The American Literature Association, a coalition of societies devoted to the study of American authors, gathered on a rainy spring weekend in Boston, Massachusetts, for its 22nd annual conference, May 23-25. The ASLE session I organized for the 2013 conference, “Narrative Ecologies: Contemporary American Fiction and the Environment,” focused on American fiction by three presenters who live and work outside the United States.
Alexa Weik von Mossner, from the University of Klagenfurt, Austria, presented “Speculative American Fiction and the Future of Ecological Citizenship,” which discussed Norman Spinrad’s Greenhouse Su mmer (1999) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge (1988) in the context of ecotopian theory by the German sociologist Ulrich Beck and the British political theorist Andrew Dobson. In the second talk, “Autonomy and Ecology: Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves ,” Geoff Hamilton, from York University in Toronto, Canada, discussed Erdrich’s philosophy of the self as an alternative to the mythology of personal autonomy and enduring attachment to self-law in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road . And the third presentation, by Julia Fendt, from the University of Augsburg, Germany, “Where the hell is the Two Cultures split when you need it? A Cultural-Ecological Approach to Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2 ,” examined the deployment of the “two cultures” debate in the novel using a model of cultural ecology developed by Hubert Zapf.
The ALA is a rewarding event for anyone interested in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities. At the 2013 conference, sessions offered included zoopoetics in Whitman and Cummings, food writing and hybrid narrative forms, the African American West, and Thoreau and American philosophy. If you are traveling to Washington DC for the 2014 conference (May 22-25), join us for two Friday morning ASLE sessions: Ian Marshall’s “The New Nature Writing I: New Explorers, Young Writers, New Ecocriticism” and Megan Simpson’s “The New Nature Writing II: Going West.” The ASLE session at ALA in 2015 will be organized by Nicole Merola. A call for papers will circulate later this year.