Thinking with Plants: Possibilities and Challenges for Literary and Cultural Plant Studies
Plants as specific research objects of the humanities have only recently come to the fore. This heightened interest in the vegetal world entails many disciplinary challenges. Thinking about plants as a literary scholar, I will pursue the following questions: To what extent can terms be translated fruitfully from one discipline to another (botany to literary and cultural studies, and vice versa)? What is achieved in this process, and what is lost? Which effects does the newfound attention to plants have on Literary and Cultural Studies and their fundamental concerns (such as rhetoric, poetics, and narratology), and how can a productive exchange with the natural sciences be facilitated? By investigating such processes of knowledge production on a foundational level, I hope to invite fruitful interdisciplinary discussions in an evolving area of research.
Isabel Kranz is a researcher in comparative literature. She has taught and conducted research at the universities of Berlin, Erfurt, Munich and, most recently, Vienna. In 2011, she received her Ph.D. with a dissertation on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project. Her second book, on the language of flowers, has been translated into several languages. In her current project, she investigates the relations between literature and botany. She publishes on topics such as media and historiography, concepts of the future, Walter Benjamin, and the genre of the memoir. Isabel Kranz is a co-founder of the Literary and Cultural Plant Studies Network.
(ed.), Was wäre wenn? Alternative Gegenwarten und Zukunftsprojektionen um 1914, Paderborn 2017; Sprechende Blumen. Ein ABC der Pflanzensprache, Berlin 2014; Raumgewordene Vergangenheit. Walter Benjamins Poetologie der Geschichte, München 2011.
Both literally and metaphorically, plants form the basis of our lives as humans. Yet traditionally, their agency in our shared culture has often been overlooked. By considering the many diverse processes of translation plants partake in, this talk will propose new ways of thinking about and with the vegetal.
Plants have recently come to the fore in the humanities where the interest in the non-human fostered by ecocriticism, animal studies, and posthumanism has shifted to the vegetal. With increasing urgency, plants, their agency, and their cultural/natural impact are being studied by literary and cultural scholars. In order to radically rethink the status of the vegetal, this workshop investigates the place of plants in philosophy and literature, addressing both specific sites of the vegetal (such as the earth, the garden, or the middle) as well as the role of plants for our understanding of human-nature relations in the age of the so-called anthropocene. Particular emphasis will be placed upon questions of scale from an all-encompassing “planthroposcene” (proposed by anthropologist Natasha Myers) to minuscule parts of plants as a place for reflection in order to conceptualize the specific spatio-theoretical dimensions of the vegetal.