TREES IN/AND/AROUND LITERATURE IN THE ANTHROPOCENE
University of Turin, Italy
21st May 2019
“I’m interested in the particularity of each Tree – it’s ‘thisness’ (haecceitas)”, claims Canadian land-artist, photographer, and poet Marlene Creates, thus hinting both at the specificity of each singular tree and at the uniqueness of certain species at different latitudes. Literature, among other arts, such as film, photography, the fine arts, is one of those privileged terrainswhere Trees definitely enter our field of vision, our epistemic knowledge, our sensorial experience. In literary and artistic productions, Trees are ethically and aesthetically called into question (evoked, invoked, iconized, prized, even attacked), with the aim to identify, describe, or allegorize their singularities and specificities, or to pay homage to their material, literal, cultural, ethnic, and symbolic meaning through a variety of textualities, including the new media.
Similarly, pioneering forest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni reminds us that in order to be fully understood and appreciated Trees should be looked at in multiple ways, thus fostering the interplay of science and the humanities. Intertwining the symbolic with the personal, the scientific with the spiritual, the mythic with the functional, Nadkarni invites us to consider a Tree as axis mundi, an imaginary line that connects Earth and Sky, but also the individual with the communal. Trees, in fact, are at once single entities and part of a wider community and environment that secretly communicate with each other (Wohlleben 2016, Mancuso 2017) through their roots and a fungal network nicknamed Wood Wide Web. Silently and invisibly, trees share information, register pain, learn things, and even protect themselves and each other to the point of becoming arboreal cybercrimes by hijacking the whole system and sabotaging their rivals. Finally, Trees are sites of naturecultural memory: their rings record generations of human and nonhuman encounters and narrations, together with their mutual interference in the shaping of our identities.
The aim of this one-day international and interdisciplinary colloquium is to attract scholars, artists, experts in various fields to explore and assess the presence, value, and stance of Trees and Tree-like epistemic structures (arborescence vs ryzome, tree-shaped flows) in the Anthropocene. It is intended that selected papers will be developed as chapters for an international publication.