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Escape into Nature

Convenors: Bożena Kucała (Jagiellonian University) and Beata Piątek (Jagiellonian University)

The winter 2021 issue of Orion Magazine contains an essay by Tyler Orion, a trans writer and photographer, who explains his decision to move into a cabin in the wilderness of Vermont in the following way:  

“Out here in the wild, I feel human beyond identity. I experience being in community without judgement, embraced by all the rooted, furred, feathered beings around me. I am learning how to love myself from every tree, stone and star. I feel unconditional acceptance in a way that no human knows how to offer” (“Wild Embodiment”).  

We would like to invite fellow academics to examine the theme of escape into nature in contemporary literature in the English language. We do not want to limit the scope of our discussion to (post-)pandemic fiction, or to dwell on environmental apocalypticism, otherwise known as climate grief (not that we do not share these concerns, but rather because much has been said and written about them). Instead, we hope that together we will find inspiration and hope for the future in the areas of:  

  • nature’s resilience and what humans can learn from it;  

  • nature as solace from grief, loss, trauma;  

  • the wild other, i.e. the encounter with animals and plants and what it can teach us about what it means to be human and what it means not to be human?  

  • the promise and challenge of finding meaning in the natural world;  

  • the moral lessons of the garden, the power of gardening;  

  • the pastoral mode in 21st-century fiction, can it adapt to our ecocentric consciousness?