Avenging Nature: A Survey of the Role of Nature in Modern and Contemporary Art and Literature

Editors: Eduardo Valls Oyarzun, Rebeca Gualberto Valverde, Noelia Malla
García, María Colom Jiménez and Rebeca Cordero Sánchez.

At the dawn of ‘ecocriticism’ as a discipline of study within the Humanities,
Glotfelty and Fromm (1996), in the first general reader in the matter, defined it
as the critical practice that examines the relationship between literary and
cultural studies and the natural world. In general terms, during the past two
decades, ecocriticism has denounced the anthropocentric and instrumental
appropriation of nature that has for so long legitimized human exploitation of
the nonhuman world. Exposing the logic of domination that articulates the very
power relationships that both connect and separate human culture and natural
life, recent trends in ecocriticism have raised awareness of the ‘otherisation’ of
nature (Huggan and Tiffin, 2015), pointing out the need of assessing insurgent
discourses that—converging with counter-discourses of race, gender or class—
realize the empowerment of nature from its subaltern position.

But such empowerment of nature first requires that the sundering of human
and nonhuman realms is overcome since, as Kate Rigby explains, only by
regaining “a sense of the inextricability of nature and culture, physis and techne,
earth and artifact—consumption and destruction—would be to move beyond (…)
the arrogance of humanism” (2002, p. 152). Yet, recognizing such inextricable
relationship between human and natural while overcoming the arrogance of
anthropocentrism entails the ecocritical admission that all cultural discourses
are in fact exploitative of nature. Rigby states it clearly while explaining,
“culture constructs the prism through which we know nature” (p. 154). We
comprehend nature when we apprehend the world through language and
representation, but nature precedes and exceeds words; it is therefore “real”
(1992, p. 32) and separated by an abyss from the symbolic networks of culture
that write, master, assign a meaning to and attempt to set nature in order.
From this perspective, culture is not exactly the end of nature as much as it is an
appropriation and colonization of nature. Culture masters, dominates and
instrumentalizes the natural world. However, in a time when the “end of nature”
that Bill McKibben prophesized in 1989 has been certified, when we know for a
fact that it is indeed a different Earth we are living in—because by changing the
climate there is not a corner of the planet that has not been affected by our
actions—the evidence of global ecological endangerment compels the ecocritical
debate to install environmental ethics and concerns at the crux of humanistic
research. The critical enterprise is far from easy though. The argument that
cultural representations of nature establish a relationship of domination and
exploitation of human discourse over nonhuman reality is extendible to the
critical task. As humanist critics, our regard of nature in literary and artistic
representation is instrumental and anthropocentric. But the time has come to
avenge nature—or, at least, to critically probe into nature’s ongoing revenge
against the exploitation of culture.

Nature—a different, humanly modified nature—will remain after the climate
change doomsday. Nature precedes our understanding and its
conceptualization. However, despite the unimaginable damage done, it will also
survive us when the Earth becomes inhabitable for humans. There will be
nature after culture, as there is now a rebellious nature that resists in spite of
culture. And thus, we call for articles that explore insubordinate representations
of nature in modern and contemporary literature and art. We press for the need
to reassess how nature is already, and has been for a while, striking back against
human domination. We call for scholars from the fields of literary studies,
postcolonial studies, art, history, gender and women’s studies, film and media
studies, ethics and philosophy, cultural studies, ethnology and anthropology,
and other related disciplines to join us in this interdisciplinary volume that will
re-examine the intersections of culture and nature in literary and artistic
representations and will point out the insurgence of nature within and outside
of culture.

Contributors may wish to explore, among others, the following topics:
 Ecofeminism and gender studies: domination and empowerment
 Postcolonial and transnational representations of nature as
(dis)empowered ‘other’
 Econarratives of subversion and rebellion
 Naturalisation of others and otherisation of nature in literature and art
 Literary and artistic representations of ecocides and ecological crisis
 Post-pastoral literature and the redefinition of the poetics of domination
 Social epistemology and ecology
 Environmental ethics applied to cultural studies
 Globalisation and global ecological imperilment
 Eco-social art and literature
 Post-humanism and ecology
 Ecotopias in literature, film and television
 Insurgent nature and the future of humanity
 Gothic nature and eco-horror in dystopic narratives
 Animal Studies and nonhuman sentience
Please submit article proposals for the volume tentatively titled Avenging
Nature, a Survey of the Role of Nature in Modern Contemporary Art and
Literature by July 1st, 2018. Article proposals should include a title, a 500-
word summary, author’s name, institutional affiliation, email address and a
short biographical note.
Articles will be selected following a blind peer-review process and authors will
be notified by October 1st, 2018. Full articles will be expected by March 1st, 2019. The final book proposal will be submitted for final approval to a top-tier
publishing house which has already shown interest in an international launch of
our volume.

Please send your submission and queries to rgualberto@ucm.es

Works Cited

Glotfelty, Cheryl and Fromm, Harold, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader:
Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press,
Huggan, Graham and Tiffin, Helen. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature,
Animals, Environment. London and New York: Routledge, 2015.
McKibben, Bill. The End of Nature. New York: Random House, 1989, 2006.
Rigby, Kate. “Ecocriticism.” Literary and Cultural Criticism at the TwentyFirst
Century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2012. Pp: 151-178.
Zizek, Slavov. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through
Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.