[csaa-forum] Seminar at UNSW: 'Earth as a Literary Element'

Collin Chua c.chua at unsw.edu.au
Thu Jul 24 18:49:32 CST 2014


SAM Seminar Series, 2014
When: Tuesday 29 July, 5 to 6.30pm
Where: Robert Webster Building, Room 327
Map: http://www.facilities.unsw.edu.au/sites/all/files/page_file_attachment/KensingtonCampus.pdf
Food and drinks provided. All welcome!

‘Earth as a Literary Element’, Martin Leer, University of Geneva

This seminar is about how teaching may turn into a form of collaborative research. A seminar for students on water in its literary, imaginative, environmental and political implications, turned into three seminars on water, fire and earth as ‘literary elements’.
A common theoretical thread was Gaston Bachelard’s psychoanalysis of the ‘elements’ and his distinction between the ‘formal’ and the ‘material’ imagination, but supplemented with other texts from environmental history, geology and even feminist-deconstructivist theology.
A prohibition against saying that the elements symbolize some abstraction (water as purity, earth as death) lead to a heightened awareness of how environmental materiality enters a textual imaginary.
This seminar aims to share what emerged from these discussions, focusing on the most recent seminar on Earth, which ranged from Thomas Hardy’s ‘The return of the native’ and John Berger’s ‘Pig Earth’, through the poetry of Seamus Heaney and Geoffrey Hill, to the SBS documentary ‘Dirty Business’.

Martin Leer is Head of Contemporary Literature in the English Department at the University of Geneva. His main research interests are in literary geography, especially but not exclusively in colonial and postcolonial literatures, though he has recently been making some ill-advised excursions into the field of literature and money.


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