Creating Nature: Premodern Climate and the Environmental Humanities (conference)
Scheduled for Thursday and Friday, May 23-24, 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 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.
The 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.
Organizers: Steven Mentz (St. John's University, NY), with Owen Williams (Folger Institute)
Invited Speakers: Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Lindy Elkins-Tanton (both Arizona State University) will present a public dialogue on Thursday evening.
On Thursday and Friday, the following scholars will present their original thoughts on the topic: Liza Blake (University of Toronto), Robin Kundis Craig (University of Utah), Dagomar Degroot (Georgetown University), Michael Dove (Yale University Forestry and Environmental Sciences), Lowell Duckert (University of Delaware), Nancy Nowacek (Stevens Institute), Chris Pastore (SUNY Albany), Kellie Robertson (University of Maryland), Debapriya Sarkar (University of Connecticut), Valerie Trouet (University of Arizona), Henry Turner (Rutgers University), Phillip Usher (New York University), and Julian Yates (University of Delaware).
Joseph Campana (Rice University), Anne Harris (Depauw University), Rebecca Laroche (University of Colorado), Jennifer Munroe (University of North Carolina), and Karen Raber (University of Mississippi) will act as “conversation stewards,” who will chair the sessions, introduce the speakers, and guide the dialogue.
Thursday, 23 May
All sessions will take place in the Foulke Conference Room unless otherwise noted.
Session One: Sustenance
Chair: Karen Raber (University of Mississippi)
- Macbeth’s Bubbles and Shakespeare’s Cosmopolitics
- Julian Yates (University of Delaware)
- The Frigid Golden Age
- Dagomar Degroot (Georgetown University)
- Saltwater Sustenance: Fisheries, Aquaculture, and a History of Ocean Food
- Robin Kundis Craig (University of Utah)
Lunch (on your own)
Session Two: Storms
Chair: Joseph Campana (Rice University)
- Shipwrecks, Tree Rings, and Hurricanes
- Valerie Trouet (University of Arizona)
- Storm Time
- Kellie Robertson (University of Maryland)
- Storm, Complexity, Chaos: Nature and the Limits of Experience in Shakespeare’s Theater
- Henry Turner (Rutgers University)
Reception (Folger Board Room)
Climate/Weather/Feeling (Paster Reading Room)
- Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Lindy Elkins-Tanton (both Arizona State University)
Friday, 24 May
Session Three: Shelter
Chair: Rebecca Laroche (University of Colorado) and Jennifer Munroe (University of North Carolina)
- The Shelter in Merapi Volcano: Mimesis and the Domestication of Disaster
- Michael Dove (Yale University)
- Shore as Shelter
- Debapriya Sarkar (University of Connecticut)
- No Globes Please: Moles not Astronauts!
- Philip Usher (New York University)
Lunch (on your own)
Session Four: Science & Spirits
Chair: Anne Harris (Depauw University)
- The Long Ice Age
- Lowell Duckert (University of Delaware) and Nancy Nowacek (Stevens Institute)
- Enter Heavens: Meteorology and Irregular Causation in Early Modern Drama and Science
- Liza Blake (University of Toronto)
- Dead Reckoning: Myth, Mystery, and the Poetics of Marine Natural Knowledge
- Christopher Pastore (SUNY Albany)
Session Five: Conversation Stewards' Roundtable
Chair: Steve Mentz (St. John’s University)
Closing Reception (Folger Board Room)