In Nature’s Wake

Posted in Symposia

Symp2015 WebsiteMarch 24 – 25, 2015 | Symposium Blog

We did not require the latest UN climate report to know that the world has changed forever: landscapes praised by the Romantics have vanished, and Homer’s wine-dark seas rise daily, churning with levels of chemical waste unprecedented in the history of human time. The world is dying. Climate change, and the innumerable environmental damages gathered under that label — from hydraulic fracturing to drought, dead zones, and rising seas — is the single biggest challenge that humankind has faced. It is an ongoing and geologically-scaled catastrophe that demands new forms of knowing and being if we are to confront creatively what Bill McKibben already in 1989 called “the end of nature.”

The word poetry derives from poiesis, an act of making or doing. Taken in its broadest sense to mean human creativity and acts of aesthetic making, poetry is an action that reorganizes the world. This Lannan Symposium asks what poetry and the related arts might do in the face of our ever-worsening environmental crisis. “In Nature’s Wake” will gather poets, novelists, activists, visual and performance artists, critics, and climate scientists to address the ongoing environmental crisis and assess the role of art in combating it. What aesthetic and conceptual responses are adequate to the new geological age we inhabit, the anthropocene, when human agency has altered decisively what had once been natural processes? What new conceptions of nature and human action does this moment require? And what new genres might emerge to make sense of this dramatically revised relationship between humankind and our lived environment?

The diverse practitioners assembled over this two-day event will gather in readings, lectures, roundtable discussions, film screenings, and collective art exhibitions. The collective project that emerges will mingle elegies for a lost planet with manifestos for art in an altered world. Together these creative acts will be arrayed against the direst and most anti-democratic consequences of the climate disaster – its human costs– even as they suggest what forms of beauty and solidarity might emerge from the ruined nature we now inhabit together. What new forms of life can art help call into being, what new narratives can it tell, when nature veers toward death but we must, somehow, endure?


Schedule of Events

Ongoing Exhibits:
Public Sculpture Installation, Evan Reed et al., Anthropocene Core Sample 1, 2 & 3
Healy Family Student Center

Digital Art Exhibition, In Nature’s Wake: Photographs by Garth Lenz and Victoria Sambunaris
organized by Mike Osborne
Healy Family Student Center

Tuesday, March 24

In Nature’s Wake: Opening Remarks and Welcome Ceremony
11:00 AM | Copley Formal Lounge
Opening remarks from Lannan Center Director Carolyn Forché and Symposium Director Nathan K. Hensley, followed by a prayer from the Native American Student Council. Winona LaDuke addresses symposium attendees.

Rebecca Solnit: “Hope is a Form of Resistance”
2:30 PM | Copley Formal Lounge
Introduction from Professor Jennifer Natalya Fink.

Landscape and Ecocide
3:00 PM | Copley Formal Lounge
Professor Mike Osborne introduces presentations from photographers Victoria Sambunaris and Garth Lenz, followed by Rebecca Solnit in conversation with the audience.

Nature Poetry After Nature
5:30 PM | Copley Formal Lounge
Former and current Lannan Center Directors Mark McMorris and Carolyn Forché introduce poets Juliana Spahr and Robert Hass for a reading and discussion.
Reception to follow.

Wednesday, March 25

How to Think in the Anthropocene
10:30 AM | Copley Formal Lounge
Moderated by Professor Patricia Vieira, this roundtable discussion co-sponsored by the Modernities Working Group sees Professors Karen Pinkus (Cornell), Jennifer James (George Washington), Dana Luciano (Georgetown), and Naveeda Khan (Johns Hopkins) presenting papers.

Lunch and Breakout Session: To Map a World Not Yet Born
12:30-2:00 PM | Healy Family Student Center Social Room
Led by Nina Sherburne, GU Fossil Free. Lunch served.
Open to the public by RSVP only to

What is to be Done?: A Roundtable on Action in the Current Crisis
3:30 PM | Copley Formal Lounge
Roundtable Conversation co-sponsored by the Center for Social Justice and Program in Justice and Peace
Moderated by Professor Randall Amster, this roundtable brings together Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Chris Williams, author of Ecology and Socialism, and Rebecca Solnit, author and activist; along with poets Robert Hass and Juliana Spahr.

Reception for Symposium Participants and Invited Guests
5:30 PM | Alumni House

Bill McKibben: “The End of Nature a Quarter Century After”
7:00 PM | Gaston Hall
Reception to follow.


March 24, 2015 | In Nature’s Wake: Welcome & On Honoring the Earth

March 24, 2015 | Hope Is a Form of Resistance & Landscape and Ecocide

March 24, 2015 | Nature Poetry After Nature

March 25, 2015 | How to Think in the Anthropocene

March 25, 2015 | What Is to Be Done?

March 25, 2015 | The End of Nature a Quarter Century After