International Conference “Literature and Botany”

Deadline: January 31, 2022
Contact: Piotr Kociumbas
Email: [email protected]

THE RESEARCH CENTRE “NONANTHROPOCENTRIC CULTURAL SUBJECTIVITY” – PART OF THE PROGRAMME “INITIATIVE OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE – RESEARCH UNIVERSITY” OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WARSAWTHE INSTITUTE OF MODERN LANGUAGES, PEDAGOGICAL UNIVERSITY OF KRAKOW, THE INSTITUTE OF GERMAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF WARSAW
AND THE BOTANICAL GARDEN OF WARSAW
IN COLLABORATION WITH
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES,
INSTITUT FÜR MEDIENKULTURWISSENSCHAFT, ALBERT-LUDWIGS-UNIVERSITÄT FREIBURG
LITLINAL RESEARCH GROUP, DEPARTAMENTO DE FILOLOGÍA INGLESA Y ALEMANA, UNIVERSIDADE DE SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

would like to invite you to participate in the international conference “Literature and Botany”. The conference is going to take place on May 20-22, 2022, in hybrid format: in-person in Warsaw and on ZOOM.

Ever since the dawn of mankind, plants have constituted a significant elements of humans’ symbolic imaginary, especially in the sphere of mythology-religion. The topos of the cosmic tree establishing the axis mundi and its variants, which include The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden or – in the vitalist versions – the Etz Chaim, known from the Kabbalah, appears in almost all cultures: e.g., the Chinese mulberry Fusang, the Sumerian Schaluppu or the Yggdrasil ash tree known from Nordic sagas. Plants have also played a significant role in religious rituals, to mention the Vedic soma and the Iranian haoma, known for their function of expanding awareness.

Simultaneously with the development of phytotherapy, a systematic knowledge of the world of plants and its correlation with the human body also appeared, giving rise to the science of botany. Theophrastus of Eresos (approx. 371-287 B.C), the author of Περὶ φυτῶν ἱστορία (Latin, Historia plantarum), a work which was influential through early modernity, is known as the father of this science. The European Middle Ages brought about a number of herbaria and herbal medicine encyclopedia (Walahfrid of Reichenau’s Liber de cultura hortorum, Hildegard of Bingen’s Physica, Alberth the Great’s De Vegetabilibus, Konrad of Megenberg’s Book of Nature), which were often not only scientific treatises but also works of art.

Albrecht von Haller’s poem “Die Alpen” (1729) marks the pinnacle of the interconnectedness of botany and literature in the modern world. The text includes numerous footnotes pertaining to the plants mentioned in the body of the poem and presenting a scientific commentary by the poet, who also had extensive naturalistic knowledge. The same models and imagery which solidified the image of the garden as the locus amoenus in the pastoral lyrics of the Renaissance and the Baroque, can be detected in Haller’s poem. The connections between these models and contemporary postpastoral literature, where the significance of the ecological context is ever expanding, have been pointed out in Terry Gifford’s influential 1999 study Pastoral. The more distant the landscape becomes from nature, the more marked it is by industrialization, the stronger the longing for the garden of paradise becomes in culture and especially in literary fiction, as manifested in the tropes of the African jungle, the Victorian orangery, or the Hungarian village lost in the Pushta.

The (post)modern approach to humans’ relations with their plant environment is largely determined by the discourse of ecocriticism, which, in the course of the development of the environmental humanities, even resulted in the appearance of the term “Plantationcene,” (German, Plantatiozän) a synonym to the “Anthropocene,” as proposed by Anna Tsing to discuss the contemporary.

While the term “Planationcene” does not come directly from the word plant, it is no coincidence that the root of the terms is the same: unpaid slave labor, which underlies the root of Tsing’s term, was ultimately used largely with the aim of increasing the production of certain plants. The resulting threat to biodiversity from monocultures and the mass deforestation of tropical rainforests are currently not only
period – an epoch marked by the presence of humans like no other before it.
considering the upcoming climate catastrophe but also of literary texts of the “self-conscious Anthropocene” (Lynn Keller). Proposals
Overstory, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019.

Length of presentations: 20 min. (additionally 10 min. for discussion).
Conference fee: 200 PLN / 50 EUR.
Publication: Texts in English and German, prepared according to editorial guidelines, are going to be published after peer review and editorial review in the series “Culture – Environment – Society: Humanities and Beyond” published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (BRILL Deutschland), The publication of a multilingual monograph volume in the series “Literatura – Konteksty” (University of Warsaw or Pedagogical University of Krakow) is also planned.

Deadline for submissions: January 31, 2022

We would like to ask persons interested in participating in the conference to fill out the application form and send it to [email protected]. The form is also available on the website: https://nonanthro.uw.edu.pl/en/conferences/literature- contexts-posthumanism/literature-and-botany/.

Confirmation emails and further information will be sent out by February 28, 2022.
On behalf of the organizers dr hab. Joanna Godlewicz-Adamiec, prof. UW dr hab. Paweł Piszczatowski, prof. UW dr Tomasz Szybisty (UP Kraków)

Posted on December 19, 2021