Aberrant Enlightenment Ecopoetics (abstracts due 9/1)

full name / name of organization: 
Conference on Ecopoetics, UC Berkeley, Feb. 22-24, 2013
contact email: 

This panel explores ecopoetics in the long eighteenth-century. The age of Enlightenment tends to be cast as a time when natural-historical discourses attempted to order and categorize the natural world in its entirety. Conquest generated imperatives to reduce, collect, classify, and master the natural world; natural sciences, in turn, propelled conquest. As natural history shaded into anthropology at mid-century, theories of racial essence, in support of colonial projects, became more firm.

This panel explores texts and authors from the period that do not fit neatly into this account of the Enlightenment. Motivating questions include: to what extent did natural historians, anthropologists, ethnographers, botanists, and other eco-writers depart from imperatives such as total knowledge, mastery, compulsive documentation, and so on? Who were the outliers, why, and how? Who was marginalized then, and who do we risk marginalizing now with a simplified account of the Enlightenment? How might major natural historians and anthropologists (Linnaeus, Buffon, Kant, Jefferson and so on) be read as aberrant—with respect to their contemporaries, or to their own oeuvres, or to the stories we tend to tell about them? What is the role of poetics in producing or marking divergence?

Further, if the Enlightenment can be said to have used ideas about nature to advance conquest, what can these aberrant figures/texts, and their poetic practices, teach us about anti-imperial engagements with the natural world? How and why might these obscure authors and texts matter now, in the context of scholarly ecocriticism, creative ecopoetics, and modern environmental movements?

Please send 250-500 word abstracts to lynne.feeley@duke.edu by September 1, 2012.