Representations of environmental crisis, or crisis in the representation of the environment? A paradigm shift at the turn of our century.

Université de Savoie Mont-Blanc


American transcendentalists Thoreau and Emerson are traditionally considered as the forefathers of nature writing. Authors – of fiction and other literary forms – have kept on writing about nature, whose definition is a lasting problem, going from pure otherness with the concept of wilderness[1] to an approach that is exclusively cultural with the concept of the anthropocene. This term appeared recently to designate a new geological era conditioned by human activities. Some researchers use the term « capitalocene » as a reaction to what they consider an essentialist and a-historical concept – « capitalocene » also being debatable[2].

What elements led to these paradigm changes ? And is there really a change, or do we keep – at least in Western cultures – thinking within the framework of the nature/culture opposition, and believing in our transformative omnipotence ? This belief is still visible today, for example in the hope we place in geo-engineering to fight against global warming[3]. Our hypothesis is that environmental crises lead to changes in cultural representations of what we call the environment, and our relation to it. These representations condition our mode of being in the environment, thus affecting it. We will also have to reflect upon the very idea of a « crisis », which can signify either a temporary state or a radical transformation[4]. The questions of the function of art in the face of these crises, but also of the frontier between art and science, art and non-art, fiction and reality, are to be asked.

We hope colleagues working in a diversity of fields in the humanities such as history, cultural studies, literature (ecocriticism), and philosophy, will send article proposals to contribute in a pluridisciplinary book, inscribed in the environmental humanities. We would like to explore the following paradox : in this early 21st Century, in spite of the persistence of topoi expressing a dichotomous relation between man and nature, our modes of representation are undergoing a crisis. The need to rethink man’s inscription in the environment is urgent, because concrete solutions that may be put into place collectively to prevent future collapses depend upon the evolution of these representations.


Submission deadline: June, 5, 2019.

Direct all inquiries and proposals to

Articles should be no more than 10 000 words (including footnotes)  and must comply with the presentation standards at PUSMB.



[1]Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: a Season in the Wilderness, New York: Ballantine Books, 1968.

[2]Armel Campagne,  Le Capitalocène, aux racines historiques du dérèglement climatique, Editions Divergences, 2017.

[3]Clive Hamilton,  Les Apprentis sorciers du climat : raisons et déraisons de la géo-ingénierie [« Earthmasters: Playing God with the climate »], Seuil, coll. « Anthropocène », 2013.

[4]Michel Serres, Le Temps des crises, Le Pommier, 2009.

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