Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE)

In light of the rising threat of global climate catastrophe, scholars of the nonhuman turn have largely focused their attention on vast environmental processes and forces like global warming and the Anthropocene—on the massive temporal and spatial dimensions of what Timothy Morton calls the “hyperobject.” But the interspecies relations that make up Morton’s hyperobject at the same time always operate on the level of what we call the micro-object—the invisible world of microorganisms and other forms of living matter that permeates every aspect of human and nonhuman life. Our ASLE roundtable seeks to engage these neglected lives that evade human perception, blend object-like into human environments, or exist on the border between life and death—the overlapping worlds of bacteria, fungi, algae, dust, pollen, soil, coral, and plant life that constitute the interspecies social. According to Morton, hyperobjects demand new modes of thinking and living together: We solicit papers in literary and cultural studies that investigate how these lively ‘micro-objects’ implore us to suspend, alter, or reorder our political and cultural systems, habits of thought, and aesthetic or representational modes. Microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, and algae point us to an image of life outside of individuality, life as essentially relational and generative, multiplying: What might a revitalized politics or justice look like when we take on the perspective and the dimensions of these tiny organisms? How does life on the micro-scale compel us to suspend the usual human order, to reconsider our cultural exchanges, or to reorder our (bio)political and ethical systems? At the same time, we seek to uncover in our literary and cultural histories a microbial aesthetics that reckons with the implications of being alive in a wildly diverse network of multispecies relations—relations that operate on multiple scales, diverging temporalities, and according to patterns that cannot be reduced to either harmony or conflict.

If you have any questions, please contact Agnes Malinowska (amalinowska@uchicago.edu) and Joela Jacobs (joelajacobs@email.arizona.edu). 

Please submit a 300-word abstract and brief bio through the conference website (https://asle.submittable.com/submit/126731/the-neglected-lives-of-micro-matter) by December 15, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST.