Calendar of Events

Fall 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011
Ursula Heise (English, Stanford)
Terminal Species: Narrative, Database, and Biodiversity Loss
3:30 pm Curtin 118

Humans are currently confronting a mass extinction on Earth that may eliminate up to 50 percent of existing species by 2100. In response, dozens of writers, photographers, film makers, and visual artists have created works that memorialize and celebrate endangered and extinct species, often with the familiar genre templates of elegy and tragedy.

At the same time, biologists seek to create global database inventories of all known species and to classify them by their degree of endangerment, even as basic concepts such as "species" and "biodiversity" remain contested. The digital Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in particular combines narrative and spatial data in a globally influentially conservation tool.

“Terminal Species” analyzes images, narratives, and database formats that have emerged around endangered species in order to explore whether they offer an alternative to the well-established environmentalist discourse about the decline of nature and to offer clues to a more future-oriented perspective on humans’ interactions with nonhumans.

Ursula K. Heise is Professor of English and Director of the Program in Modern Thought & Literature at Stanford University. Her major academic interests focus on environmental culture, literature and art in the Americas, Western Europe, and Japan, and on theories of modernization, postmodernization and globalization. She is the author of Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative, and Postmodernism (Cambridge, 1997), Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (Oxford, 2008), and Nach der Natur: Das Artensterben und die moderne Kultur [After Nature: Species Extinction and Modern Culture] (Suhrkamp, 2010). She is also working on a book provisionally entitled "The Avantgarde and the Forms of Nature."

Brown bag lunch with Ursula Heise
Friday, October 7
12 noon, Curtin 939

Recommended background readings for the lunch:
Ursula Heise, "Ecocriticism and Animation"
Ursula Heise, "Martian Ecologies and the Future of Nature"


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