Deutsch Intern

International Conference: America After Nature

61st Annual Convention of the GAAS

Würzburg, June 12-15, 2014

“As the greatest lessons of Nature through the universe are perhaps the lessons of variety and freedom, the same present the greatest lessons also in New World politics and progress.” In the opening sentence of Democratic Vistas, a text that responds to the nation’s devastating experiences of the Civil War, Walt Whitman reminds his readers that America, a nation once modeled after nature, should continue to find its political ideal and cultural purpose in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Whitman’s concept of nature was not only informed by the ideas of eighteenth-century natural rights philosophy, but also by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of nature “in the common sense” as a totality of essences unaltered by human labor and industry. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, nature may not have entirely come to an end (McKibben). Yet it currently undergoes what Ursula K. Heise described as a “massive restructuring” (Heise), a process that manifests itself in many ways and that has already resulted in a reduction of ecological variety. Whitman’s contention that nature provides the concepts and ideas at the core of America’s political, cultural, and social structure, and Heise’s suggestion that nature’s massive restructuring will not remain without consequences for the political, social, and economic constitution of modern culture(s), offer the conceptual and historical frame for the 2014 GAAS conference.

Topics for discussion may include, but are not restricted to, a critical review of historical and conceptual affiliations of nature with democracy and the arts; a reevaluation of the cultural, intellectual and political histories of US-American environmentalism and their relation to global forms and manifestations of green thought and activism; a revision of problems and concepts such as environmental justice and environmental governmentality within and beyond the conceptual frame of (the) America(s); and questions that concern the politics and poetics as well as the ethics and aesthetics of representation under the condition of the current ecological crisis.

Keynote Speakers

Robert D. Bullard (Texas Southern University)

Ursula K. Heise (University of California, Los Angeles)

Sylvia Mayer (Universität Bayreuth)

John M. Meyer (Humboldt State University)

Julie Sze (University of California, Davis)

Frank Zelko (University of Vermont)



Prof. Dr. Philipp Gassert
Executive Director, DGfA/GAAS

Local Organizer:

Prof. Dr. Catrin Gersdorf
Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Neuphilologisches Institut - Lehrstuhl für Amerikanistik
Am Hubland
97070 Würzburg
Tel.: +49 (0)931 31-89170