The Geological Turn

deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

Submissions for a seminar at the annual ACLA conference, March 29-April 1 at UCLA.


Have the humanities taken a geological turn? Recent work across multiple disciplines - including philosophy, literary studies, and anthropology, to name only a few - has sought to reframe the contemporary historical moment within the deep timescales of the planet. From this dizzying perspective, scholars seek to reconfigure the relation between materiality and time: narrating the longue duréeof modernization through Earth's deep time materials (coal, oil, gold, etc.), even as humankind’s Earth-transforming activities are written into the geological record of the Anthropocene.

This ACLA seminar will bring together under the banner of the “geological turn” these emergent interdisciplinary perspectives on the geological foundation of contemporary media, art, and politics. While theories of the Anthropocene grapple with the emergence of humans as a “geological force,” works such as Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Stone (2015) and Wai Chee Dimock’s Through Other Continents(2006) trace cultural and literary histories: from early interest in geological thinking in the middle ages to the birth of geological science in the mid-eighteenth century and its impact on traditional models of power, chronology, and scale. In short, this seminar will think about rock formations as both figure and material, as a cultural and aesthetic vernacular as well as a medium of inscription and archive of the past.

We invite scholars from all fields to join us as we submerge the humanities’ methods and archives into deep time. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to: how attending to geological events and materials might disrupt traditional chronologies of literary and artistic canons; how specific literary forms, figures, and genres register deep time; the history of geology; historicizing the nascent genre of prehistoric fiction, such as William Golding’s The Inheritors and Claire Cameron’s The Last Neanderthal; and, confluences or tensions between new materialist philosophies and discourses of the Anthropocene.