Of Arks and ARKives: Narrative, Database, and Endangered Species

An environmental humanities seminar by Ursula Heise, Department of English

Monday, November 19, 2012
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
La Kretz Hall, Suite 300, Large Conference Room

About the Talk

Over the last 25 years, dozens of books, scores of websites, hundreds of documentary films, and thousands of photographs have portrayed endangered species. Most of these works use the story templates and rhetorical strategies of elegy and tragedy to mourn the passing of culturally significant animal species. Red lists of endangered species and biodiversity databases incorporate the elegiac template into their basic structures, but some of them also seek to capture the entirety of biological life on Earth in an encyclopedic and even epic impulse. "Of Arks and ARKives" analyzes these catalogues of species, especially endangered ones, in art and science, and argues that this combination of narrative and database is the central cultural form through which we express our concern for nonhuman species, a form of contemporary ecological epic.

About the Speaker

Ursula K. Heise is Professor of English, a 2011-12 Guggenheim Fellow, and Immediate Past President of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE). Her research and teaching focus on contemporary environmental culture, literature and art in the Americas, Western Europe and Japan; theories of globalization; literature and science; and the digital humanities. 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), and Nach der Natur: Das Artensterben und die moderne Kultur [After Nature: Species Extinction and Modern Culture] (Suhrkamp in 2010 (English to follow). She is currently working on a book entitled Where the Wild Things Used To Be: Narrative, Database, and Biodiversity Loss.

To read the UCLA Today story about Heise coming to campus click here.