The Renaissance Anthropocene: Imagining Life Without Nature in Early Modern Literature

full name / name of organization: 
Justin Kolb, Oberlin College

Coined by environmental scientists to describe the current geological epoch, "Anthropocene" denotes an age in which human action has pervasively and irreversibly transformed the land, sea, and atmosphere of the Earth, creating an ecology in which nature cannot be disentangled from artifice.

This concept existed in the minds of early modern writers under other names, especially "the decay of nature," as they imagined a world in which technologies ranging from alchemy to poetics might improve, degrade, or outright replace natural processes.
How did the manipulation of nature feature in the literary imaginations of era? What is the ecology of the artificial environments of the page and stage, populated by creatures of art like dramatic characters? Can settings like Spenser's bower of bliss or Jonson's London be read as anthropocene ecologies?

Early modern ecocriticism, ecology without nature, decay of nature, artificial environments, alchemy, artificial life, automata, science studies.

Send 300-word max abstracts for 10-15 minute papers to Deadline March 14.