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FES explores connection between literature and environment

FES explores connection between literature and environment

What is the connection between Canadian literature and the environment? That question is what the Faculty of Environmental Studies wants to explore through its three-day event, Green Words/Green Worlds: Environmental Literatures & Politics in Canada, encompassing a public forum, a conference and writing workshops.

Notable Canadian environmental poets Brian Bartlett, Armand Garnet Ruffo and Rita Wong are the keynote speakers for the public forum, which will take place Friday, Oct. 21, from 6 to 8pm, at the Gladstone Hotel, North Ballroom, 1415 Queen St. W., Toronto. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited.

Right: Brian Bartlett

Each of the authors will read from their work and discuss the socio-political responsibility of writers in modern, ecologically precarious times during the public forum. Bartlett is the author of five collections of poetry, including The Watchmaker’s Table, as well as Wanting the Day: Selected Poems, which won the 2004 Atlantic Poetry Prize. Ruffo, whose work is influenced by his Ojibwe heritage, is the author of At Geronimo’s Grave and Grey Owl: The Mystery of Archie Belaney. He has also penned plays, works of nonfiction and was the writer and director for the film, A Windigo Tale, which won best picture at the American Indian Film Festival last year in San Francisco.

Wong's work looks at the relations among contemporary poetics, social justice, ecology and decolonization. She is the author of poetry collections Forage and Monkeypuzzle and co-author of Sybil Unrest.

The academic conference will be held the next day on Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Gladstone Hotel, from 9am to 7:30pm. Paid registration for the conference is required before Oct. 14. Although admission for York students is free, they still must register in advance.

Left: Rita Wong

The conference will feature scholarly discussions and include diverse panels of academics, graduate students and writers presenting their own work on topics, such as ecopoetics, environmental literatures, indigenous politics, writing and more. Molly Wallace of Queen’s University will offer the closing keynote address, “Averting Environmental Catastrophe in Time: Speculations on Temporality, Risk and Representation”.

Some of the questions the event will probe include: How do literary works – poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction – make a unique contribution to Canadians’ understanding of, and responses to, environmental issues? How does the history of Canadian literature suggest a history of environmental activism, and vice versa? Why does poetry matter for nature? And, how does fiction incite and influence actions in the more-than-human world?

Environmental literatures engage the world differently than do environmental policies and ecopoetry embodies and inspires different modes of action, says FES Professor Catriona Sandilands, Canada Research Chair in Sustainability & Culture and the event’s co-organizer with Ella Soper, FES postdoctoral Fellow.

Right: Armand Garnet Ruffo

The question then becomes, says Sandilands, what does this reflection and action add to environmental politics in Canada? How, for example, do indigenous peoples’ struggles over the materiality and meaning of land suggest different kinds of environmental stories to underpin an ecological public culture? How can a regional or national ecopolitics benefit from closer attention to diasporic literatures? How are ecological literatures and politics jointly embedded in globalizing relations of race, gender, class, colonialism, sexuality and ability?

Writing workshops will take place Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Gladstone Hotel, from 9:30 to 11:30am. It will be a day of hands-on writing activities led by Bartlett, Ruffo and Wong, as well as FES doctoral candidate Amanda Di Battista. At the workshops, participants will be encouraged to create their own pieces of poetry or prose that might contribute to a politics of voice locally, nationally and/or globally. Participation is included in advance conference registration or contact Green Worlds for alternate arrangements.

The event is sponsored by York’s Sustainable Writing Laboratory and the Faculty of Environmental Studies with the support of the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

For more information, for a full schedule of events, or to register, e-mail

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.