Timothy Miller (Sarah Lawrence College)
This panel invites proposals from scholars interested in addressing the vitality, agency, sentience, and/or emotional life of plants from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Renewed consideration of plants under the banner of a "critical plant studies" has the potential to overlap productively with--and extend--existing theoretical formulations such as human-animal studies, ecocriticism, queer theory, the history of emotions, biopolitics, science studies, Anthropocene studies, and many others. As this panel's organizer suggested in a 2012 article, a critical plant studies should neither stand as appendage of critical animal studies nor be modeled simplistically on its zoological predecessor, replacing one object of study for another. Since 2012, theoretical consideration of plant life has begun to blossom, with foundational thinkers for a critical plant studies including botanist Matthew Hall (Plants as Persons, 2011), philosopher Michael Marder (Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life, 2013; and, with Luce Irigaray, Through Vegetal Being: Two Philosophical Perspectives, 2016), and literary theorist Jeffrey Nealon (Plant Theory: Biopower and Vegetable Life, 2015). Marder also edits a young book series with a growing catalog under the title "Critical Plant Studies: Philosophy, Literature, Culture," and I envision a critical plant studies as a fundamental component of the wider nonhuman turn in literary studies that has nevertheless received far less attention than plants merit. Similar conversations are emerging in botanical subfields with names such as "plant behavior"; "plant sensing and communication"; and even "plant neurobiology," and this session hopes to allow humanists to contribute to the ongoing rethinking of human-nonhuman relations across disciplines.