The Year in Review, 2014-15

We are delighted to report that “Oecologies” has successfully completed its second year of interdisciplinary, cross-period programming. We – Patricia Badir, Vin Nardizzi, Robert Rouse, and Tiffany Werth – offer here a roundup of the year’s activities and a preview of the exciting new initiatives that we’ll embark upon next academic year.

Under the banner of “The Histories of Sustainability,” we hosted eight speakers at Green College: they introduced us to the relationship between sustainability and the Anthropocene (Jeremy Davies); to the queerness of plant sex (Catriona Sandilands); to the localism of sustainable practice and knowledge (Kenneth Lertzman); to the fossil record in seventeenth-century culture (Paula Findlen); to the concepts of panarchy and resilience (Karen Bakker); to the meanings of “raw materials” in the Victorian era (Deanna Kreisel); to the sociology of gift economies (Thomas Kemple); and to contemporary thinking about zoophilia (Greg Garrard). We are grateful to the Green College community for facilitating this suite of diverse perspectives on what sustainability is and what it is that we think we should sustain.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From 7-9 November 2014, members of the “Oecologies” collective also convened at Green College for the 42nd Annual UBC Medieval Workshop (in conjunction with SFU). Medieval and Renaissance Oecologies brought together researchers from around North America and Europe to interrogate premodern understandings of the natural world and ecological thinking. In an effort to define complex terms such as “environment,” “landscape,” and “ecology,” we asked: Where do these terms come from? What came before them? What do they mean here and now? What did conceptions of Nature and “œcology” look like in the medieval and Renaissance periods and how did different discourse communities define their meanings? Our keynote speakers for this conference were Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University) and Laurie Shannon (Northwestern University). Our conference also partnered with the 40th North American Byzantine Studies Conference, which convened in Vancouver that same weekend.

Graduate student and faculty members of “Oecologies” also participated in the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference (16-19 October 2014), the 3rd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group (16-18 October 2014), the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention (8-11 January 2015), the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) Annual Meeting (26-28 March 2015), and the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) Annual Meeting (2-5 April 2015).

Looking Ahead to 2015-16

In the upcoming year, “Oecologies” programming will change and will, we hope, remain exciting and diverse as ever. We will not be convening a speaker series at Green College. Instead, we have planned three major events for the upcoming year.

In July 2015, we will be partnering 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.”


A diverse collection of Animal authors will discuss their species-specific volumes, the burgeoning field of Animal Studies, and their experiences in writing cultural histories for this transformative book series. Events will include a one-day symposium at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum on 18 July 2015 and a public reading/discussion on 19 July. For more information, go to

From 1-3 October 2015, we will convene in Vancouver a multi-day 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 have invited eight speakers – Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Frances Dolan, Jonathan Gil Harris, 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 will be joined by select local “Oecologies” researchers, and, in addition to sharing research findings, we will enjoy a guided eco-tour of Vancouver and will participate in a rehearsed reading of John Lyly’s play Gallathea, which will be run by “Oecologies” co-organizer Patricia Badir.

In Spring 2016, we will host an event at the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) Annual Meeting in New Orleans (23-26 March 2016). Vin Nardizzi will lead a seminar called “Shakespeare and the Histories of Sustainability.” Our confirmed invited participants include Patricia Badir, Hillary Eklund, Rebecca Totaro, and Tiffany Werth. Below is a draft of the seminar description:

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.

Please consider joining us in the seminar as a participant or as an auditor!

“Oecologies” members will also be sponsoring and/or participating in events at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo (14-17 May 2015), the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference (22-25 October 2015), the MLA (7-10 January 2016), and the “Canada + Shakespeare” Symposium in Ottawa (21-23 April 2016).

Thank you!

We are grateful for the generosity of Mark Vessey, Alan Gumboc, John Corry, and Simone Goguen at Green College. We must also thank the person who is single-handedly responsible for our communications network, Sarah Crover; special thanks also to Tessa Cernik, Daniel Helbert, Kelsey Moskal, Kristan Newell, Jade Standing, Nathan Szymanski, and Matt Warner. Finally, and most deeply, we thank you, our network of colleagues, for your continued interest in our programming.

Vin Nardizzi
Tiffany Jo Werth
Patricia Badir
Robert Rouse

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 or view the event poster. Also follow us on Twitter (@Oecologies) and “Like” us on Facebook (! If you have other questions about Oecologies, please contact Carmel Ohman.