Natural Spaces and Managed Wilderness: Mediation in National and State Parks

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Jillian Boger (University of Rhode Island) / Northeastern Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

Panel Session, NeMLA’s 54th Annual Convention in Niagara Falls, March 23-26

 

The United States National Park Service’s mission is to “Preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations,” a sentiment echoed across international national park organizations. State and national parks alike function with the purpose of stewardship over the environment and historical spaces across the country, but, as is true of any organized public space, there can be arguments made through their design. Though the NPS states that their conservation of these spaces leaves natural resources “unimpaired,” parks are places which are highly mediated in service of their use to visitors in those spaces; likewise, parks are subject to rhetorics of space and their construction may contain explicit or implicit messaging about how people are supposed to engage with the world around them. This session aims to explore the relationship between land, wilderness, and how people engage with these spaces, as well as how parks attempt to tell us for whom a specific land is for. 

 

Potential questions for investigation and analysis in this session proposal include:

  • How do we think about land and mediated natural spaces? How does the space of the park construct or inform a cultural perception of what the wild is?
  • How do authors address mediated, natural spaces? In what ways do writers and artists contribute to the construction of these mediated spaces?
  • What does it mean to “read” a park? How do parks teach visitors to read, act, and interact within them?
  • What do parks and “natural” spaces teach us about the conversation between conservation and preservation? How do they represent a kind of resilience—or lack of resilience—present in the wild, and do they teach us about our own fragility or resilience in the face of external and internal threats?
  • How do the languages of parks centralize or destabilize an anthropocentric worldview? Are they inherently anthropocentric spaces or do they provide an opportunity for authentic communion with the wild? 

 

Abstracts are accepted from June 7 through September 30, 2022. Please submit a 300-word abstract by September 30 to NeMLA’s online portal: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/CFP. The session ID is 19845.

For information on NeMLA’s guidelines for abstracts: http://www.buffalo.edu/nemla/convention/callforpapers.html