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Narrating the Biosphere: Of Plants and Animals

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Organizer: Keijiro Suga

Co-Organizer: Ichigo Mina Kaneko

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The earth is commonly said to be shaped by the four elements. But it also depends on the biosphere: the region on, above, and below the Earth's surface where life exists, a narrow zone in which soil, water, and air combine to sustain life. Otherwise known as the ecosphere, the biosphere is the worldwide sum of all ecosystems. Formed and maintained by the countless interactions of all organisms, we humans, too, compose a small part of it, depending on the lives of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. The human imagination has tried to respond to this fact across stories, images, and art across national borders and time periods—the quest to make sense of our place within this system, and of our interactions with other organisms, has no end in sight, other than the looming catastrophes caused by human activities themselves.
     In this seminar, we propose to explore the different modes of living expressed by a variety of earthly organisms, as depicted or thought across literature, folklore, philosophy, anthropology, and arts. In the first place, who are “we”? And how do we live side-by-side, or as one, with our plant and animal kin? What is the relationship between individual parts and cohesive sums, and how does the biosphere help us work through these relations? How do poetry, art, literature and visual media help bring the natural world closer or more present, despite their disappearance or destruction caused by humankind? How are the limitations of human perception—in our encounters with plant and animal life—navigated through creative works? Topics may include, but are not limited to: the visualization of microphenomena, translating plant and animal life, preservation and disappearance, inter-species encounters. We welcome submissions that think and act through different modes of ecocritical consciousness and explore how creative works reshape our encounters with and within the ecosphere.

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