Due September 30, 2013 "The lifting of an environment to expression": American Representations of Place special issue

full name / name of organization: 
Miranda, University of Toulouse le Mirail, volume editors Wendy Harding and Gretchen Murphy

A special issue of Miranda, a peer reviewed on-line journal
will take up the provocative question of the relation between places and their representations in American culture. It will be scheduled for publication in 2014. Papers should be submitted by September 30, 2013. Send inquiries to Wendy Harding, University of Toulouse-Le Mirail (harding@univ-tlse2.fr) and Gretchen Murphy, University of Texas-Austin (gretchen@austin.utexas.edu)
Speaking of his long poem Paterson over fifty years ago, W.C. Williams described his poetic practice as "an attempt, an experiment, a failing experiment, toward assertion with broken means but an assertion, always, of a new and total culture, the lifting of an environment to expression." This tentative articulation of the ongoing project of putting words to the experience of American space raises a number of questions. Is the English language, shaped in a small island on another continent, able to translate the American experience? Must a new idiom be found, or is language itself bound to fail in the struggle to account for reality? Are other means of representation more promising? After what Whitehead has called "the great bifurcation" how can we "moderns" reconnect with the land through cultural media? Underpinning Williams's declaration is the suggestion that without the work of mediators to elevate it into a meaningful system, the land is lowly matter that remains mute and invisible. By contrast, a number of ecocritics argue that the land shapes the expressions that translate or respond to it. To what extent is the relationship between the environment and those who give it expression vertical, unidirectional, or causal? Could vertical hierarchies be abandoned in favor of the horizontal interactions favored by empirical theories in which cultural expressions involve multiple actors in complex and unpredictable configurations?