Climate Change and Comparative Aesthetics (ACLA 2020)
In 2016 Amitav Ghosh threw down a gauntlet: realism, he asserted, is not adequate to the task of representing climate change. As per the subtitle of The Great Derangement, it is “the unthinkable” both in our recent Holocene past and in the genre of realism. Shortly after, Jesse Oak Taylor called out Ghosh’s dismissal of realism on b2o’s blog while advocating other kinds of serious fiction, like modernism and magical realism, as capable of representing climate change. Most recently, Elizabeth DeLoughrey has asserted that allegory is the form par excellence for representing the Anthropocene.
The challenge of representing climate change and the Anthropocene is one of the most fruitful and dire problems facing the humanities. This seminar seeks to mobilize, expand on, and think deeply about the debates that have emerged around climate change’s representation. What forms, modes or genres are especially useful for illuminating climate change? How do they make it easier or harder to pay attention to different aspects of climate change?
While the limitations of particular modes deserve attention, this seminar will be most interested in getting away from negative critique to consider the capacities and productivities of different forms. Rather than trying to harmonize representation or make a case for one kind in particular, this seminar assumes that their critical purchase will be most illuminating when the perspective they foreground serves as a counterpoint to others. This seminar thus seeks to create an opportunity for comparative aesthetics, in which we can think together, in real time, the capacities, limits, effects, and work of different ways of representing climate change.
Paper topics may include but are not limited to:
- what a particular aesthetic mode (i.e. apocalypse, gothic, pastoral) or epistemological mode (i.e. the uncanny, shock) foregrounds about climate change
- how a particular genre or form represents agency in the Anthropocene
- how a particular mode/genre approaches climate change’s past, present or future. Is one foregrounded, is a relationship between them particularly apparent or relevant?
- what realist art/fiction represents well about climate change
- what non-realist, speculative, or magically real art/fiction do well
- representing climate change at various scales
- the perspective of historic or already-existing apocalyptic worlds
- the uses of affect for apprehending climate change (i.e. humor, grief)
- the capacities of visual or aural art rather than textual
- statistical, numerical, or nonfictional representations of climate change
Responses will be pre-circulated so that our conversations may be most robust. Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words via the ACLA website by September 23. Inquires may be sent to the organizer at email@example.com.