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Summer School 2022 – Abstracts Morning Lectures

The Ecological Imperative in Literary Studies: Cultural Ecology and Literary Sustainability

Prof. Dr. Hubert Zapf 

The ecological imperative manifests in different ways according to the linguistic, generic, medial, and semiotic conditions in which it is communicated. This is also true of creative forms of cultural practice such as literature and the aesthetic. In any of the prevailing definitions of literature, the criteria mentioned for literariness are ambiguity, polyvalence, structured complexity, and participatory openness for the reader’s reception – all of them, at first sight, at odds with communicating univocal messages or calls to action.  Nonetheless, imaginative literature – as other forms of art – does have something important to contribute to environmental ethics and thus can be said to implicitly transact something like an ecological imperative, even though this contribution is for the most part not explicitly formulated but is rather conveyed through the narrative, formal, and aesthetic procedures themselves that literary texts employ; in other words, it becomes an ecological imperative only in the translation of the autopoetic complexities of the aesthetic into the co-creative responsiveness of its recipients.

In my talk, I will look at some of the ways in which this intrinsic ecological dimension of literature can be described within larger discursive contexts that are significant for environmental studies in general: These contexts are survival, cultural ecology, sustainability, and the Anthropocene, all of them in some way or other relevant to the ways in which an ecological imperative is mediated in literature and art.

Mandatory reading:


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