Oecologies has just finished a successful third year of multi-disciplinary, premodern programing in the Environmental Humanities. As its principal investigators, we—Patricia Badir, Vin Nardizzi, Robert Rouse, and Tiffany Werth—are happy to report on a dynamic year of activities and to share the new directions that Oecologies will take over the next academic year.
During the year under review we convened and co-sponsored three major events.
In July of 2015, we partnered with Daniel Heath Justice, who spoke in our first series at Green College, and Rachel Poliquin, for a symposium called “AnimalFest: Celebrating Reaktion’s Animal Series.”
At this two-day event, a diverse collection of Animal authors discussed their species-specific volumes, the burgeoning field of Animal Studies, and their experiences in writing cultural histories for this transformative book series. Events were held at a one-day symposium at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and a public reading/discussion at the Vancouver Public Library.
Our biggest event of the year was a multi-day international symposium called “Oecologies: Engaging the World From Here.” Under the generous auspices of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada’s Connection Grant program and in partnership with UBC and SFU, we invited eight speakers from around the globe – Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Frances Dolan, Simon Estok, Ursula Heise, David Matthews, Louise Noble, Sharon O’Dair, and Sandra Young – to reflect on how their specific locale in the so-called Anthropocene Era has come to inform how they conceptualize scholarly research on the literary cultures of medieval and Renaissance England. These speakers were joined by a dynamic roundtable of local “Oecologies” researchers from the Pacific Coast who talked about their own status as regionally situated medieval and early modern scholars: J. Allan Mitchell (University of Victoria); Heather Blurton (University of California, Santa Barbara); David Coley (Simon Fraser University); Louisa Mackenzie (University of Washington); and Coll Thrush (University of British Columbia).
Elder Ethel of the Stelómethet tribe, who is SFU’s Elder in Residence, welcomed our conference participants to the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples and began our conference in a good way. In addition to two days of symposia and a final keynote address, we hosted a guided eco-tour of Stanley Park led by Dr. Sally Aitken, Professor of Forest and Conservation Sciences at UBC. On Friday evening, co-organizer Patricia Badir led The Lyly Gilders, a collective of UBC BFA students (past and present), English students, and a few other brave souls, in conducting a workshop reading of Catherine Fergusson and Tai Grauman’s adaptation of John Lyly’s Gallathea (1592) to the Pacific Northwest. The reading was held at SFU Woodward’s Theatre.
For a full reflection of the event including paper abstracts, see https://oecologies.com/conferences-colloquia/conferences-colloquia-archive/#engaging
Our final event was held under the auspices of the Shakespeare Association of America Annual Meeting in New Orleans (23-26 March 2016). Vin Nardizzi convened a seminar called “Shakespeare and the Histories of Sustainability.” Invited respondents Patricia Badir, Hillary Eklund, Rebecca Totaro, and Tiffany Werth joined in conversation with scholars from across North America to address the following questions:
What might Shakespeare and his contemporaries contribute to multi-disciplinary conversations about sustainability? Do English Renaissance texts and institutions model “sustainable practices”? Do they resist such practices, imagine them differently, or figure their failure? Papers are welcome on such topics as catastrophe, climate change, debt and gift economies, excess and festival, husbandry, resource depletion and extraction, resilience, risk management, scarcity, sufficiency, and yields.
Finally, “Oecologies” members sponsored and/or participated in the following events:
- the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo (14-17 May 2015)
- the Fifth International Spenser Society Conference in Dublin (18-20 June 2015)
- ASLE Biennial Conference at the University of Idaho (23-27 June 2015)
- the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Vancouver (22-25 October 2015)
- the MLA in Austin (7-10 January 2016)
- a symposium on Ovid, Lyly, and Benserade at the University of Michigan (29 January 2016)
- Medieval Association of the Pacific Conference at the University of California, Davis (31 March – 2 April 2016)
- the “Canada + Shakespeare” symposium in Ottawa (21-23 April 2016).
Looking Ahead to 2016-17
In the next year, “Oecologies” programming will offer a festival-style series of talks and workshops aimed at building on the significant momentum generated in 2015-16.
In fall 2016, we will be bringing Professor Kellie Robertson (http://www.english.umd.edu/newfaculty/robertson) to speak. Dr. Robertson is the author of The Laborer’s Two Bodies: Labor and the ‘Work’ of the Text in Medieval Britain, 1350-1500 (Palgrave Macmillan in 2006), as well as numerous articles on the medieval and early modern periods. In recent years, her work has increasingly addressed what we might call the environmental thought of the Middle Ages, particularly through the frame of medieval neo-Aristotelianism. This focus has resulted in her new book, which is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press, Nature Speaks: Medieval Literature and Aristotelian Natural Philosophy. Dr. Robertson’s work clearly comports with our mission to rethink “ecology,” and it will likely be of interest to many in the university community more broadly. Her talk is titled “Ecologies of Scale: Imagining the Human.”
In the spring of 2017, we are excited to range forward in time to the Nineteenth century and to host Professor Cannon Schmitt (Professor and Associate Director of the PhD program in English at the University of Toronto) (http://www.english.utoronto.ca/facultystaff/facultyprofiles/schmitt.htm). Professor Schmitt is the author of two books, Darwin and the Memory of the Human: Evolution, Savages, and South America (Cambridge University Press, 2009; paperback reprint 2013) and Alien Nation: Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), and co-editor of Victorian Investments: New Perspectives on Finance and Culture (Indiana University Press, 2008). His essays have appeared in Representations, Victorian Studies, ELH, Genre, and elsewhere. His current SSHRC-funded book project, which is tentatively titled The Literal Sea, hypothesizes that the ocean and associated phenomena—tides, prevailing winds, marine engineering, ships under sail—constitute a privileged locus of the literal in Victorian fiction. His talk, which draws from this new work, is titled “Soft Water: A Metaphor and Its Vicissitudes.”
Oecologies members will also once again take to the road and sponsor and/or participate in events such as a Huntington Conference “Literary Geographies” (14-15 October 2016), the MLA (5-8 January 2017) in Philadelphia, and at the SAA (5-8 April 2017) in Atlanta.
With grateful acknowledgement to the following institutions and departments for their support:
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada;
- Simon Fraser University Department of English and Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences;
- and University of British Columbia, Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Hampton Research Fund, and Office of the Vice President Research.
A special shout out of thanks is due to the unflagging support of the former Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, SFU, John Craig. In addition, we were grateful for the generosity of SFU’s Woodward’s Theatre and Rob Kitsos, faculty in the School for Contemporary Arts at SFU; Dean of Arts, UBC Gage Averill and Associate Dean, Matthew Evenden; and we offer up a deep debt of gratitude to our colleagues who helped moderate our events: Paul Budra, Anne Higgins, Elizabeth Hodgson, Matthew Hussey, Scott MacKenzie, Siân Echard, Juliet O’Brien, and Stephen Guy-Bray.
Finally, perhaps most significantly, we are also grateful for the incredible team of graduate and undergraduate students at both Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia who helped our real time events run smoothly and shared our programming with the wider public on social media: Daniel Helbert, Nathan Szymanski and Mariella Ocampo. We are happy to see our list of collaborators expand and we welcome David Coley, Scott MacKenzie, and Deana Kreisel to the team. Finally, we applaud our network of colleagues who remain interested and supportive of our programming.