To celebrate the launch of the Humanities and Arts Research Institute (formerly HARC), Professor Ursula K Heise (UCLA) will give a lecture entitled, "Where the wild things Used to be: Narrative, biodiversity, and multispecies justice". Her presentation will be followed by a reception.
Current discussions of decreasing bio-abundance and biodiversity rely on biological data, but also on story templates that shape narratives about ecological change, sometimes deliberately and sometimes unintentionally. This lecture focuses on the most frequent story templates in accounts of endangered and extinct species and a possible mass extinction in the contemporary age, many of which rely on the master narrative of nature's decline under the impact of modern society that has shaped environmentalist thought for the last 200 years. But narratives of species decline also form part of a more general tendency toward dystopian visions of the future in fiction and film in Western Europe and North America, while stories about species change are inflected differently in other cultures. From this comparatist perspective, possibilities for other story templates and ways of thinking about multispecies communities and multispecies justice emerge that reach beyond elegy and tragedy toward more constructive visions of our ecological futures.
Ursula K. Heise is the Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies at the Department of English and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and former President of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment). Her research and teaching focus on contemporary literature and the environmental humanities; environmental literature, arts, and cultures in the Americas, Western Europe and Japan; literature and science; science fiction; and narrative theory. She is editor of the series Natures, Cultures, and the Environment with Palgrave, and co-editor of the series Literature and Contemporary Thought with Routledge. She is co-editor of the Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities and Managing Editor of Futures of Comparative Literature: The ACLA Report on the State of the Discipline. Her books include Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative, and Postmodernism (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (Oxford University Press, 2008), Nach der Natur: Das Artensterben und die moderne Kultur (After Nature: Species Extinction and Modern Culture, Suhrkamp, 2010) and Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (University of Chicago Press, 2016), which won the 2017 book prize of the British Society for Literature and Science. She is also a co-founder of UCLA's Lab for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS), which launched in October 2016.