Creating Nature: Premodern Climate and the Environmental Humanities (conference)

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Scheduled for May 24-26, 2019

In the premodern past, weather was never just weather. Storms expressed the rage of gods, drought punished human sinfulness, and fires provided revelations straight from divine mouths. To suffer in hostile environments meant encountering more-than-human forces with merely human flesh. The inhuman power Shakespeare calls “great creating Nature” touches and sustains human bodies, but opaquely, and sometimes painfully. Nature is creator and created, force and object, destroyer and home.

This conference, which is currently seeking a "Convening" grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support travel grants for its participants, will bring together premodern environmental humanities scholars to explore the long and varied history of how humans have conceptualized their environment. Its invited speakers will explore historical and cultural forms in which humans have come to terms with their love for, dependence on, and need to manipulate the nonhuman world.

Fourteen distinguished speakers will cluster their conversations around four environmental keywords: "storms," "sustenance," "shelter," and "spirits and science." Together with the conference-goers welcomed into conversation, "Creating Nature" will provide insights into premodern ideas about human entanglement with the nature they knew themselves to be creating and the nature that created them.