Landscapes, Natures, Ecologies: Italy and the Environmental Humanities

Ida Federica Pugliese's picture

We need new figurations for the humanities. We need to explore intellectual pathways in which critique goes together with creativity. We need critical practices that, defamiliarizing consolidated patterns of thinking, escort us out of the safety zones in which anthropocentrism, Eurocentrism, sexism, speciesism, ableism, constitute the normal discourse of our cultural paradigms.

These inspiring ideas were expressed by the philosopher Rosi Braidotti in her keynote lecture on “Posthumanist Paradoxes” held in Zurich at the 2014 Conference of the American Association for Italian Studies. Intervening in a debate in which traditional humanistic approaches play a major role, Braidotti courageously called the audience to think beyond the usual disciplinary categories, and to embrace the more hybrid, inclusive, and ontologically participative mode of the environmental humanities.

From a different angle, historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, in his essay “Postcolonial Studies and the Challenge of Climate Change,” echoes Braidotti’s stirring call to action as he expresses the need to

“view the human simultaneously on contradictory registers: as a geophysical force and as a political agent, as a bearer of rights and as author of actions; subject to both the stochastic forces of nature (being itself one such force collectively) and open to the contingency of individual human experience; belonging at once to differently-scaled histories of the planet, of life and species, and of human societies.”

What do these calls mean for Italian studies? How can the rich tradition of Italian culture and Italy itself—in its multiple, historical, imagined, textual and material-discursive forms—contribute to these challenges? In our envisioned volume, tentatively titled Landscapes, Natures, Ecologies: Italy and the Environmental Humanities, we address these very issues. A necessary step to answer these questions, we believe, is that of defamiliarizing the imagination of Italy—often frozen in essentialist anthropological categories, romanticized in the aesthetic cliché of the “beautiful land,” and fixed in the human-centered discourse of classical humanist thinking—and to engage with the “disanthropocentric” voices and aspects of the Italian cultural horizon. We envisage a volume of essays which focus on the many (often dissonant) landscapes, natures, and ecologies of Italy, meant both as a physical territory and as a terrain for cultural imagination. In our mind, the Italian landscapes discussed in this volume will go from the Arcadian dreams of rural perfection to the living nightmares of the ecomafia’s Triangle of Death; its natures will embrace medieval Bestiaria, Ortese’s mysterious iguanas, pumas and turtles, as well as the rapidly disappearing Apennine brown bear, Ursus arctos marsicanus, or the alien species “invading” our ecosystems; its ecologies will entail the uncontaminated beauty of Alpine regions as well as the Po Valley megalopolis and the “continuous cities” emerging every day from the thousands of hectares of agricultural land inexorably sacrificed to cement.

Looking for narratives which “give a voice to objects, elements, forces,” as Jeffrey Cohen says, our gaze will include seas and volcanoes, the land and the atmosphere; we will reflect on literary texts, films, songs, art, as well as toxic bodies, urban systems, and all sorts of eloquent materialities which emerge in the Anthropocene. Drawing on cutting-edge studies in ecocriticism and all the major fields of the eco-cultural debate, our goal is to build a creative critical discourse that elicits differences, pluralities, hybridizations, conflicts, and encounters, thus positioning Italian studies within the broader horizon of the environmental humanities.

All of the essays will be thoroughly grounded in the latest developments in environmental discourse (including, for example, material ecocriticism, feminist environmentalism, posthumanism, animal studies, bio- and eco-semiotics, environmental justice and postcolonial environmental ethics, eco-activism, etc.). We welcome contributions from all areas and subjects of Italian studies, with a historical range from the Middle Ages to the contemporary age.

We are asking for articles of 6000 words, including footnotes and bibliography, following the MLA format. Proposals, in the form of 400-word abstracts, can be sent to the editors, via their academic e-mails. The selection will close on March 15, 2015. Deadline for submission is October 30, 2015. Editorial team Serenella Iovino, Comparative Literature, University of Turin, Elena Margarita Past, Italian Literature, Wayne State University, Enrico Cesaretti, Italian Literature, University of Virginia,