CFP Into the Deep: Monstrous Creatures, Alien Worlds, Toulouse, France, June 14-15 2012

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Explora, University of Toulouse

Into the Deep: Monstrous Creatures, Alien Worlds

Explora International Conference
14–15 June 2012
Toulouse Natural History Museum

At a time when the hope of finding water on other planets dwindles, the beauty of the earth is more and more considered to lie in its wondrous seas and oceans. Yet true access to the world of the sea has long been denied to humans, and it seems to be gained at the very moment when it is being endangered. This conference proposes to reflect upon the evolution of scientific and literary representations of oceans and underwater ecosystems in the past two centuries, trying to sketch a brief history of oceanography and its literary and artistic representations.

This interdisciplinary conference will explore the history of oceanography through narratives of scientific journeys across the seas, or the way in which ecosystems like coral reeds or key marine animals, such as seals, dolphins, whales or sharks, loom large in narratives, journals and/or fiction, for colonial, symbolic or mythical reasons, or because their presence/absence is an indicator of the way in which ecosystems evolve.

We welcome papers from across the humanities entwining scientific and literary approaches, concerning for instance the history of whaling and the myth of the whale as it shifts from monster to endangered friend. We may think of the way in which William Scoresby's letters to Sir Joseph Banks and his Journal of a Voyage to the Northern Whale Fishery (1823) reveal how voyages in search of whales could also lead to scientific research and discoveries; similarly, Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851) feeds upon scientific knowledge and revolves around a key chapter devoted to paradigmatic taxonomy, while turning the whale into a mythical beast whose elusive meaning encompasses questions of race, good and evil. Contributors may also choose to dive deeper and venture underwater, exploring both the evolution of scientific knowledge and the shifting myths that convey the human fascination for the secrets of the deep. Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869-70) draws upon allusions to Lapeyrouse, Dumont d'Urville, de Lesseps, paying tribute to voyages of discovery while dreaming of the submarine and dreading giant squids, leading to many a later tale featuring a monster from the deep. Specific attention may be paid to children's literature by focussing on the way in which this genre seeks to entice and transmit scientific data and even raise ecological awareness from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. Papers on films may range from studies of documentaries (such as the work of Jacques-Yves Cousteau) to the dramatization and evolution of types and models of representation. These may include very early adaptations of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Méliès for instance, later variations on the theme verging on caricature like Jaws or venturing in the abyss to seek better acquaintance with the marine world. Papers centred on films may also focus upon bigger dreams, as might perhaps be the case of the as of yet unreleased sequel of Avatar, which promises to unravel an underwater world. Topics might also include the politics of representation and the impact of fishing (and conflicts connected with endangered species and harsh economic conditions) in films (from Stromboli to representations of Greenpeace) or literary works.

Please send proposals of up to 350 words (attached as a WORD file) along with a short biographical note to by 20 December 2011.