October 5th, 2016
Monday, October 10, 2016, 12-2pm
Cultural ecology is a new direction in recent ecocriticism and the environmental humanities which is grounded, on the one hand, in a general theory of cultural ecology as a field of transdisciplinary studies that has gained considerable visibility in recent ecological thought. On the other hand, it adapts, translates, and integrates these insights from various disciplines into a more specific theory of literature itself as a medium of cultural ecology. Between an anthropocentric cultural studies perspective, in which nature is dematerialized into a discursive human construct, and a radical ecocentrism, in which cultural processes are basically subsumed under naturalist assumptions, cultural ecology looks at the interaction and living interrelationship between culture and nature, without reducing one to the other. Literature is seen as a cultural form in which this living interrelationship is explored in specifically productive ways, providing a site of critical self-reflection of modern civilization as well as a source of creative cultural self-renewal. This is not merely a question of thematic orientation or content but of the aesthetic processes staged in imaginative texts, which in this sense can be described as functioning like an ecological force within the larger system of cultural discourses. Literature is described as a transformative force of language and discourse, which combines civilizational critique with cultural self-renewal in ways that turn literary texts into forms of sustainable textuality.
Hubert Zapf is Professor and Chair of American Literature at the University of Augsburg, Germany. His main areas of research are Cultural Ecology, English and American Literature, Literary and Cultural History and Theory. He is co-editor of Anglia: Journal of English Philology, of the Anglia Book Series, of the Handbooks of English and American Studies (DeGruyter), and of the book series Text und Theorie (Königshausen & Neumann). His publications include Kurze Geschichte der angloamerikanischen Literaturtheorie, UTB, 2nd ed. 1996; Literatur als kulturelle Ökologie, Niemeyer, 2002; Amerikanische Literaturgeschichte (ed.), Metzler, 3rd ed. 2010; American Studies Today: New Research Agendas (co-ed.), Winter, 2014; Literature and Science (ed.), Special Issue of Anglia 2015; Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology (ed.), De Gruyter, 2016; Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts, Bloomsbury, 2016; Zones of Focused Ambiguity in Siri Hustvedt’s Works: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (co-ed.), De Gruyter, 2016; “Ecological Thought in Europe and Germany,” Cambridge Global History of Literature and Environment, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.
Co-sponsored by the Department of English, and the American Studies Program.