Literary studies need to contend with the “emergent unreadability” of texts whose mimetic practices across a range of aesthetic norms and rhetorical conventions are no longer tenable in an age of mass extinctions, biotic degradations, and atmospheric transformations. Both the planetary scale of anthropogenic environmental changes and the temporal scale of geological history informing assessments of their significance require new models of literary history. This presentation will reflect on possible directions for an “eco-philology” that combines textual and digital studies in relation to environmental history. With examples from eighteenth and nineteenth century Scottish literature, I will ask how descriptive bibliography and geospatial semantics can contribute to ecological reflection at a moment of precipitous decline.
Eric Gidal (English, University of Iowa) teaches courses in poetry, aesthetics, and the visual arts, and in eighteenth-century and romantic-era literature, particularly in reference to media studies, information theory, and environmental concerns. His book Ossianic Unconformities: Bardic Poetry in the Industrial Age (Virginia UP, 2015) explores a modern quest to locate vestiges of ancient poetry in the landscapes of an industrial world. Earlier work includes studies of poetry and museums, melancholy and social theory, romantic climatology, and the writings of Germaine de Staël. His current scholarship explores relations between literature, industrial space, and environmental history. He is also editor of Philological Quarterly.