Reading and Writing the Body in the Anthropocene (Panel)

Global Anglophone / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Délice Williams (University of Delaware)

Two trends in ecocritical approaches to narrative form the basis of this proposed session on Reading & Writing the Body in the Anthropocene. The first is the proliferation of the term Anthropocene itself, which not only attempts to name an epoch but also seems to have become a kind of shorthand for a constellation of political, social, scientific and economic concerns related to our understanding of human impact on the environment. The second trend is the so-called “material turn” in the environmental humanities, a shift that, as Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann observe, has brought “increasing attention” to the imbrications of meaning, narrative and material realities in the larger conversation on literature and the environment (Iovino 550). This emphasis on matter brings with it additional attention to the human body, already the subject of sustained and considerable critical attention from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary vantage points. Stacy Alaimo’s work on “trans-corporeality” exemplifies the resurgence of the body that has accompanied the material turn in ecocriticism, and her assertion that “the material self cannot be disentangled from networks that are simultaneously economic, political, cultural, scientific, and substantial” articulates the central premise of much of the recent scholarship in this area (Alaimo 475).

Located at the intersection of the material turn in ecocritical scholarship and the conceptual focus on the Anthropocene, the panel seeks to explore this convergence by examining the ways that writers mobilize the body in contemporary fiction and nonfiction narratives that take up the question of the relationship between the human and the natural world. We seek papers from a range of critical perspectives.

This panel will explore the relationship between narrative representations of the body and the constellation of environmental and political concerns that surround the concept of the Anthropocene.