Heidi A. Lawrence, University of Glasgow
ChLA Non-Guaranteed Session
Anima Mundi: Finding our Shared Ecological Experience in Non-environmental Children’s Literature
In his landmark text, Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life (2013 ), Andy Fisher defines ecopsychology as a project through which humans may hopefully come to realize how our human psyche and the psyche the world around us, internally relate to “nature,” and how they are the “interior and the exterior of the same phenomenon” (Fisher 205) Theodore Roszak (1996) calls this shared anima mundi the “ecological unconscious” (320-21). For Fisher, this reunification of mind and environment is about “refusing all dualisms or splittings of reality (nonduality perhaps being ecopsychology’s main pivot), seeking integrations instead” (Fisher 205). This contrasts with Cheryll Glotfelty’s definition of ecocriticism as “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” (1996: xvii). Instead, ecopsychology is the study of the relationship between human beings and their physical environment. The idea of a shared psyche (or soul) between humans and nonhumans, between the organic and inorganic, and between the occupants of Earth and the occupants of other planets and stars across the universe must, of course, be multicultural, or it will not succeed, argues activist Carl Anthony (Anthony 264). In order to understand how the human-nature relationship can be healing, ecopsychology must acknowledge and seek for healing for the many cultures and peoples who have been dispossessed environmentally (Anthony 267). The close relationship between humans and their ecosystems is present in many children’s and YA fantasy and highly imaginative novels. Elements of these relationships are also present in more realistic children’s and YA fiction spanning at least the last 150 years. And as the Anthropocene accelerates and is accompanied by increased climate-change denial, the question arises – how can those who resist the concept of climate change be reached in a personal way that might allow them to see past pain and shame and guilt to their shared experience with the tree in the local park, or with the clouds scudding past on a windy day? Reading, not with an eye for how literature and the environment are in relation, but with an eye for how humans and the environment are in relation, may provide insights into the multiplicity of experiences humans share with the world around them.
This non-guaranteed session will investigate the question of human embeddedness in the ecosystem in non-environmental children’s and YA literature, whether fantasy, highly imaginative, or strongly realistic. This may include picture books as well. Non-environmental texts are those without an obvious past, present, apocalyptic, or post-apocalyptic environmental agenda; such texts may more easily reach those who struggle to accept climate change through tapping into such things as childhood memories of outdoor experiences or favorite family stories of outdoor play.
Topics might include:
- Non-traditional outdoor education in non-environmental children’s literature
- Established kinship between children or adolescents and a particular part of their ecosystem.
- Evidence of ecojustice in non-environmental children’s/YA literature.
- Representations (or a lack of representations) of kinship between children and the ecosystem in marginalized communities.
- Socially and culturally appropriate representations or issues of cultural (mis)appropriation in non-environmental children’s literature.
- Multicultural non-environmental children’s books and representations of kinship with nature.
- Children or adolescents empowered through kinship with any organic or inorganic figure/character/object
- Imaginary friends derived from some aspect of the environment.
- A life-sustaining psychological bond between a child or adolescent and some part of the environment.
- Outdoor play as an established part of a childhood routine.
- A sense of wonder implicit in the experience of the child or adolescent character
- Healing or nurturing aspects of nature in the child’s life
By March 1, 2021: Please send 400-500-word paper proposals and a 250-word bio to Heidi A. Lawrence, Heidi.Lawrence@byu.edu
Please use the subject heading “MLA 2022: Anima Mundi CFP.” If possible, please use a valid academic email address or an email address that clearly contains your name and comes from an identifiable email service. These steps will help me verify that it is safe to open your email and attachments. Thank you very much.