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Seminar 2: Ecological Feelings - Feeling Ecological: Dwelling in the Anthropocenic Moment

Primarily Synchronous (May 24-May 28)

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Seminar Leaders:

Joshua Trey Barnett, Penn State University, University Park,
Jennifer Clary-Lemon, University of Waterloo:

Ours is a time of trouble, of climate catastrophe, of rapid extinction, of earth systems disruption, of human-caused ecological damage: a time that is particularly suited to examining the intense rhetorics composed through the relations between humans and nonhumans. In this time of intensity and crisis, we are left with questions of limits, our own and others’. These rhetorical limits may be considered productively as the material that engages larger rhetorical capacity that moves beyond the human (Stormer and McGreavy, 2017) and begins in locations of bodies and feelings.

Ecological feelings can be understood, at least partly, as rhetorical achievements. Feelings emerge, are sustained, and wither away in encounters, textual and otherwise. One of our tasks, then, is to investigate and uncover the rhetorical (and extra-rhetorical) conditions of particular ecological feelings: What kinds of encounters help to account for our varied and various ecological feelings, from our anxiety about how our individual actions affect earth systems to our enchantment with birdsong in a verdant forest to our resignation about the end of the earthly as we know it to our shame about not doing enough to protect a diminished earth? How might we think differently about the movement of nonhumans and things in ways that encourage some middle ground in the Anthropocene between endless development and environmentalism, despair and hope, doom and optimism? In what texts, sites, and scenes might these and other ecological feelings find public expression—where might these feelings circulate publicly? Rather than quickly abandoning, or altogether ignoring, the negative, even shameful ecological feelings such as anxiety, disappointment, fear, grief, guilt, indifference, and resignation, how might we dwell with and on these feelings—and their rhetorical composition—to better understand our troubled and troubling times?

During this seminar, we will collectively consider these questions while engaging with rhetorical theories of affect, ecology, and environment by thinkers such as Joshua Trey Barnett, Jennifer Clary-Lemon, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands, Thomas Rickert, Nicole Seymour, and Terry Tempest Williams, among others. Attendees should have a work in progress (article, chapter, grant, editorial, research creation project) that they are willing to submit in April prior to the seminar, which they will workshop in small, interest-based groups throughout the seminar.

Joshua Trey BarnettJoshua Trey Barnett is assistant professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State University, where he holds a joint appointment at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. He is the author of dozens of essays on rhetoric, ecology, and the work of earthly coexistence, and he is currently writing a book about the rhetorical conditions of ecological grief.

Jennifer Clary-Lemon
r Clary-Lemon is Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo and past editor of the journal Composition Studies. She is the author of Planting the Anthropocene: Rhetorics of Natureculture, Cross Border Networks in Writing Studies (with Mueller, Williams, and Phelps), and co-editor of Relations, Locations, Positions: Composition Theory for Writing Teachers (with Vandenberg and Hum). Her research interests include rhetorics of the environment, theories of affect, writing and location, material rhetorics, critical discourse studies, and research methodologies. Her current research examines infrastructural entanglements of humans and nonhumans as material rhetorical arguments, focusing on the Species at Risk Act and mandated recovery strategies for listed species. Her work has been published in Rhetoric Review, Discourse and Society, The American Review of Canadian Studies, Composition Forum, Oral History Forum d’histoire orale, enculturation, and College Composition and Communication.

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