The Year in Review, 2017-18

2016-17 saw Oecologies grow with new members and expand its temporal range into the 19th century. 2017-18 continued that trend and was a year marked by change, development, and the culmination of initiatives. Such change and growth crystallized over the summer, when a subcommittee of Oe collaborators was tasked with exploring models for best practices and sustainable growth. At summer’s end, the existing slate of co-investigators and collaborators from the Pacific Northwest voted to expand Oe’s geographic reach down the Pacific West coast and instituted a new structure of institutional governance, including new leadership roles and newly codified parameters for membership. Under this new structure, Vin Nardizzi will be assuming the role of Director, with Tiffany Werth filling the role of Past Director and David Coley as Incoming (Future) Director. The executive council will consist of Alex Cosh (UBC), Karol Pasciano (UBC), and Breanne Weber (UC Davis) as Graduate Student Liaisons; Mo Pareles (UBC) as Diversity Officer; J. Allan Mitchell (University of Victoria) as International / National Affiliate Liaison; Frances Dolan (UC Davis) as Activities Coordinator; Courtney Barajas (Whitworth University) as Executive Secretary; and Louisa Mackenzie (University of Washington) and Sharon O’Dair (Emerita) as Membership Coordinators. We believe that these new structures of governance should position Oe to build on our past strengths and successes. With the help of RA support from UC-Davis, Tiffany, Vin, and David will begin a substantial overhaul of the current Oe webpages that reflects these changes, a project that we expect to be completed by early 2019.

As it did last year, the Oe Speaker Series featured three public lectures. In late October, in collaboration with the STS Colloquium at UBC, Jesse Oak Taylor (University of Washington) presented “Conrad’s Earth System Poetics.” The paper situated the work of Joseph Conrad within the overlapping environmental and human systems—biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, etc.—as they existed within his fraught cultural moment. In January, again at UBC, we welcomed Hillary Eklund (Loyola University) for a lecture entitled “Swamped: Wetlands and Mobility in the Early Modern Atlantic,” which considered the metaphorical and historical dimensions of swamps and wetlands, both real (Ireland’s bogs, England’s Fens, Florida’s Everglades) and imagined (Milton’s swampy Hell, Bunyan’s Slough of Despond), in the Early Modern literary imagination. Finally, in March, we hosted Sharon Kinoshita (University of California, Santa Cruz) at SFU’s Harbour Centre campus. Her talk, “Counting Sheep: Marco Polo and the Global Middle Ages,” situated Marco Polo’s representations of sheep in his Description of the World against Latin-European, Islamicate, and Chinese representations in order to interrogate the distinctiveness of Polo’s broader descriptions of the world.

In addition to the Speaker Series, Oe was well represented in regional and international conferences this year, both through its own sponsored sessions and in the related work of its individual participants. Several Oe-related publications also appeared this year in edited collections and refereed journals. The following are a few highlights:

  • VCologies, Houston, TX (September 2017). VCologies hosted its second annual conference at the University of Houston. Deanna Kreisel presented a paper entitled “Troubling Organicism” in a panel on ecoScience.
  • The Pacific Northwest Renaissance Society, Portland, OR (October 2017). Oe organized two sessions. The first, a roundtable held in anticipation of Premodern Ecologies in the Modern Literary Imagination and facilitated by Vin Nardizzi, featured Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, David Coley, Sarah Crover, Louisa Mackenzie, and Allan Mitchell, with a response by Tiffany Werth. The second, a paper panel on Shakespeare and the West, included work by both Vin Nardizzi and Patricia Badir, as well as Gretchen Minton (University of Montana). Finally, Frances Dolan’s beautiful keynote, “Hedge/rows,” reflected many of the interests of Oe as a whole, and it set the tone for an ecologically tinged PNRS conference. Oe also hosted a rousing cash bar mixer Friday evening during the conference which facilitated more informal conversation and networking.
  • MLA, New York, NY (January 2018). Vin Nardizzi and Tiffany Werth both participated in Oe-related sessions, Vin in a roundtable entitled Critical Semantics: New Transcultural Keywords (he spoke on “grafting”) and Tiffany in a roundtable on Performance, Materiality, and Ecology in Early Modern Literature. In addition, Vin presided over a panel on “Early Modern Biopolitics: Race, Nature, Sexuality.”
  • The Renaissance Society of America, New Orleans, LA (March 2018). Tiffany Werth presented “Lithic After Life and the New Jerusalem,” part of her continuing research on stone in the Early Modern Imagination as part of a two-part panel series bringing together literature scholars and art historians. Vin Nardizzi and Tom White both participated in a roundtable on Premodern Plants, and Vin and Louisa Mackenzie were also among the discussants on a roundtable entitled “Eco-philology: Early Modern Environmental Words and World.”
  • Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada, Victoria, BC (June 2018). Sarah Crover and David Coley both participated in “Making and Breaking with Environmental Periodization,” an interdisciplinary roundtable on the role of the Environmental Humanities in the academy.
  • Frances Dolan published two articles related to her essay in the forthcoming Premodern Ecologies in the Modern Literary Imagination. The first “Blood of the Grape” appeared in Blood Matters: Studies in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700, eds. Bonnie Lander Johnson and Eleanor Decamp (Philadelphia:  U of Pennsylvania P, 2018), pp. 211-23; and the second, “Time, Gender, and the Mystery of English Wine” was part of Gendered Temporalities in the Early Modern World, ed. Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks (Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2018).
  • In early March, Vin Nardizzi and Patricia Badir both presented on Oe-related research in the Shakespeare Names and Sto:lo Memoryscapes symposium at the University of the Fraser Valley.
  • Tiffany Werth gave a talk on alchemy that explored its deployment as a surprisingly fecund model for human generation and poetic figuration in Distillation and Alchemy: Science, Society, and Sentiment, a one-day symposium hosted by the UC Davis Humanities Institute, Department of Classics, and Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

In addition, several collaborators taught classes related to Oe concerns. In Fall of 2017, Tiffany Werth developed a section of “Topics in Early Modern English Non-Dramatic Literature” at SFU that considered both the Early Modern roots of contemporary ecological thought and the challenges of engaging with premodern thought from the 21st-century West Coast. In the same term, Mo Pareles designed a grad course at UBC on Ecocritical Approaches to Beowulf, one that drew from animal studies, speculative realism, science studies, indigenous studies, and other contemporary critical approaches. Finally, in the UBC winter term, Vin Nardizzi offered “Anthropocene: Nomenclatures, Histories, Criticism,” a graduate course introducing students to the multidisciplinary literatures that have recently and increasingly constellated around this designation.

As we look forward to the next academic year, we are excited about several ongoing projects. Patricia Badir—in conjunction with Oe, Bard on the Beach, UBC’s Community-University Engagement Support fund, and faculty partners from UBC and SFU—will continue developing the Galatea Project, which will bring scholars, students, theatre producers and performers together for a six-day workshop and public reading of John Lyly’s play that explores the topics of same-sex romance and climate change. We are also looking forward to the projected 2019 arrival of Premodern Ecologies in the Modern Literary Imagination, edited by Vin and Tiffany, published by the University of Toronto Press. The volume originated with 2015’s Oecologies: Engaging the World, From Here conference, and features contributions from many Oe collaborators, as well as other scholars in the Environmental Humanities. Finally, Allan Mitchell, in collaboration with Tom White and Breanne Weber, has also agreed to coordinate linked Oe sessions for ASLE 2019, which is to be held at Davis on 26-30 June 2019.

We want to conclude with a round of thanks: first to our Oe RA from the past year, Alex Cosh (UBC), who was instrumental in keeping our social media presence and our website current, as well as in managing publicity for our speaker series; and second, to our new and ongoing players who make academic collaboration an enriching labor.

David Coley

The Year in Review, 2016-17

In 2016-17, Oecologies continued to have a vital presence at regional, national, and international events. We are delighted to report that we “grew”: David Coley (SFU), Deanna Kreisel (UBC), and Scott MacKenzie (UBC) joined the Oecologies team as collaborators, so our remit now reaches into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Our page for “Scholarly Resources” reflects this change. In the next two years, we expect that such growth will result in further changes to OE’s governance, structure, and programming. This is an exciting time for us!

Members of the OE collective remained active on the conference circuit this year. Here are some highlights:

  • In association with the newly formed VCologies (V for Victorian) group, Deanna Kreisel and Elizabeth Carolyn Miller (UC Davis) organized the first VCologies Conference at UC Davis in September 2016. Another conference will take place this September at the University of Houston. VCologies also sponsored panels at two conferences (INCS 2017 and NAVSA 2016), held meetings at three conferences (INCS 2017, NAVSA 2016, and NAVSA Florence 2017), and began work on a special issue of Victorian Literature and Culture on “Open Ecologies” (edited by Deanna Kreisel and Devin Griffiths).
  • Vin Nardizzi was a member of the plenary session (“Queer Natures: Bodies, Sexualities, Environments”) at SAA 2017. He shared new OE-related work on panels at MLA 2017 (“Eco-rhetorics and Shakespeare”) and (“Memory Studies and the Anthropocene”). He also delivered one of the keynote addresses at “The Transforming Bodies Conference” at Cornell University (April 2017), which was sponsored by the Early Modern Conversions project. At this conference, Patricia Badir gave a paper on the aesthetics of conversion at Little Gidding.
  • Robert Rouse and Mo Pareles (UBC) organized a session on indigeneity, avian bodies, and medieval literature at MAP 2017.
  • Tiffany Werth facilitated a session called “Performing Materiality and the Non/Human” that was part of an exploratory research collaboration between the International Spenser Society and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London entitled “Performing Elizabethan Poetry: Spenser and Shakespeare.” The event was a Research-in-Action workshop in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (June 2017). She also participated in an eco-themed roundtable at MLA 2017 on “The World is Flat: Ecomaterialist Perspectives of the Renaissance” and acted as a respondent to a special session on “Radical Hope and Premodern Ecologies.” She also gave a paper at “Early Modern Literary Geographies,” a conference sponsored by the Huntington Library in San Marino, California (October 2016) that brought together literary critics, historians, geographers and archaeologists to examine four key geographic sites—body, house, neighborhood, and region—to illuminate the important spatial structures and concepts that define the early modern engagement with the world.

Our Oecologies Speaker Series featured three public lectures. We kicked off the year with Kellie Robertson (University of Maryland), who presented “Ecologies of Scale: Imagining the Human” at SFU’s Harbour Center in November. Her paper examined how medieval writers used metaphors of scale, specifically microcosmic figures, to think about humans’ relationships to the natural world. In collaboration with the Science and Technology Studies Program at UBC, we welcomed in early 2017 Cannon Schmitt (Professor and Associate Director of the Ph.D. program in English at the University of Toronto), who talked about “Soft Water: A Metaphor and its Vicissitudes.” More recently, we hosted at SFU Harbour Centre Keith Pluymers (Howard E. & Susanne C. Jessen Postdoctoral Instructor in the Humanities at the California Institute of Technology). His paper, “‘Other Ages Shall Have Cause to Speak of This Age’: The Politics of Sustainability under Charles I,” considered forest management and environmental justice under the governments of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell.

Some of us designed and taught courses related to the Oecologies mandate. Tiffany Werth and John Craig co-taught a graduate course on “Renaissance Reformations: Religion, Print, and the Natural World” that included an innovative field module – a one-week immersive encounter with the early modern archive at the Huntington Library. At UBC, Robert Rouse taught a graduate seminar that introduced a new batch of students to Ecocriticism. If you wish to learn more about these courses and their reading lists, please contact Robert and Tiffany.

As we enter the new school term, we are pleased to report that we will be attending the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Society Conference, which will be held in Portland, OR in October. We will convene an OE roundtable featuring Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (George Washington U), David Coley, Sarah Crover (UBC), Louisa Mackenzie (U Washington), and Allan Mitchell (U Victoria), with a response by Tiffany Werth. We have also organized a panel on Shakespeare and the West, which includes Patricia Badir, Gretchen Minton (U Montana, Bozeman), and Vin Nardizzi. Oecologies will also host a cash bar at this event. Further details about where and when you can find other OE-related events in the upcoming year will soon be posted on our website.

Finally, we thank our RAs from the past year, all of whom made our programming stronger and our online presence engaged. In particular, we are grateful to Emily Lauman (SFU) for her work updating the “Scholarly Resources” page and facilitating Kellie Robertson’s visit and to Justin O’Hearn (UBC) for keeping our social media presence live. We also congratulate our former RA, Daniel Helbert, who is now an Assistant Professor of English at West Texas A&M!

The Oecologies Team