Ireland and Ecocriticism: Second Interdisciplinary Conference, 19-21 June 2014, University College Cork

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Maureen O'Connor, School of English, University College Cork
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Ireland and Ecocriticism: Second Interdisciplinary Conference
19-21 June 2014, University College Cork

Call for Papers

Nearly a century ago, James Joyce averred that "Nature is quite unromantic. It is we who put romance into her. Which is a false attitude, an egotism, absurd like all egotisms." The second interdisciplinary conference on the topic of Ireland and Ecocriticism hopes to acknowledge the dangerous truth of Joyce's observation by turning to account his country's anomalous relationship to modernity. Ireland's experience of literary Romanticism, usually associated with nature poetry, will not map onto existing Anglophone and continental accounts of the phenomenon, and neither will Romantic oppositions between city and country, culture and wilderness. Oscar Wilde noted that the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth "found in stones the sermons he had already hidden there." Later W.B. Yeats would say of the typical English poet, including Wordsworth, that he 'finds his image in every lake and puddle. He has to burden the skylark with his cares before he can celebrate it." Ecocriticism is now in its "third wave," a deconstructionist re-evaluation of the possibility of something understood as nature, the ways in which what we call "nature" is culturally, discursively constructed, and yet implicated in the very act of this construction. Relatively unburdened by the traditional Romantic legacy, Irish Studies is potentially poised to make significant contributions to this latest attempt to come to terms with the current environmental crisis from which egotism cannot protect us. It has been acknowledged, by David Harvey among others, that "ecology must engage with urbanization to have relevance in the twenty-first century." For centuries, Ireland has experienced waves of settlement and "urbanization" from without, and recent decades have seen that pattern exponentially expanded by internal forces, particularly during the economic boom and inevitable bust. Even without consciously identifying their work as such, Irish artists, writers, and scientists have been of necessity engaging in eco-critique of the radical changes being wrought upon the Irish landscape, however that is understood: as metaphor, livelihood, memory, tradition, or environmental concerns, including those affecting individual and communal health.

With this wide sweep of interests in play, the conference hopes to attract contributions from a variety of disciplines, not just across the arts, but, ideally, breaching the divide between the arts and sciences, as ecocriticism is uniquely positioned to do. Proposals for both English- and Irish-language contributions, papers and panels, are welcome from all interested scholars.

Suggested topics might include, but are not limited to:

Wigs on the green: Queer Irish ecologies
Black comedy and dark ecology
Contemporary soundscapes
'Sermons' in stones' in post-religious society
Horsemeat dressed as beef: Food panics and animal rights
The centenary decade: "Placing" commemoration
"Tidy Towns", tourism, and the aesthetics of trash
The diaspora's preservation of the "Auld Sod"
Mother Ireland / Mother Nature
The Hill of Tara and Terminal Two: The new nostalgia
'Hauntology': Possession, dispossession, and ghost estates
Irish water (and power) from the Shannon Scheme to cryptosporidium
Sustainable farming: Saving the floury spud
The history of Irish hunger, the future of the Irish body
Colonialism and the countryside: From plantation to fracking
High viz jackets and the endangered crane: Irish labour and the environment

Proposals of no more than 500 words to Maureen O'Connor,, by 31 January 2014.

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