“Earth, Sea, Sky” will foster new international dialogue at Oxford in studies of medieval and early modern literature and visual culture. Its central aim is to examine the varied and contested premodern approaches to the natural world, as well as how this premodern archive resonates with contemporary concerns around environmental degradation and global warming.
In three linked symposia over three years we will focus on each domain of “Earth, Sea, Sky.” We commence at Oxford on “Earth,” the most anthropocentric, localized, and thereby familiar of the domains. We consider how premodern texts configure this element in proximity to various vantage points: local, regional, and national as well as theological, cultural, human, non/human, and creaturely. For “Earth,” our key terms might include the elements, atoms, weather systems, horizons and borders, omniscience, the via negativa, and dimensionalities (flat, round, height, length volume). Although growing out of our home disciplines in English literary studies and art history, we imagine each event to be an opportunity to reanimate forgotten perspectives – those that have vanished – in work that productively traverses disciplinary and period boundaries.
The project’s principal investigators are Dr. Tom White (Oxford), Dr. Todd Borlik (University of Huddersfield), Dr. Tiffany Jo Werth (University of California, Davis), and Dr. Vin Nardizzi (University of British Columbia). “Earth, Sea, Sky” also will benefit from the ongoing collaboration of the principal investigators as members of Oecologies, a research cluster of scholars from across the Humanities who investigate the idea of ‘oecology,’ an older spelling of the modern concept ‘ecology.’ Retaining this defamiliarizing spelling, this collective asks how we might rethink ‘ecology’ through the study of premodern natural history.
“Earth, Sea, Sky” is party funded by the TORCH International Partnership Scheme.
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Website: (project page—still under construction, but emerging!)