Turning the Environment Into A Literary Affair


The weather's getting cooler, the autumn leaves are falling — oh and hey - polar icecaps are melting at a ferocious pace. In light of all the world's weirdness, how do poets and literary types inspired by nature's wonder, cope with the ugliness of global warming and environmental degradation?

An upcoming conference at Tel Aviv University on literature and the environment will explore this question. The sign-of-the-times event has confirmed the participation of environmental poet Robert Hass as well as Una Chaudhuri from NYU, a foremost authority on environment and the humanities. More about the field of Ecocriticism and a description of the event after the fold...

"The last two decades witnessed the rise of Ecocriticism as a mode of radically rethinking the relationship between philosophy, aesthetic representation, and the physical environment," writes event organizer Dr. Milette Shamir, from Tel Aviv University's Department of English and American Studies.

She continues, "Challenging some of the most basic tenets of western civilization—the centrality of Man, the benefits of progress, the opposition between nature and culture— Ecocriticism has become a dominant field in American and European universities, with its own research agendas, professional journals, anthologies, and study programs.

"In Israel, awareness of environmental and ecological issues is on a sharp incline. Ecocriticism as a global trend is beginning to make a local impact, both on university researches and on the work of writers and artists outside the academia. What is missing, however, is a forum that will bring these individual projects together and foster intellectual exchange and dialogue," Shamir argues.

To facilitate the exchange of ideas in Israel, the upcoming conference January 8-9, 2008 will deal with the following questions:

• How does art influence the way nature and the land are perceived, treated, and managed?

• What defines the representation of nature today, and how does it diverge from the pastoral and romantic traditions?

• How is the current environmental crisis represented in literature and art?

• In what ways do the environmental sciences influence literature, and are these sciences themselves open to literary analysis?

•What role does the aesthetic representation of nature play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

• What characterizes Jewish vs. Muslim and religious vs. atheist representations of nature?

Among the events will be an opening session and poetry reading by Robert Hass, the co-founder of "River of Words," an organization connecting children to their environment. He is also the creator of the Watershed conferences, which explore the connection between writing and nature.

"We are also inviting "practitioners"--photographers, videographers, and writers-- to present and discuss their work," writes Dr. Shamir, who can be contacted for further information here. See past posts on TreeHugger about art and the environment here & here.