From Ego to Eco III: Seeking Shelter or dwelling in the Open? – Examining Ecocritical Approaches to Human Habitation

JHB G010 Seminar Room. AHSSRB

Date & Time
11th October, 2013 @ 10:00:00

We cordially invite you to participate in the third “From Ego to Eco” Symposium ant the 11th of October, 10-6, Moore Institute, NUI Galway, hosted by German/ The School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. This time we focus on the nature/culture divide of human habitation. A detailed programme will be circulated shortly

Seeking Shelter or dwelling in the Open? – Examining Ecocritical Approaches to Human Habitation

From a socio-historical point of view, the human need for shelter seems unquestionable. For millennia humans have built dwelling places to shelter themselves and their belongings from exposure to the threats posed by their environments. But whereas fences and shelters once seemed essential to our survival, in an age of over-population and ecological crises, in which mankind figures as the single biggest threat to the well-being of the ecosphere, it is the environment which seems in need of being sheltered from us. Our faith in the fence seems inexhaustible: Where once we shut nature out, we now shut nature in, in nature reserves and conservation zones trying to exempt species and habitats from destruction. These exemptions, however, are little more than an alibi for ever greater exploitation and eradication of wilderness on the outside. In the face of the fact that we cannot save the planet by trying to save ourselves, literature and philosophy ask new and provocative questions: Can we acknowledge and approve of our contingencies with and exposures to the environment? Are we ready to face the open, in which we participate regardless of how and where we live: the water cycle, the atmosphere and the earth? Are we willing yet to extend the privilege of the sanctity of life beyond humanity to other species? Both literature and philosophy respond to these questions by reflecting on modes of habitation and imaginatively conceiving them anew. From return-to-wilderness narratives and post-apocalyptic scenarios of exposure, to the outright refusal to tell the human self from its non-human environments in poetry via prosopopeia, literature abounds with depictions of life outside conventional modes of shelteredness. On the other hand, literature reflects on the parameters, conditions and consequences of settlement, migration and diaspora and their implications for humans and environments. Already the myth of the expurgation of mankind from Eden, which Caroline Merchant describes as the “perhaps […] most important mythology humans have developed to make sense of their relationship to the earth,” depicts a “turning away” of humans from the presence of the immanent perambulating divine. (3) What of the tradition of “recovery of Eden” narratives, then - are they help or hindrance on our way to reconciled dwelling? Giorgio Agamben in the majority of his works (i.e. Homo Sacer [1995], The Open – of Man and Animal [2004], Profanations [2007]) discusses the consequences and implications of the sacred as a practice of dividing and setting apart within man “good life” (human, worthy of protection, endowed with a human “face”) and “bare life” (exposed and ready to be killed, animal). This caesura, according to Agamben, posits the concentration camp as the foundational paradigm of Western political life and not as its exception. These thoughts seem to us urgently relevant to thinking about shelteredness and openness in literature and environmental thought.

10:00 Registration and Welcome


10:30-11:30 Axel Goodbody (University of Bath)

Heimat, Shelter and the Place of Humans in the World: Jenny Erpenbeck's Heimsuchung

Panel 1:

11: 30 – 12:00 Conn Holohann (NUI Galway)

In Praise of Error: Cosmopolitan Space in the Films of Claire Denis’

12:00-12:30 David Conlon (NUI Maynooth)

Technology as environment and refuge in Ricardo Piglia's The Absent City

12:30- 13:00 Michael Sauter (Augsburg University)

Seeking Shelter, Building Fires: London, McCarthy, …and Lukács?

13:00- 14:00 Lunch Break


14:00-15:00 Tim Wenzell (Virginia Union University)

Green Deity: Nature as mind in Robert Graves The White Goddess

Panel 2:

15:00- 15: 30 Heike Schwarz, (Augsburg University)

“Is anyone seeing this?”: Ecopsychopathology, Ecocalypse or Environmental Madness in American Fiction and Jeff Nichol´s Take Shelter (2011)

15:30- 16:00 Sabine Lenore Müller (Leipzig University)

"The house door left unshut" - Environmental Modernism and the Open in R. M. Rilke and W. B. Yeats

16:00-16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 Roundtable Discussion