CFP: Of Borders and Ecologies (Birmingham City)

Of Borders and Ecologies: Comparative Literature and the Environment, The NCLN 3 rd Annual Symposium, Hosted by the School of English, Birmingham City University, 28 October 2017

The Northern Comparative Literature Network (NCLN) is a platform for scholars in the midlands and the north of the UK who study literature across boundaries of language, culture and nationality.


The environment does not respect borders. The effects of ecosystems’ degradation cross all boundaries, including those of nations, cultures and languages. Among the questions raised by contemporary ecocriticism is that of borders, especially perhaps, the limitations of anthropocentrism and the boundaries between the human and the non-human. In terms of literature and the environment, Timothy Clark has articulated the question along the following lines: Can anthropomorphism, the tendency to attribute human qualities to nature, offer a way of understanding the non-human environment, or is it a form of solipsism wholly determined by human consciousness? To problems of epistemology come questions of ethics: Does the Anthropocene require, as Timothy Morton’s writings on ‘hyperobjects’ suggest, an extension of ‘personhood’ to aspects of the non-human world? Meanwhile, renegotiations of Marx’s ecological thought have sought to recognise the unacknowledged labour of the natural world in capitalist value creation, thereby breaching the apparently closed borders of economic systems (Foster: 2000), whilst McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red (2015) has attempted to broach the perceived gap between high theory and individual ecological praxis.

This one-day symposium, organised by the Northern Comparative Literature Network, invites papers that explore contemporary engagement with the environment in postcolonial, world and planetary literatures. How might Comparative Literature make a distinctive contribution to the understanding of literature and the environment? For this symposium, we are particularly interested in literary scholars working on questions of the environment and ecocriticism in the 20th and 21st centuries. Although it is not a strict requirement, preference may be given to comparative approaches that move across the boundaries of nationality, culture and language.

We are currently in talks with literary journals as we plan to publish a selection of papers delivered at the symposium in a themed issue (scheduled for publication before REF 2021).

Topics may include:

 Planetary and World Literature

 Hybrid and creole literatures

 The unsettling of species boundaries and post-humanism

 Romanticism, ecofeminism, postcolonial eco-justice, animal welfare and deep


 Ecology vs ‘nature’

 Planetary/world ecological history or memory, and its literary representation

 ‘Eco-cosmopolitanism’ (Heise, 2009) and its representation in literature

 Aesthetics, forms and themes of ‘world-ecological literature’ (Deckard, 2017)

 The Anthropocene vs. ‘the Capitalocene’ (Moore, 2014)

We welcome abstracts and expressions of interest in NCLN from established scholars, postgraduates and researchers. Abstracts of 250 words for papers lasting around 20 minutes should be forwarded to Peter Jackson or Tom Knowles by Monday 11 September 2017