Date: 13 May 2020
Venue: Utrecht University
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa Students, OSL members will have first access
Credits: 1-3 ECs
Instructor: Dr Tom Idema (Utrecht University)
THE MASTERCLASS IS FULLY BOOKED, please send an e-mail with your name, university and research school to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will put you on our waiting list.
Speculative Narratology: Turning the Human(ities) Inside Out
If the humanities is a tranquil mountain resort with a lake around which scholars gather to bathe in the beauties of literature, philosophy, and other things human, then speculative ecologies awaken the terrifying Beast of Transdisciplinarity at the bottom of the lake, disturbing the scholars’ soothing stay. What will happen if the scholars look the Beast in the eye, or look through its eyes?
Today writers, scholars, and scientists are questioning commonly held assumptions about humanity and nature in the light of immense and potentially catastrophic environmental change, conjuring up new, speculative ecologies. From Jeff VanderMeer’s fiction of human transmutation to Timothy Morton’s philosophy of hyperobjects to forester Peter Wohlleben’s Das Geheime Lebe der Bäume, speculative ecologies transgress the boundaries of media, genres, and disciplines to make the non/human appear anew. In this masterclass we will delve into key examples of speculative ecologies, considering how they may inform developments in literary studies and, more broadly, the Humanities. A central concern will be how speculative ecologies provoke questions about narrative and narratology: how are human and nonhuman actants reconfigured? Can narrative somehow render the complexity of Earth systems in experiential form?
You will be encouraged to write a research paper that may lead to a publication, or a research proposal that exploits the funding opportunities of the sustainability transition at the European Research Council and NWO.
Prospective readings (appr. 80-100 pages): Jeff VanderMeer (excerpts), Timothy Morton, Claire Colebrook, Catriona Sandilands, Stacy Alaimo, Lynn Margulis, Peter Wohlleben, and others. A detailed reading list will be provided soon.
11:00 Registration + coffee/tea
11:30 Welcome and lecture by Tom Idema
13:30 Discussions around readings and participant questions
The masterclass consists of a lecture in which Dr. Tom Idema will present parts of his book Stages of Transmutation: Science Fiction, Biology, and Environmental Posthumanism (Routledge 2019) as well as new research. The lecture will be followed by discussions on the basis of the reading assignment submitted in advance by participants.
In order to participate and earn 1 EC for the masterclass, you need to submit the following assignment no later than 1 May 2020. Write a reading response or mini-essay (750-1000 words), in which you refer to at least three of the assigned academic readings, as well as any other readings you want to reference. You may gear the assignment toward your own research interests but do take care to thoroughly engage the masterclass’s topic and texts. Formulate two or three questions arising from what you read and wrote, which could serve as the point of departure for a discussion. Use one or two sentences to explain each question (unpack terms, offer context, comment on coherence) and to state its relevance.
The assignment may be used as a springboard for a paper or research proposal (2500 words, +/- 10%) written after the masterclass, to be handed in by 13 June 2020. By submitting the paper/proposal and obtaining a sufficient grade, students can earn 2 extra ECs (amounting to a total of 3ECs from the masterclass).
Dr. Tom Idema is a lecturer in the department of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University. His research is situated at the intersection of literary studies, the environmental humanities, and science and technology studies. Tom is interested in how narratives of (human) life in literature and science are transforming in an age of technological and environmental upheaval. His book Stages of Transmutation: Science Fiction, Biology, and Environmental Posthumanism (2019), published in the Routledge book series Perspectives on the Non-human in Literature and Culture, won the 2019 OSL book award. Tom’s work has appeared in various edited volumes and in journals including Frame, Configurations, Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, Biosocieties, Green Letters, and Ecozon@. He is a board member of the Benelux Association for the Study of Culture and the Environment and the Dutch ambassador of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSA-EU).