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Literary Criticism as Environmental Thinking?

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Organizer: Adrienne Ghaly

Co-Organizer: Aleks Prigozhin

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Is the 20 c. inheritance of literary criticism in its various modes of strong, ‘suspicious’, deep reading woefully inadequate for reckoning with the current and impending environmental crises, as many have claimed? 

Critics declare that these crises demand entirely new concepts and ways of doing things, for example borrowing from the sciences and social sciences. But the practice of criticism, as opposed to its programmatic statements, remains remarkably consistent. This observation leads us to ask what kinds of environmental thinking established practices of criticism already perform. In other words, which concepts and methods that are not explicitly environmental are good for thinking environmentally?

What does literary studies as literary studies in its ‘canonical’ late-20 c. form have to offer us as we engage with climate change and environmental collapse? If certain kinds of literary-critical thinking are environmental already, what kinds of unacknowledged environmental thinking do they do? What are ways of grasping the world-as-planetary and the urgent matters of a warming earth and mass extinction that our shared disciplinary practices enable?

While literary critics continue to mine past literary objects for environmental ways of thinking that literature itself affords, we’d like to explore which critical inheritances that have been at the core of our disciplinary practices speak urgently and differently in a planetary age. 

We invite proposals that engage and reframe strands of canonical theoretical and critical modes: ‘suspicious’ interpretive approaches, gender and performativity, novel studies, media theory and other critical practices that broaden and deepen our understanding of the environmental historical present, from affective attachments to systems-level thinking and ways of conceptualizing subjectivity and agency.

In contrast to ambivalence, micro claims, weak theory, disciplinary quietism or critical modesty, we will explore why literary studies’ disciplinary knowledge formation offers robust conceptual and analytical frames crucial for thinking with now.
Please send queries, 250-300 word abstracts and brief bio to the organizers, Adrienne Ghaly and Aleksandr Prigozhin  

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