Hosts: Dr. Joela Jacobs, University of Arizona (USA) & Dr. Solveig Nitzke, University Dresden (Germany)
For the 20th EASLCE webinar, we left our offices made of grey concrete and instead immersed ourselves in the world of “Unruly Plants.” We started off with debating the characteristics that make a plant unruly. We thought about unruly plants’ refusal to adhere to human systems, how they encroach upon human territory and create a feeling of unease for us as human observers. Our discussion then moved towards thinking about how unruly plants transcend human ways of understanding and making sense of the world and thereby pose particular challenges to our modes and ways of doing literary and cultural studies.
Three short stories formed the center of our discussions: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappacini’s Daughter” (1844), Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Giant Wistaria” (1891), and Ross Gay’s “Lily on the Pants” (2019). In the course of the webinar, our encounters with these three textual accounts of unruly plants opened up various ways of engaging with the unknown: What is it that we do not understanding about plants? What affects are triggered in the moment of the encounter? Can we ascribe agency to (unruly) plants, and what happens in moments of species crossings?
As has become common for all our webinars, the discussion could have continued way beyond the set 90 minutes framework. And we are certain that many ensuing debates and discussions will continue to emerge from this initial encounter.
featured photo: Hannah Wright