Oecologies Reading Group: call for participants!

You are invited to participate in the Oecologies Reading Group, which takes place in advance of each talk in the Oecologies Speaker Series (see talk announcement below).

The next meeting of the reading group will take place on Wednesday, January 15th in room HC2235 of the SFU Harbour Centre (555 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC) from 6pm to 8pm. Readings will be disseminated electronically to those who express interest in participating. Please send expressions of interest to Dr. Robert Rouse.


Jan 29: Louisa Mackenzie, “Don’t Panic: The Unknowability of Early Modern Nature,” Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College, UBC

Please join us for the second talk of the Oecologies Speaker Series at Green College at UBC:

OecologiesDr. Louisa Mackenzie
(French and Italian Studies, University of Washington)
“Don’t Panic: The Unknowability of Early Modern Nature”
5-6:30pm, Wed Jan 29, Coach House, Green College, UBC

Abstract: The use of the word “nature” in this talk’s title deliberately and anachronistically references a post-Romantic ideal of a non-human world absolutely beyond culture, including what we now call wilderness. Contemporary environmental thinking, especially in Anglophone contexts, often holds that experiencing wild(er)ness is restorative, even spiritually enriching. Many scholars have started to question the assumptions and to reveal the privileges that make this ideal thinkable: I will argue that early modern cultures can help us further these critiques. Working with texts from sixteenth-century France, in particular the long “scientific poem” La Savoie by Jacques Peletier which describes the landscapes of this mountainous and often wild part of France, I will show that early modern mentalities considered wildness to be not just frightening but literally unrepresentable by human knowledge systems. Wild areas, like unmitigated contact with the divine, inspired a kind of epistemological panic. This reminds us that the etymology of the word panic, from the Greek πανικός pertaining to Pan the god of wild places, gestures towards the fear inspired by environments devoid of human activity, and perhaps invites us to a more humble appraisal of the limits of our cognition of the non-human.

Speaker Info:  Louisa Mackenzie is Associate Professor of French at the University of Washington. Her research focus is primarily on early modern French culture, which she reads through various contemporary critical lenses including ecocriticism and, more recently, animal studies. Her book The Poetry of Place: Lyric, Landscape and Ideology in Renaissance France (University of Toronto Press, 2010) is an interdisciplinary study of how a subjective and affective sense of place was produced by poetry in dialogue with cartography, land use history and other knowledge spheres. She is currently starting a book-length project on animals as “queer bodies of knowledge” in 16th-century France.

All those attending talks in this series are invited to stay for dinner at Green College with the speaker. Those interested in attending dinner are asked to make a reservation at least by noon the business day before. Contact 604-822-8660 or visit the Green College website for details.

Oecologies: Inhabiting Premodern Worlds is a new Speaker Series sponsored by Green College that gathers scholars from the humanities living and working along the North American Pacific coast to investigate the idea of “oecology,” an older spelling of the modern concept “ecology.” For event details, abstracts, and speaker information, please visit oecologies.com or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/oecologies)! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please contact Carmel Ohman.

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