CFP: Arboreal Imaginaries, for EASLCE Conference 2020, 3-6 November 2020, Granada, Spain (Deadline 5 March 2020)

Helga Braunbeck's picture

Call for Papers for a panel at the conference of the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and Environment (EASLCE), Nov. 3-6, 2020, in Granada, Spain. Conference Theme: “Transcreations – Creaturely encounters as cultural artefacts.” Conference website:


Co-Organizers: Helga G. Braunbeck and Solvejg Nitzke

Deadline: March 5, 2020


The natural history of trees has always been inextricably linked with the history of human civilization. Not only are trees a significant material resource but they have taken on roles as imaginary companions, vegetal kin, threatening creaturely “others,” deities, mythological and cultural symbols, aesthetic objects, “home” for human and other-than-human animals, models for organizing knowledge into “branches” or structuring narratives. The visual arts are replete with images, and literature is rich in narratives and lyrics that engage with trees and forests in diverse ways. But, as the general conference CFP explains, representation of the being of a different species requires crossing the trans-species boundary and an act of translation while avoiding “compensatory humanism”/anthropomorphization, and results in “cultural artefacts as ‘interspecies transcreations.’”


With regard to plants, this process is being investigated by the fast growing field of literary and cultural plant studies (see network:; publications e.g. by Ryan, Gagliano/Ryan/Viera) as well as by philosophical/critical plant studies (e.g. Marder, Coccia, Nealon); it is complemented by investigations of plants in the arts (e.g. Aloi), popular science and nature writing about plants (e.g. Pollan, Mabey) as well as new discoveries in plant science about plant sentience, communication and “intelligence” (e.g. Koechlin, Mancuso/Viola, Chamovitz). The world of trees and forests in particular has garnered attention from artists (cf. Aloi, Charles Watkins), writers of non-fiction (e.g. Wohlleben, Haskell, Sumana Roy, Manuel Lima) and literary authors through the ages (recent example: Richard Powers).


In light of the increasing environmental focus on forests and other arboreal ecosystems the role of trees as actors in interspecies entanglement has changed significantly. Instead of standing in and forming the background of human and animal life, trees seem to call for a re-evaluation of anthropocentric orders. Considering the unequal interdependency of trees and humans – humans and other oxygen-breathing and plant eating animals depend on them, but they are autonomous and, hence, indifferent to “us” – trees point to the uncanny dimensions of precariousness (Tsing). The “dark ecology” (Morton) of trees suggests that life beyond the surface of human attention forges connections and futures that may not be available to “us” and of which humans might not even be a part, pointing back to scary images of tree communities as the “shadow of civilization” (Harrison).


The panel asks for imaginaries of trees that forge transcreations – material and imaginary bonds and connections that may or may not include humans in a web of life that generates both material and imaginary environments. We are interested in both the “dark” and “light” side of arboreal imaginations – “evil roots” (Butcher) and “hopeful branches” alike – that is, we aim to talk about arboreal futures and pasts with or without “us” (Weisman).


In addition to the more general topics listed in the conference CFP, proposed papers for this panel may focus more specifically on, but are not restricted to topics such as:


• “Becoming a tree”: crossing the trans-species boundary, tree/human metamorphoses

• “Writing a tree”: poetics of literary tree creation, myths, legends, arboreal archetypes, linguistic recreation, etc.

• Representation of tree lives, forest realities and imaginaries: solitary trees, city trees, street trees; timber forest, hunting forest, Romantic forest, fairy tale forest, jungle, suicide forest, ghost forest, orchard, etc.

• Agency and subjectivity of trees: speaking trees, giving trees, wishing trees, evil horror trees, spectral trees, etc.

• Sentience, intelligence of trees; tree communities; the science of trees

• Human/tree relationships and kinship imaginaries, interspecies fluidity

• Tree structures as organizing models for visual or poetic representation

• Trees and nature writing

• Aesthetics of trees

• Arboreal metaphors, symbolism, allegory; diverse tree species

• Issues of empathy, identification, and anthropomorphization

• Trees and time: cyclical seasonal time, longevity, different (slow) temporality of plants

• Sessile trees as “home”/shelter/ecosystem for humans and non-humans

• Discussions of abuse and destruction of trees, deforestation by natural and man-made causes, and effects of the Anthropocene on tree life.


Please send your abstract in English (300-500 words) and a short bionote by March 5 to both panel organizers:




Categories: Conference, CFP