Harrowing Transformations

full name / name of organization: 
Haylie Swenson and Alan Montroso, The George Washington University

In Planet Earth's harrowing video of the Cordyceps fungi colonizing the body of an insect host, an ant, already parasited by the fungus, dies, while its corpse erupts into the fruiting body of the Cordyceps. The camera lingers over this transformation in long shots that emphasize both the architectural beauty of the Cordyceps and the destruction done to its host as insect transforms into fungus. We are reassured, however, that these violent acts of becoming serve a purpose: to regulate the populations of various species of insect. In spite of the narrative's attempt to rationalize and aestheticize a harrowing transformation, the violence of this process lingers and leaves us with only questions: How might narratives of transformation and becoming challenge our beliefs about a stable and harmonious universe? Are the processes by which we aestheticize breaks and ruptures determined by humanistic ways of thinking? By investigating what comes after transformational processes, can we achieve a posthuman ethics appropriate for an unstable universe and a planet in the throes of ecological catastrophe?

In an effort to address the questions above, we invite speakers from all disciplines to investigate narratives of transformation from an ecological and/or posthuman orientation. Possible examples include medieval werewolf tales, post-apocalyptic narratives, contemporary alien invasion fantasies, as well as the literature(s) of ecotheory and stories of ecological balance (like Planet Earth), which often frame transformations as harmonious and holistic even when they are predicated on violence.

Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Haylie Swenson (hayliebrook@hotmail.com) or Alan Montroso (amontroso@gwmail.gwu.edu) with the subject line "Harrowing Transformations abstract" by November 30, 2013.