Eco-Entanglements, c. 920-2020: Ruins, Graftings, Stratification

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies

Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst, February 22, 2020

What are the ecological affordances of thinking with the medieval and early modern past? How can the environmental humanities inspire eco-mimetic modes of thinking and writing? This think-tank conference invites research-in-progress that parses the entanglements of nature and culture, the human and the nonhuman, the material and the metaphysical, to explore how medieval and early modern ecocritical scholarship might speak directly to contemporary political and social concerns.

The conference will include three panels, grouped thematically according to distinct modes of ecological entanglement:

~ Ruins: Pre- and early modern texts, often imperfectly preserved, testify to the ruinous forces of nature as experienced in earlier centuries. The cultural artifacts damaged by water, rot, and fire evinced a “human” struggle with and against the “natural” world. Furthermore, the vast cultural, material, and textual ruins of medieval England were unearthed, consumed, and repurposed by early moderns in myriad ways. How might these entanglements of the past inform a modern posture toward environmental catastrophe? Do contemporary scholars have an obligation to salvage “dead” languages, “primitive” technologies, and “erroneous” science, and why?

~ Graftings: For the pre/early modern scholar, grafting as a motif allows us a model for ecocriticism that is entangled with the nonhuman world. Inspired and provoked by the early modern debates about the ethics of human gardeners mixing breeds and types of plant life, this panel is especially interested in experimental, multimodal, and/or interdisciplinary projects which articulate ecological questions across historical periodizations and traditional disciplines. For instance, how might we “graft” a pre/early modern cultural or material artifact onto 21st-century economics in order for that particular, vibrant object to bear fruit?

~ Stratification: Ruptured, layered, diachronous and synchronous, the geological record has produced a rich repertoire for rethinking human temporalities. Entangled with non-literary environments, pre/early modern literary texts often re-imagine futurity, causation, and pattern. How can ecological readings of literary texts help us to uncover alternatives to disciplinary periodization and heterolinearity? How might these texts prompt 21st century readers and scholars to be more receptive to, for example, “queer” temporalities or “crip” temporalities?

Each panelist will give a 10-minute proposal aimed at generating conversation. Emphasis will be placed on sparking exploratory, lateralized conversations between panelists and audiences. If you are interested in submitting an abstract for one of the panels below, please submit a 500-word abstract to conference organizers, John Yargo and Melissa Hudasko, at by November 15, 2019.