“And the fox and the rabbit were friends” – Interspecies conflict and collaboration in Richard Adams’s Watership Down

This year’s biennial ESSE (The European Society for the Study of English) will be held in Brno (29 August – 2 September 2018).

Roberta Grandi (NaChiLitCul member) will present a paper for the seminar Lessons on Kindness: Contemporary Children’s Literature in an Uncertain World (http://www.esse2018brno.org/programme/seminars_outlines)


In the heroic “quest”[1] of Watership Down, Adams describes the world from a rabbit’s point of view. The world is dangerous and full of “elil” the name by which rabbits identify all predators such as “fox, stoat, weasel, cat, owl, man” (Adams 2012 (1972): p. 5 note). Just like in the Christian tradition, rabbits talk of a golden age, when “the fox and the rabbit were friends and they both ate grass”(ibid. 26) but then the supreme divinity, Frith (the sun) created predators to limit the number and punish the pride of rabbits. In this world of danger and fear men are only a secondary presence but a very negative one: “All other elil do what they have to do and Frith moves them as he moves us. They live on the earth and they need food. Men will never rest till they’ve spoiled the earth and destroyed the animals” (ibid. 149). In an age in which the idea of Anthropocene[2] is becoming more and more popular, such a consideration resonates in this children book as a dark omen.

But Watership Down is also a story of friendship and hope: led by the enlightened leader Hazel, the rabbits manage to build a new warren where they can live in peace and harmony with the other animals of the hill. Even though rabbits are not exempted from prejudices against the smaller “other” (“These small animals are more to be despised than relied upon, I reckon. What good can they do us?” (Adams 2012: 161)), Hazel introduces, even though with a primarily utilitarian purpose, a revolutionary idea: creating alliances with other non-elil creatures to help each other against the dangers that threaten them all. Responding to the invitation of most recent ecocriticism[3], the essay will try to reposition the reflection on this allegory about men, rabbits and other animals in the perspective of a post-humanist[4] analysis trying to highlight how the theme of interspecies cooperation might provoke a productive and fruitful re-consideration of the importance of kindness and respect towards all creatures.

[1]See Buell 2014 and Pawling 1984.

[2]See Clark 2015; Raffnsøe 2016.

[3] See Haraway 2008 and Tønnessen, Armstrong Oma, Rattasepp 2016.

[4] See Wolfe, 2010; Marchesini 2017 and Jaques 2015.


Paradise on Fire

ASLE Thirteenth Biennial Conference
June 26-30 2019
University of California Davis

Biennial Conference

This year we are experimenting with a two-part submission process intended to make the conference more participant-driven and democratic. The first step is this Call is for PANELS. We are also issuing a call for Pre/Post Conference Workshop proposals at this time. Proposals may be submitted until Sept. 1, 2018.
Conference panels may be proposed by anyone interested in organizing one. All panels are 90 minutes long and may take the form of a traditional paper session (4 presenters); a roundtable (up to 6 presenters making brief remarks that foster lively conversation); or a jam session (up to 8 participants in a nontraditional format of the organizer’s choosing that includes significant audience participation). These panels may be of two types:

• A preformed panel that lists all participants and is ready for the conference program as it stands.
• A panel seeking participants, to be filled by its organizers through the conference call for papers released in October. We expect the majority of accepted panels to be of this kind.

Panel proposals should be submitted electronically. The complete process is detailed after the conference description below. The ASLE conference committee will select a wide range of proposed panels appropriate to the conference theme and panel proposers will be notified of success by October 1, 2018. ASLE will then distribute by email and on our website a Call for Papers listing all conference panels seeking paper proposals. Those who wish to participate in the conference may submit a proposal for consideration for inclusion within one of these panels, or for one of the open topic panels to be organized by the conference committee. Panel organizers will inform paper proposers if a submission has been accepted no later than January 10, 2019. All paper proposals that do not find an initial home will also be considered for placement in one of the open topic panels. Paper submissions for these panels begin Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 15. Please email us at info@asle.org with any questions.

Conference Theme: Paradise on Fire
“If paradise now arises in hell, it’s because in the suspension of the usual order and the failure of most systems, we are free to live and act another way.”
― Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

The Biennial ASLE Conference will be held in Davis, California, in June 2019. Following a longstanding tradition, this conference gathers scholars and artists working in a diverse array of environmental humanities projects and offers a special focus on some themes that resonate well with the location of the meeting.
Paradise does not exist, and yet that never seems to stop people from finding it, or building it, or dreaming its contours – often to the detriment of humans and nonhumans on the wrong side of its walls. Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy imagines a walled city with a climate-controlled dome called Paradice where genetic engineers create new forms of life, a bubble breached by human violence and climate catastrophe. In the sixteenth century Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo imagined a place called “California,” an island ruled by a dark skinned Amazonian queen with an Arabic name, Califia (Las Sergas de Esplandián). California was affixed to our maps by conquistadors, eager readers of Montalvo who believed the Earthly Paradise to be nearby. The price of its establishment was the genocide of the land’s indigenous populations. The Greek word for Eden is “Paradise,” a walled garden that bars entrance to most. Yet as Octavia Butler’s dystopian vision of California on fire has shown, walls seldom lead to lasting safety and cannot exclude a turbulent world for long (The Parable of the Sower). If as Rebecca Solnit contends, “paradise arises in hell,” when democratic communities are built from the ground up during times of disaster that leave us “free to live and act another way,” what might life in catastrophic times entail for the environmental humanities? How should we write, teach, protest, live, and act during this era when “paradise” is on fire, figuratively and literally?

The Biennial ASLE Conference “Paradise on Fire” explores the connections among storytelling, real and imagined landscapes, future-making, activism, environed spaces, differential exclusions, long histories, and the disaster-prone terrains of the Anthropocene. Plenary addresses will be given by Ursula Heise, Cherríe Moraga, Melissa K. Nelson, and Nnedi Okorafor.
Topics may include but are certainly not limited to:
• reckoning with “paradise” in the face of colonial histories, environmental injustice, and ecological catastrophe
• the intimacy of myth to possibility, alternative realities, and catastrophe
• the reduction of diversity after the arrival of settler colonialists, especially but not only in California
• cross-cultural currents and global vectors, human and nonhuman
• the relation of imagination to discovery, settlement and transformation
• extinction, ecological imperialism, monstrosity, megafauna, and scale
• gender, race and ecology in dystopian times
• the proliferation of material and ideological walls around enclaves, states, and nations
• attending better to the people, animals, plants, and natural forces that find themselves on the wrong side of the gate, forced into communities not of their choosing, or forced to migrate without safe destinations
• radical welcome: creating more just, capacious, and humane modes of living together across species

• how the past matters to the imagination of a more capacious future
• climate fiction (CliFi), climate fact, and the future of ecological science studies
• archives of recovery and enclosure
• Afro-futurisms, Indigenous futurisms, Latinx futurisms, Asian futurisms, queer futurisms
• California and beyond: exceptionalism, secession, natural and unnatural disasters, green gentrification (the L.A. River), evacuation zones, Sanctuary Cities and States, gated communities, immigration and Dreamers, Trump’s border wall, housing and being humane
• The Trans-Pacific: imaginaries, cultures, materialities, flows
• Fire as emblematic of the strange agencies and hybrid onto-epistemologies of the Anthropocene, and fire as emblematic of the passion, energy, and incendiary creativity of activism

ASLE is a diverse professional community that is enriched by the multiple experiences, cultures, and backgrounds of its members, and we strive for access, equity, and inclusion in the conference.

Panel Submission Process
We are modifying the organization of the 2019 ASLE conference to ensure that the conference program reflects the diverse strengths and interests of the ASLE community. As our membership and the number of conference presenters have grown, a small selection committee is likely no longer the best judge of our members’ capacious range of interests and expertise. We also want to empower ASLE members to shape the conference they will attend. As in past years, there will also be a significant number of panels organized by the conference committee based on open submission, ensuring that everyone’s interests are welcomed.

Proposed panels for the ASLE 2019 conference may be submitted until September 1, 2018. The secure submissions site requires you to create a simple login account to submit your panel proposal, which will also allow you to view your submission and make modifications up to the deadline. Submit here: https://asle.submittable.com/submit Please note that unlike in previous years we are not seeking only preformed panels. We hope to have many open panels that will choose their participants through the Call for Papers circulated in October.

All conference panels are 90-minutes long. ASLE strongly encourages organizers to experiment with alternative forms of presentation, discussion and engagement. Both scholarly and creative submissions are very welcome. Panels which are aligned with the conference themes and reflect the diversity of the ASLE mission will be given priority.

Key information:
• Proposals for panels must include the type (traditional papers, with or without a respondent; roundtable; jam session of any kind) and a 250 word abstract for the panel outlining topic, format, and participants’ roles.
• Preformed panels must include a short synopsis of the role of each participant and a brief bio (two or three sentences).
• Multiple panel submissions are allowed, but keep in mind that only one paper submission is allowed per person, as participants can present only once during the conference. Pre/post conference workshop participation, organizing panels, and chairing a panel do not count as presenting. Panels may be co-proposed.
• Panel proposals must be submitted online.
• To encourage institutional diversity and exchange, all panels must include participants from more than one institution and from more than one academic level/sector
• ASLE policy is currently to discourage virtual participation at our biennial conferences except in extraordinary circumstances or to accommodate disability.

Panel proposals must be submitted by September 1 2018 at https://asle.submittable.com/submit. A diverse array of panels in keeping with the conference theme will be chosen by the conference committee, and a call for papers will then be released October 1. Anyone who wishes to participate in the ASLE conference may then submit a paper proposal for consideration for inclusion within a specific panel, or within an open panel, between October 15 and December 15, 2018. Panel organizers themselves will choose presenters from the submissions that they receive and will let paper proposers know if their paper has been accepted no later than January 10, 2019. All paper proposals that do not find a home in the panel to which they were submitted will be considered for placement into one of the conference’s many open panels.

Thank you for your patience as we attempt this two-step method of organizing our biennial gathering. Our desire is to maximize the ability of our membership to participate in the shaping of the conference, an event at the very heart of our ASLE community. As interest in the environmental humanities has greatly expanded, we hope this structure will not only be more transparent but will take better advantage of the wide-ranging interests, expertise, and diversity within ASLE. Please email us at info@asle.org with any questions.

Pre/Post Conference Workshops Call for Proposals
We will offer a number of workshops on important and emerging topics that reflect the diversity of our approaches and our membership. These workshops may or may not relate directly to the conference theme (although we encourage it) and will be held either at the beginning of the conference on Wednesday, June 25th or at the end, on Sunday, June 30th. Ideally, Sunday workshops will be more experimental; for example, site-based and/or including a field component.

We are calling for proposals for these workshops, and will choose the slate of offerings from the submissions. Workshop leaders will receive free registration for the 2019 conference and a complimentary year’s membership in ASLE. For further information or to submit a proposal,
please email Nicole Seymour, Conference Workshop Coordinator, at nseymour@fullerton.edu. Workshop proposals must be sent to the coordinator by September 1, 2018.
Proposals should include:
• a 500-word max description of the proposed workshop theme and structure (for four hours), in addition to the leader’s or leaders’ (limited to two) particular qualifications to lead it; and
• vita for the leader or leaders.

Information on which topics are being offered will be available in late Fall 2018. There is limited availability (15 persons) in each workshop, so you will need to pre-register to reserve a spot. As participants’ names will appear on the program, we encourage registrants to apply to present in one of these events instead of giving a paper at the conference. In addition to the workshops to be proposed, our Graduate Liaisons will organize a writing workshop for graduate students.
If you have any questions, please email Nicole Seymour at nseymour@fullerton.edu.

Anticipation and Change

The 11th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies
First Call for Papers

Stavanger, Norway, June 13–15th 2019
Venue: Department of social studies, University of Stavanger

The 11th conference of the Nordic Association for Semiotic Studies (NASS XI) will be hosted by University of Stavanger (UiS) and is co-sponsored by Department of social studies (UiS) and «The Greenhouse: An environmental humanities initiative at University of Stavanger»

The overall theme of NASS XI is «Anticipation and change». Relevant topics include – but are not limited to – the semiotics of child development and human development in general, social change, cultural change, environmental change, ontogeny, and evolution. The anticipatory aspect implies that future studies and the power of imagination are also relevant topics, as are, potentially, learning and perception, expectation and prediction, foresight and preconception. We welcome abstract proposals that approach these topics from a semiotic perspective and encourage interdisciplinary relations between semiotics and other disciplines.

Abstract submission
Abstracts should be submitted as a Word file attachment to post@nordicsemiotics.org, with subject line ”Abstract for NASS XI”. In order to be considered for the graduate student award and grants (see below), please indicate whether or not you are a graduate student.
Each abstract submission should contain: (1) The name of the author(s) (surname, given name); (2) Your affiliation (including country of residence); (3) Your email address; (4) The title of the paper; (5) An abstract of max. 500 words; (6) 3–5 keywords; (7) and a short bionote of max. 100 words.

Deadline for abstract submission is December 10th, 2018. Notification of acceptance will be given by January 31st, 2019.

Registration and conference fee
Registration for NASS XI will require payment of a conference fee (early bird 1000 NOK, late registration 1250 NOK) which entitles conference participants to attendence, coffee breaks and a daily lunch, and program booklet. The conference fee includes fee for NASS membership for the period 2019–2021 (250 NOK).
Early bird registration deadline is March 15th, 2019. Final registration deadline is April 30th, 2019.

Graduate student award and grants
5-10 graduate students presenting a paper at NASS XI will be supported financially by NASS, with a grant of 200 Euro each.
Furthermore, a prize will be awarded for the best graduate student presentation at NASS XI. The prize consists of a gift card worth 300 Euro, and a diploma.

Local organizing team
Morten Tønnessen (conference chair), Daria Segal (conference secretary)

Scientific committee (abstract evaluation)
Søren Brier (Copenhagen Business School), Sara Lenninger (Kristianstad University), Alin Olteanu (Kaunas University of Technology), Tiit Remm (University of Tartu), Inesa Sahakyan (Université Grenoble Alpes), Morten Tønnessen (University of Stavanger)
For more information, contact post@nordicsemiotics.org or visit http://nordicsemiotics.org.

Empirical Ecocriticism

Call for Papers
Edited Volume: Empirical Ecocriticism
Deadline for Abstract Submission: September 15, 2018
Contact: wojciech.malecki@uwr.edu.pl; schneider-mayerson@yale-nus.edu.sg;

There is a growing consensus across disciplines that narratives are of central importance to our
relationships with other humans and nonhumans as well as the broader environment. However, until
recently ecocritics have largely relied upon speculation to assess the critical question of the influence of
environmental narratives on their audiences. This is due in part to the lack of interdisciplinary
cooperation between humanists and social scientists in assessing how environmental narratives across
various mediums contribute to our understanding of the world around us and our place in it. So as to
better understand this critical question, we are organizing an edited collection dedicated to empirical
ecocriticism. We hope that it will begin to address this lacuna, ask valuable empirical, theoretical, and
methodological questions, and encourage both ecocritics and environmental social scientists to conduct
similar research in the future.

In our definition, empirical ecocriticism is the empirically-grounded study of environmental narrative –
in literature, film, television, etc. – and its influence on various audiences. Though we are open to
different definitions of what would constitute empirical ecocriticism, we define this field as a fruitful
commingling of existing fields of study, such as traditional ecocriticism, the empirical study of literature
and art, environmental communication, and environmental psychology. For us, empirical ecocriticism
is 1) Empirically grounded. 2) Open to qualitative and exploratory methodologies. 3) Focused on the
effects of narrative strategies and techniques, with the kind of depth and nuance that have brought to
their research for decades. 4) Features writing that is more engaging than the typical social science paper,
since we hope to find an audience among both environmental humanists and social scientists. 5) Open
to critical engagement with competing definitions of “empirical” data. For examples of what might
constitute empirical ecocriticism, see the following articles:

  • Wojciech Małecki, Bogusław Pawłowski, and Piotr Sorokowski, “Literary fiction influences
    attitudes toward animal welfare,” PLoS ONE 11.1212
    (2016) https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168695
  • Wojciech Małecki, Bogusław Pawłowski, Marcin Cieński, and Piotr Sorokowski, “Can Fiction
    Make Us Kinder to Other Species? The Impact of Fiction on pro-Animal Attitudes and
    Behavior.” Poetics 66 (February 2018): 54–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2018.02.004
  • Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, “The Influence of Climate Fiction: An Empirical Survey of
    Readers,” forthcoming in Environmental Humanities 10.2 (e-mail for pre-publication copy)

Interested scholars might also consult two recent works that deal with similar questions about the
influence of environmental narrative:

  • Scott Slovic and Paul Slovic, Numbers and Nerves: Information, Emotion, and Meaning in a
    World of Data (Oregon State University Press, 2015)
  • Alexa Weik von Mossner, Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental
    Narrative (Ohio State University Press, 2017)

We encourage interdisciplinary approaches and collaborations, and are open to various methodologies
– qualitative, quantitative, ethnographic, historical, mixed, etc. We hope to include work that focuses on
the incredible diversity of environmental media in existence today, including but not limited to poetry,
short stories, novels, children’s literature, comic books, film, television, cartoons, video games, music,
sound art, visual art, dance, and theatre. We also hope to include studies with a range of geographical
diversity, speaking to the existence and significance of forms of environmental literature, art, and
popular culture that have sometimes been overlooked by Anglophone ecocriticism.

Affects of Diversity in Nordic Literature – DINO 2018 Conference

The Network ”Diversity in Nordic Literature” will be hosting its 6th conference at the Department of Linguistic and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Oslo, Norway, November 1-2, 2018.

Conference theme

Being different may be a source of pride as well as a source of shame. How does it feel to be “different” in the Nordic countries? And how does it feel to be “different” as Nordic in a global perspective, a perspective in which the Nordic countries are currently hailed as the happiest, wealthiest, and most egalitarian nations on earth? Being/feeling different may be valued positively as well as negatively; it may serve constructive as well as destructive purposes; it may be inclusive as well as exclusive.

We assume some of the significant emotions related to experiences of Nordic difference and diversity in the North, are (and have been) pride, guilt, and shame. Shame and guilt are social emotions linked in various ways to collective and individual identities. The conference focus is on positions of perceived difference from which notions of Nordic identities may be questioned and negotiated through affective work. Or perhaps they are simply maintained through affective work.

Our attention is drawn to minority groups experiencing various forms of shaming within and outside the North, whether one is made to feel ashamed of one’s racial, ethnic, linguistic, or sexual background and orientation. Ablebodiedness may likewise be an issue. Our attention is likewise drawn to majority groups feeling more or less guilty or justified in their positions of privilege.

Call for papers

The conference invites contributions from different fields of enquiry, including postcolonialism, critical race and whiteness studies, disability studies, queer studies, gender studies, ecocriticism, and affect studies. The primary object of study is Nordic literature in all its forms, genres, presentations, hybridizations, transformations, and contextualizations.

Papers topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Guilt and shame related to privilege (and lack thereof)
  • Climate-guilt/eco-guilt (and shame)
  • Consumer-guilt
  • Outsider shaming, shame, and shamelessness
  • Colonial guilt and shame (past and present)
  • Pride
  • Other affects and emotions inspired by feelings of difference such as sadness, angst, anger, ambivalence, a sense of solidarity, and a sense of responsibility

Paper presentations should last 20 minutes. Please submit abstracts of 150-250 words by August 15, 2018 to: dino-2018@iln.uio.no.

Information for participants

Practical information about venues, transporation and more will be uploaded later.


The conference is organized by the DINO steering committee and by the ScanGuilt research group.

The conference has received funding from the Research Council of Norway and The Faculty of the Humanities at the University of Oslo (through their financing of the ScanGuilt-project).


Contact us by email at dino-2018@iln.uio.no.