Environmental Humanities

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

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Environmental Humanities

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Animal Subjects 2.0

Jodey Castricano

Animal Subjects: An Ethical Reader in a Posthuman World (WLU Press, 2008) challenged cultural studies to include nonhuman animals within its purview. While the “question of the animal” ricochets across the academy and reverberates within the public sphere, Animal Subjects 2.0 builds on the previous book and takes stock of this explosive turn. It focuses on both critical animal studies and posthumanism, two intertwining conversations that ask us to reconsider common sense understandings of other animals and what it means to be human.

This collection demonstrates that many pressing contemporary social problems—how and why the oppression and exploitation of our species persist—are entangled with our treatment of other animals and the environment. Decades into the interrogation of our ethical and political responsibilities toward other animals, fissures within the academy deepen as the interest in animal ethics and politics proliferates.

Although ideological fault lines have inspired important debates about how to address the very material concerns informing these theoretical discussions, Animal Subjects 2.0 brings together divergent voices to suggest how to foster richer human–animal relations, and to cultivate new ways of thinking and being with the rest of animalkind. This collection demonstrates that appreciation of difference, not just similarity, is necessary for a more inclusive and compassionate world. Linking issues of gender, disability, culture, race, and sexuality into species, Animal Subjects 2.0 maps vibrant developments in the emergent fields of critical animal studies and posthumanist thought.

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Avatar and Nature Spirituality

Avatar and Nature Spirituality explores the cultural and religious significance of James Cameron’s film Avatar (2010), one of the most commercially successful motion pictures of all time. Its success was due in no small measure to the beauty of the Pandoran landscape and the dramatic, heart-wrenching plight of its nature-venerating inhabitants. To some audience members, the film was inspirational, leading them to express affinity with the film’s message of ecological interdependence and animistic spirituality. Some were moved to support the efforts of indigenous peoples, who were metaphorically and sympathetically depicted in the film, to protect their cultures and environments. To others, the film was politically, ethically, or spiritually dangerous. Indeed, the global reception to the film was intense, contested, and often confusing.

To illuminate the film and its reception, this book draws on an interdisciplinary team of scholars, experts in indigenous traditions, religious studies, anthropology, literature and film, and post-colonial studies. Readers will learn about the cultural and religious trends that gave rise to the film and the reasons these trends are feared, resisted, and criticized, enabling them to wrestle with their own views about the film and the controversy. Like the film itself, Avatar and Nature Spirituality provides an opportunity for considering afresh the ongoing struggle to determine how we should live on our home planet, and what sorts of political, economic, and spiritual values and practices would best guide us.

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Ecologies of Affect

Placing Nostalgia, Desire, and Hope

Ecologies of Affect offers a synthetic introduction to the felt dynamics of cities and the character of places. The contributors capture the significance of affects including desire, nostalgia, memory, and hope in forming the identity and tone of places. The critical intervention this collection of essays makes is an active, consistent engagement with the virtualities that produce and refract our idealized attachments to place. Contributors show how place images, and attempts to build communities, are, rather than abstractions, fundamentally tied to and revolve around such intangibles. We understand nostalgia, desire, and hope as virtual; that is, even though they are not material, they are nevertheless real and must be accounted for. In this book, the authors take up affect, emotion, and emplacement and consider them in relation to one another and how they work to produce and are produced by certain temporal and spatial dimensions.

The aim of the book is to inspire readers to consider space and place beyond their material properties and attend to the imaginary places and ideals that underpin and produce material places and social spaces. This collection will be useful to practitioners and students seeking to understand the power of affect and the importance of virtualities within contemporary societies, where intangible goods have taken on an increasing value.

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Ecologies of the Moving Image

Cinema, Affect, Nature

Moving images take us on mental and emotional journeys, over the course of which we and our worlds undergo change. This is the premise of Ecologies of the Moving Image, which accounts for the ways cinematic moving images move viewers in ways that reshape our understanding of ourselves, of life, and of the Earth and universe.

This book presents an ecophilosophy of the cinema: an account of the moving image in relation to its lived ecologies—the material, social, and perceptual relations within which movies are produced, consumed, and incorporated into cultural life. Cinema, Adrian Ivakhiv argues, lures us into its worlds, but those worlds are grounded in a material and communicative Earth that supports them, even if that supporting materiality withdraws from visibility. Ivakhiv examines the geographies, visualities, and anthropologies—relations of here and there, seer and seen, us and them, human and inhuman—found across a range of styles and genres, from ethnographic and wildlife documentaries, westerns and road movies, sci-fi blockbusters, and eco-disaster films to the experimental and art films of Tarkovsky, Herzog, Greenaway, Malick, Dash, and Brakhage, to YouTube’s expanding audio-visual universe.

Through its process-relational account of cinema, drawn from philosophers including Whitehead, Peirce, and Deleuze, the book boldly enriches our understanding of film and visual media.

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Found in Alberta

Environmental Themes for the Anthropocene

Found in Alberta: Environmental Themes for the Anthropocene is a collection of essays about the natural environment in a province rich in natural resources and aggressive in development goals. This is a casebook on Alberta from which emerges a far wider set of implications for North America and for the biosphere in general. The writers come from an array of disciplinary backgrounds within the environmental humanities.

The essays examine the oil/tar sands, climate change, provincial government policy, food production, industry practices, legal frameworks, wilderness spaces, hunting, Aboriginal perspectives, and nuclear power. Contributions from an ecocritical perspective provide insight into environmentally themed poetry, photography, and biography.

Since the actions of Alberta’s industries and government are currently at the heart of a global environmental debate, this collection is valuable to those wishing to understand the natural and commercial forces in play. The editors present an introductory argument that frames these interests inside a call for a rethinking of our assumptions about the natural world and our place within it.

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Moving Environments

Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film

Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology, and Film, international scholars investigate how films portray human emotional relationships with the more-than-human world and how such films act upon their viewers’ emotions. Emotion and affect are the basic mechanisms that connect us to our environment, shape our knowledge, and motivate our actions. Contributors explore how film represents and shapes human emotion in relation to different environments and what role time, place, and genre play in these affective processes. Individual essays resituate well-researched environmental films such as An Inconvenient Truth and March of the Penguins by paying close attention to their emotionalizing strategies, and bring to our attention the affective qualities of films that have so far received little attention from ecocritics, such as Stan Brakhage’s Dog Star Man.

The collection opens a new discursive space at the disciplinary intersection of film studies, affect studies, and a growing body of ecocritical scholarship. It will be of interest not only to scholars and students working in the field of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, but for everyone with an interest in our emotional responses to film.

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Ornithologies of Desire

Ecocritical Essays, Avian Poetics, and Don McKay

Ornithologies of Desire develops ecocritical reading strategies that engage scientific texts, field guides, and observation. Focusing on poetry about birds and birdwatching, this book argues that attending to specific details about the physical world when reading environmentally conscious poetry invites a critical humility in the face of environmental crises and evolutionary history.

The poetry and poetics of Don McKay provide the primary subject matter, which is predicated on attention to ornithological knowledge and avian metaphors. This focus on birds enables a consideration of more broadly ecological relations and concerns, since an awareness of birds in their habitats insists on awareness of plants, insects, mammals, rocks, and all else that constitutes place.

Reading McKay’s work alongside ecology and ornithology, through flight and birdsong, both challenges assumptions regarding humans’ place in the earth system and celebrates the sheer virtuosity of lyric poetry rich with associative as well as scientific detail. The resulting chapters, interchapters, and concordance of birds that appear in McKay’s poetry encourage amateurs and specialists, birdwatchers and poetry readers, to reconsider birds in English literature on the page and in the field.

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Sustaining the West

Cultural Responses to Canadian Environments

Western Canada’s natural environment faces intensifying threats from industrialization in agriculture and resource development, social and cultural complicity in these destructive practices, and most recently the negative effects of global climate change. The complex nature of the problems being addressed calls for productive interdisciplinary solutions. In this book, arts and humanities scholars and literary and visual artists tackle these pressing environmental issues in provocative and transformative ways. Their commitment to environmental causes emerges through the fields of environmental history, environmental and ecocriticism, ecofeminism, ecoart, ecopoetry, and environmental journalism.

This indispensable and timely resource constitutes a sustained cross-pollinating conversation across the environmental humanities about forms of representation and activism that enable ecological knowledge and ethical action on behalf of Western Canadian environments, yet have global reach. Among the developments in the contributors’ construction of environmental knowledge are a focus on the power of sentiment in linking people to the fate of nature, and the need to decolonize social and environmental relations and assumptions in the West.

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Technonatures

Environments, Technologies, Spaces, and Places in the Twenty-first Century

Environmentalism and social sciences appear to be in a period of disorientation and perhaps transition. In this innovative collection, leading international thinkers explore the notion that one explanation for the current malaise of the “politics of ecology” is that we increasingly find ourselves negotiating “technonatural” space/times. International contributors map the political ecologies of our technonatural present and indicate possible paths for technonatural futures.

The term “technonatures” is in debt to a long line of environmental cultural theory from Raymond Williams onwards, problematizing the idea that a politics of the environment can be usefully grounded in terms of the rhetoric of defending the pure, the authentic, or an idealized past solely in terms of the ecological or the natural. In using the term “technonatures” as an organizing myth and metaphor for thinking about the politics of nature in contemporary times, this collection seeks to explore one increasingly pronounced dimension of the social natures discussion. Technonatures highlights a growing range of voices considering the claim that we are not only inhabiting diverse social natures but that within such natures our knowledge of our worlds is ever more technologically mediated, produced, enacted, and contested.

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Writing in Dust

Reading the Prairie Environmentally

Writing in Dust is the first sustained study of prairie Canadian literature from an ecocritical perspective. Drawing on recent scholarship in environmental theory and criticism, Jenny Kerber considers the ways in which prairie writers have negotiated processes of ecological and cultural change in the region from the early twentieth century to the present.

The book begins by proposing that current environmental problems in the prairie region can be understood by examining the longstanding tendency to describe its diverse terrain in dualistic terms—either as an idyllic natural space or as an irredeemable wasteland. It inquires into the sources of stories that naturalize ecological prosperity and hardship and investigates how such narratives have been deployed from the period of colonial settlement to the present. It then considers the ways in which works by both canonical and more recent writers ranging from Robert Stead, W.O. Mitchell, and Margaret Laurence to Tim Lilburn, Louise Halfe, and Thomas King consistently challenge these dualistic landscape myths, proposing alternatives for the development of more ecologically just and sustainable relationships among people and between humans and their physical environments.

Writing in Dust asserts that “reading environmentally” can help us to better understand a host of issues facing prairie inhabitants today, including the environmental impacts of industrial agriculture, resource extraction, climate change, shifting urban–rural demographics, the significance of Indigenous understandings of human–nature relationships, and the complex, often contradictory meanings of eco-cultural metaphors of alien/invasiveness, hybridity, and wildness.

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