Cognitive Ecocriticism Panel--NeMLA

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Todd Owen Williams/Northeast Modern Language Association Convention
contact email: 

This panel proposes to bring together scholars whose work combines ecocriticism and cognitivist approaches to literature for the purpose of considering the potential of the ongoing dialogue between these two fields. Ecocriticism typically looks at how environment is represented and how humans can create an optimal relationship with the non-human world. Cognitive science is generally interested in how humans represent concepts to ourselves and how we make meaning out of those concepts. An understanding of the mind is essential to an understanding of humankind’s relationship to and perception of the non-human environment. From its origins, ecocriticism has taken a strong interest in how humans represent and make meaning of the non-human world, and how the self can be cultivated through a relationship with nature. Despite the emphasis on self and perspective by ecocritics, relatively few have applied psychological or cognitivist perspectives to literary ecocriticism. In the field of psychology, much has been done to address the relationship between mind and environment, particularly in the subfield of environmental psychology. Yet, even with ecocriticism and cognitive literary studies becoming major trends in twenty-first-century literary studies, we have only begun to see the emergence of a cognitive ecocriticism. Interdisciplinary research blending literary studies, environmental concerns, and cognitive science has the potential to teach us about how humans perceive and value the natural world, and how we can create a more optimal relationship with our environment going forward. This relationship is perhaps the most important issue that humanity faces at this historical moment. This panel seeks works of literary criticism that provide a productive contribution to this interdisciplinary model of inquiry. Papers might consider what cognitive science or other contemporary psychological models add to our understanding of humankind’s relationship with our environment, and how this relationship is portrayed in literature. Papers might also consider how psychology can explain the ability of literary texts to shape our perception of the non-human world. Any critical essays that provide a productive contribution to this interdisciplinary model of inquiry will be considered.    

Papers will be presented as part of a panel at the 2019 Northeast MLA convention in Washington D.C., which will take place from March 21-24. Proposals of 300 words must be submitted via the NeMLA portal where submitters will set up a free account and upload their abstracts.  Proposals must be submitted by September 30, 2018.