Although European thought has traditionally placed ‘nature’ in opposition to ‘culture’, as the title UN/NATURAL HISTORIES suggests, the world in which we find ourselves and the narratives we tell about it can also be seen to stand in a shifting and mutually influential relationship to one another. Recent work in eco-criticism has emphasised the importance of the relationship between our environment and the literary work we produce; while in popular culture, programmes such as the BBC’s Unnatural Histories (2011) investigate the ways in which even the most pristine ‘natural’ spaces can be seen as human constructions. These approaches not only emphasise the relationship between nature and culture as an object of investigation, but also indicate that the way in which this relationship is perceived may not be as ‘natural’ as we assume.
Fields of Gold', Rice Fields in Banaue in the Philippines, by kudumomo 19/02/2010 (link to original).
‘The natural’ has also had an important role to play in our thinking about art and society. In the eighteenth century, there was a certain idealisation of nature, as illustrated in the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, where the state of nature was an idealised alternative to the corruption of culture. Similarly, the Romantics portrayed an organic and holistic communion with nature in their works. In the twentieth century, however, the natural was frequently invoked in an extended or metaphorical sense: Shklovsky and Brecht have drawn attention to art’s role in defamiliarising the seemingly natural in society, whilst much critical theory operates ‘denaturalising’ processes in order to reveal cultural constructions and conceptions at the heart of many ‘natural’ ideals and assumptions. Even history writing itself has become entangled in this process with Foucault’s turn to genealogy as a critical tool and Hayden White’s deconstruction of the nature of history-writing.
For the summer issue of FORUM, a peer-reviewed postgraduate journal based at the University of Edinburgh, we are seeking submissions from a range of disciplines relating to the arts or culture that consider the topic of UN/NATURAL HISTORIES. Submissions may relate to, but are not limited to:
- naturalising and de-naturalising aesthetics in literature, film, theatre and visual art
- the use of organic forms and materials in artistic practice and production
- approaches to nature in the Medieval, Early Modern and other non-contemporary time periods
- genealogical approaches to nature or culture
- histories of de/naturalisation
- gender and the nature/culture binary
- performance, performativity and identity
- ethics of artifice, ornamentalisation, aestheticisation, reification, fakery
- eco-criticism, human ‘colonisation’ of nature
- inter-disciplinary approaches to nature/culture (Darwinisms, cultural evolutions, etc)
Papers must be between 3,000 and 5,000 words in length, formatted according to MLA guidelines. Please email your paper, a short abstract and your academic CV in separate, clearly labelled .DOC files to by FRIDAY 8TH MARCH 2013. All eligible articles will be peer reviewed prior to publication. Only one submission per author per issue is permissible. More information on the journal and our style guide can be found at forumjournal.org.