Avenging Nature: A Survey of the Role of Nature in Modern and Contemporary Art and Literature

deadline for submissions: 
July 1, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Rebeca Gualberto (et al.) // Complutense University of Madrid
contact email: 

At the dawn of ‘ecocriticism’ as a discipline of study within the Humanities, Glotfelty and Fromm (1996), in the first general reader in the matter, defined it as the critical practice that examines the relationship between literary and cultural studies and the natural world. In general terms, during the past two decades, ecocriticism has denounced the anthropocentric and instrumental appropriation of nature that has for so long legitimized human exploitation of the nonhuman world. Exposing the logic of domination that articulates the very power relationships that both connect and separate human culture and natural life, recent trends in ecocriticism have raised awareness of the ‘otherisation’ of nature (Huggan and Tiffin, 2015), pointing out the need of assessing insurgent discourses that—converging with counter-discourses of race, gender or class— realize the empowerment of nature from its subaltern position.

But such empowerment of nature first requires that the sundering of human and nonhuman realms is overcome since, as Kate Rigby explains, only by regaining “a sense of the inextricability of nature and culture, physis and techne, earth and artifact—consumption and destruction—would be to move beyond (…) the arrogance of humanism” (2002, p. 152). Yet, recognizing such inextricable relationship between human and natural while overcoming the arrogance of anthropocentrism entails the ecocritical admission that all cultural discourses are in fact exploitative of nature. Rigby states it clearly while explaining, “culture constructs the prism through which we know nature” (p. 154). We comprehend nature when we apprehend the world through language and representation, but nature precedes and exceeds words; it is therefore “real” (1992, p. 32) and separated by an abyss from the symbolic networks of culture that write, master, assign a meaning to and attempt to set nature in order.

From this perspective, culture is not exactly the end of nature as much as it is an appropriation and colonization of nature. Culture masters, dominates and instrumentalizes the natural world. However, in a time when the “end of nature” that Bill McKibben prophesized in 1989 has been certified, when we know for a fact that it is indeed a different Earth we are living in—because by changing the climate there is not a corner of the planet that has not been affected by our actions—the evidence of global ecological endangerment compels the ecocritical debate to install environmental ethics and concerns at the crux of humanistic research. The critical enterprise is far from easy though. The argument that cultural representations of nature establish a relationship of domination and exploitation of human discourse over nonhuman reality is extendible to the critical task. As humanist critics, our regard of nature in literary and artistic representation is instrumental and anthropocentric. But the time has come to avenge nature—or, at least, to critically probe into nature’s ongoing revenge against the exploitation of culture.

Nature—a different, humanly modified nature—will remain after the climate change doomsday. Nature precedes our understanding and its conceptualization. However, despite the unimaginable damage done, it will also survive us when the Earth becomes inhabitable for humans. There will be nature after culture, as there is now a rebellious nature that resists in spite of culture. And thus, we call for articles that explore insubordinate representations of nature in modern and contemporary literature and art. We press for the need to reassess how nature is already, and has been for a while, striking back against human domination. We call for scholars from the fields of literary studies, postcolonial studies, art, history, gender and women’s studies, film and media studies, ethics and philosophy, cultural studies, ethnology and anthropology, and other related disciplines to join us in this interdisciplinary volume that will re-examine the intersections of culture and nature in literary and artistic representations and will point out the insurgence of nature within and outside of culture.

Contributors may wish to explore, among others, the following topics:

 Ecofeminism and gender studies: domination and empowerment
 Postcolonial and transnational representations of nature as (dis)empowered ‘other’
 Econarratives of subversion and rebellion
 Naturalisation of others and otherisation of nature in literature and art
 Literary and artistic representations of ecocides and ecological crisis
 Post-pastoral literature and the redefinition of the poetics of domination
 Social epistemology and ecology
 Environmental ethics applied to cultural studies
 Globalisation and global ecological imperilment
 Eco-social art and literature
 Post-humanism and ecology
 Ecotopias in literature, film and television
 Insurgent nature and the future of humanity
 Gothic nature and eco-horror in dystopic narratives
 Animal Studies and nonhuman sentience

Please submit article proposals for the volume tentatively titled Avenging Nature, a Survey of the Role of Nature in Modern Contemporary Art and Literature by July 1st, 2018. Article proposals should include a title, a 500- word summary, author’s name, institutional affiliation, email address and a short biographical note.

Articles will be selected following a blind peer-review process and authors will be notified by October 1st, 2018. Full articles will be expected by March 1st , 2019. The final book proposal will be submitted for final approval to a top-tier publishing house which has already shown interest in an international launch of our volume.

Please send your submission and queries to rgualberto@ucm.es

Works Cited

Glotfelty, Cheryl and Fromm, Harold, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

Huggan, Graham and Tiffin, Helen. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London and New York: Routledge, 2015.

McKibben, Bill. The End of Nature. New York: Random House, 1989, 2006.

Rigby, Kate. “Ecocriticism.” Literary and Cultural Criticism at the TwentyFirst Century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2012. Pp: 151-178.

Zizek, Slavov. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.