The Green World in Contemporary Poetry and Philosophy: Mapping Nature in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
Since the very cradle of civilization, Nature has been one of the secular concerns of poetry and philosophy. In a classic like Walden; or Life in the Woods (1854), Henry David Thoreau said: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately”. The woods would make him whole again; solitude and Nature would reactivate a claritas of mind in him that had apparently been overshadowed by human commerce. About a century later, Ezra Pound sang in The Cantos: “Learn of the green world what can be thy place / In scaled invention or true artistry” (81/541), aware as he was of the fact that the world is a subtle ecology of vast dimensions that needs our attention and respect. The green world was particularly pervasive in European Romantic poetry, which looked at Earth from a pristine standpoint, but its presence has continued unabated in 20th- and 21st-century literature, particularly in poetry and in prose writings concerned with understanding the natural world as opposed to the man-made world. At a time of worrying environmental degradation at a global scale, it is a matter of the utmost urgency to go back to poetry and philosophy to see how these most ancient modes of thinking (or instruments of mental production, as Northrop Frye puts it) are responding to one of the contemporary wicked problems that human societies are facing worldwide. Finding a solution to these global problems requires huge doses of creativity, cooperation and solidarity at a planetary level. Poetry and philosophy never give up on their call to shed some sort of temporary light on Nature and the human condition. In its forceful and disinterested search for truth, poetry remains intact and pure amid the dissonance of our ferociously post-capitalist world and/or denounces violence against it intensely through its verse, on occasions twisted and/or damaged too. Aware of how central Nature is to their epistemological enterprise, contemporary poets still feel there is something indecipherable at the core of the green world that must be tackled with intellectual and artistic alertness. Similarly, contemporary philosophers appear to address this century-old concern with how humans interact with the natural world, as well as the environmental crisis we are going through. Over 2500 years ago, the Pre-Socratic philosophers themselves were naturalists and ecologists avant la lettre, at a time when there was no point in drawing a clear-cut boundary between poetry, philosophy and ecology. The ultimate lesson is crystal clear: life is but an interdependent continuum of subtle modulations and so, by understanding Nature, humans will understand themselves, and by understanding themselves, they will understand their place within the larger scheme of things. In this sense, both poetry and philosophy represent powerful inquisitive tools to map the green world and render it comprehensible to the human mind.
We seek contributions that explore how contemporary poetry and philosophy address Nature and human beings’ relationship with the natural world. Both theoretical and practical approaches, as well as different critical stances are welcome. The following themes (or other pertinent topics related to the object under scrutiny) are of interest to the volume:
- representations of the green world in contemporary poetry written in English in the postcolonial world (in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, South Africa India, Australia, etc.);
- poems & poets dwelling on the lessons of the green world;
- Nature as a polyphonic place and poetry for multiple voices;
- poets as literary critics fathoming Nature in their prose (non-fiction) writings;
- the green world as an idyllic place (home) vs. the green world as a hostile, alien place (other);
- new forms of pastoral;
- walking and hiking, mountains and trees, rivers and oceans, etc. in 20th- and 21st-century poetry;
- overlapping between Literary Criticism and Nature;
- the insights of contemporary Philosophy: philosophical approaches to Nature and ecological thinking;
- Nature as locus or luogo d’incontro for interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity;
- anthropocentrism vs. biocentrism;
- Nature as nonhuman entity vs. Nature as cultural construct;
- portraits of environmental Armageddon: global warming, climate change, political and societal implications thereof;
- the natural world as commodity to be exploited in post-capitalist societies and neoliberal economies.
Prospective authors are invited to submit abstract proposals consisting of a title and a 500-word summary by 1 March 2017. Proposals should also include the following information: author’s name, institutional affiliation, email address, and a 250-word CV. Authors will be notified of their paper proposal acceptance by 31 March 2017. Full chapters (5000-7000 words) will be expected by 1 October 2017. Both abstracts and full chapters must conform to the latest MLA style sheet guidelines and be sent as Word files to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Selected essays will be compiled in book format. The volume will be published by a prestigious international publisher still to determine in 2018.