Appel à communications pour l’atelier “The perception and representation of plants in early modern England (1550-1700)” (S29)

SEMINAR S29

The perception and representation of plants in early modern England (1550-1700)

Convenors:

Anna Maria Cimitile (Università L’Orientale – Napoli, Italy)

Jean-Jacques Chardin (Université de Strasbourg, France)

Laurent Curelly (Université de Haute Alsace – Mulhouse, France)

This topic is in line with present-day environmental concerns and reflects a growing interest in the lives of plants as a model for life on earth. Increasingly influential critical trends on plants and the environment are developed in the works of such authors as Lawrence Buell, Wendy Wheeler and Emmanuele Coccia. In his Life of Plants, Coccia argues that plants are quintessentially, radically connected to their surrounding environment: “[The plant] is the most intense, radical, and paradigmatic form of being in the world. To interrogate plants means to understand what it means to be in the world” (5). He further contends that, millions of years ago, plants transformed the world by making it possible for animal life to exist. In the final chapter of the book, Coccia even argues that in the Renaissance the seed of the plant was considered to be the paradigm of thinking and reason, because reason was defined not strictly as a human agent but as a force capable of fashioning matter.

As human activity is taking its toll on the environment, its impact on the natural world has become an object of study well beyond the confines of natural science.

Taking his cue from geographers Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin, Bruno Latour defends the hypothesis that the beginning of Anthropocene, to be understood as a geological era centred on Man, coincides with the publication of Galileo’s astronomical treatise Sidereus Nuncius in 1610 (Facing Gaia, 184-7). It is certainly a thought-provoking argument that we and early-modern humans should be held responsible for destroying ecosystems and, thus, severing plants’ physical as well as metaphysical connection with the world. It is no surprise that eco-critical theory as applied to the early modern era has become an expanding field of research, thus prompting students of that period to green their critical agenda and explore avenues that include early modern men’s attitudes to their natural environment.

How did early modern philosophers and artists perceive their environment? Was the perception of plants only conditioned by ideological and theological discourses or was it also – primarily? – shaped by individuals’ senses and emotions? This question invites us to reconsider the significance of the body in the building of the individual and the vision of selfhood as an environmentally constructed entity. How far did the relationship between man and plants challenge the centrality of his position in the world? Did religious affiliations have an impact on the perception of this relationship? Eco-critical approaches to early modern representations of plants may also lead us to revisit contemporary aesthetic categorisations and norms.

Reflections on early modern representations of plants are envisaged as the occasion to rethink the present and intervene on it in ways that are compatible with the predicament of our planet and therefore of our lives today.

Papers may discuss the following themes:

–          Plants and literary genres from an eco-critical perspective: the pastoral, the romance, utopia, emblem-books, country-house poetry, travel narratives, etc.;

–          Eco-critical readings of literary works with plants in them;

–          Sensory and aesthetic perceptions of the environment in scientific treatises, literary texts and works of art (such as painting and music);

–          “Vegetable politics”: plants in political and social projects;

–          The interaction between literature, architecture and plants;

–          Geographical explorations and the perception of plants.

Bibliography

COCCIA, Emanuele. The Life of Plants: A Metaphysics of Mixture. Trans. Dylan J. Montanari (La vie des plantes. Une métaphysique du mélange, 2016). Cambridge; Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2018.

LATOUR, Bruno. Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climactic Regime. Trans. Catherine Porter (Face à Gaïa: Huit conferences sur le nouveau changement climatique). Cambridge; Medford, MA: Polity Press, 2017.

MCCOLLEY, Diane Kelsey. Poetry and Ecology in the Age of Milton and Marvell. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.

PRAWDZIK, Brendan. “Greenwashing Marvell”. Marvell Studies 4(1): 4, pp. 1-25.

WATSON, Robert N. Back to Nature. The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Paper proposals (200-250 words) should be sent to the seminar convenors by 15 January 2020.

Anna Marie Cimitile annamariacimitile@tiscali.it

Jean-Jacques Chardin chardin@unistra.fr

Laurent Curelly laurent.curelly@uha.fr
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