number
A/V requirements (if any; $10 handling fee with registration)

Please note that interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA panel; however, panelists can only present one paper. Convention participants may present a paper at a panel or seminar and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.