EVENT Nov 11
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The Rise of the Anthropocene in 19th-century Literature (PAMLA Conference)

UCLA Luskin Conference Center
Organization: PAMLA
Event: PAMLA Conference
Categories: American, Interdisciplinary, British, Popular Culture, Literary Theory, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Medieval, Early Modern & Renaissance, Long 18th Century, Romantics, Victorian, 20th & 21st Century, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy, Science
Event Date: 2022-11-11 to 2022-11-13 Abstract Due: 2022-05-15

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In February 2000, at the meeting of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen first uttered the term Anthropocene in reference to the current geological.[1] As Crutzen exclaimed, a new epoch had begun due to anthropogenic forces, reshaping the biosphere. Evidently, Crutzen reasoned two decades ago that “the Anthropocene could be said to have started in the latter part of the eighteenth century, when analyses of air trapped in polar ice showed the beginning of growing global concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. This date also happens to coincide with James Watt’s design of the steam engine in 1784.”[2] In effect, proxies such as ice core samples, tree ring markings, and, of course, receding glacial lines have been identified as evidence to make the case that higher degrees of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have had detrimental consequences locally and globally, since, as Crutzen asserts, the redesign and advent of steam engine technology dating back to the pre-industrial era.

So, what is one to make of Crutzen’s research? What sorts of implications does study about atmospheric changes due to industrialization have upon one’s understanding of the environment? How might acknowledgement of the Anthropocene shape the way one interprets nineteenth-century literary (and non-literary) discourse? In various fields from literary studies to archaeology, the term Anthropocene has had an impact in reshaping the way researchers think evident in recent publications such as Jeremy Davies’s The Birth of the Anthropocene (2016), Tobias Menely and Jesse Oak Taylor’s Anthropocene Reading: Literary History in Geologic Times (2017), and Torgeir Rinke Bangstad and Póra Pétursdóttir’s Heritage Ecologies (2022), featuring reorientations toward interpreting matter from a geological perspective.

The panel aims to feature well-reasoned commentary about the Anthropocene and its significance in shaping literary and non-literary discourse produced by authors during the nineteenth century. 20-minute paper proposals for the special session may consider the following: the Anthropocene and matter; Anthropocene hyperobjects (e.g., evidence of global warming, climate change in 19th c. discourse); famine or disease in anthropogenic times; place in the Anthropocene; space and smoke; urban ecologies; waste during the Anthropocene. Paper proposals (200-300 word abstract) are welcome for consideration, which should be posted through the PAMLA portal at: https://pamla.ballastacademic.com/Home/S/18575. Please set up an account to access the portal prior to posting your abstract: https://pamla.ballastacademic.com. The deadline for abstracts will be May 15, 2022.

[1] J. Carruthers, “The Anthropocene,” South African Journal of Science, vol. 115 number 7/8 (July/August 2019): 1.
[2] Paul Crutzen, “Geology of mankind,” Nature, vol. 415.23 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/415023a. Date Accessed March 31, 2022.



Dewey W. Hall