Special Issue "Environmental Imagination and German Culture"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Cultural Studies & Critical Theory in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Sabine Wilke
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Germanics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
Interests: Austrian culture; Critical Theory; Cultural Studies; Ecocriticism, German Culture; Colonial and Postcolonial; Anthropocene

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The topic of this Special Issue of Humanities concerns itself with the shape of the environmental imagination in German culture and its historical and rhetorical dimensions, ethical and philosophical concerns, and aesthetic framings. The visual paradigm is the dominant mode of perceiving nature. As a consequence, many cultural documents stress the scenic element where nature is put on display for gazing onlookers. Contributions to this Special Issue are encouraged to reflect critically on this tradition.

Another important part of the environmental imagination in German culture is its origin in discovery and colonial fantasies. We owe the emergence of the modern environmental imagination to the encounter of the European male subject with the radical other, the non-European, and the radically different nature which in the process of translation is often rendered pleasing to the European eye. Contributions are encouraged to reflect critically on this process of domestication as well.

Papers are also encouraged to reflect on narrating and depicting environmental degradation and on the state and history of human relations with non-humans. How do German authors imagine scenes of environmental threat? What happens when we encounter scenes of dirty nature, when garbage enters the Garden Eden, when chemical bacteria pollute the water supply, when tourists populate small remote Alpine villages, when the effects of climate change and/or rampant extinction of nature-culture are addressed in literary texts, films, documentaries, and art? Essays are encouraged to address these challenges and reflect on the poetic strategies, entanglements, and adaptations for scenes of environmental encounters. Comparative and global perspectives are welcome.

Prof. Sabine Wilke
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • adaptation
  • anthropocene
  • climate
  • colonialism
  • discovery
  • environment
  • entanglement
  • extinction
  • nature-culture
  • pollution
  • tourism
  • waste

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Is Green the New Red? Marxism, Ecology, and Contemporary Architectural Theory
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010045 - 08 Mar 2021
Viewed by 357
Abstract
This essay examines the role of Marxist concepts in recent architectural theories of ecology using two architecture firms, Estudio Teddy Cruz and Sauerbruch Hutton (SH), as case studies. In their writings, Cruz and SH mobilize the critique of capital, a dialectical materialist understanding [...] Read more.
This essay examines the role of Marxist concepts in recent architectural theories of ecology using two architecture firms, Estudio Teddy Cruz and Sauerbruch Hutton (SH), as case studies. In their writings, Cruz and SH mobilize the critique of capital, a dialectical materialist understanding of history, and the Frankfurt School’s critique of functionalist culture for the theorization of sustainable design. Their work has two vital ramifications for current sustainability discourses in two different fields which this essay seeks to bridge. For Marxist theorists concerned about ecology but averse to Western Marxism because of its supposed idealism, Cruz and SH show anew the importance of aesthetic concerns to conceptions of the environment. For design scholars accustomed to thinking of Marxism as having been absorbed into broader debates about cultural studies, the architects’ theories have the potential to recentralize the left-wing inheritance through its adaptation to concerns of ecology. In addition, in the essay’s conclusion, I reflect briefly, as a suggestion for further research, on how Cruz’s and SH’s architectural practice and theories might productively be analyzed in light of the terms of the Adorno-Benjamin debate of the 1930s over the political status of the cultural products of capital. Can eighty-year old discussions of the potentially revolutionary and retrograde qualities of mass cultural objects be relevant to radical thought in the age of climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Imagination and German Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Narrating a Valley in Max Frisch’s Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän: Material Agency, Rain, and the Geologic Past
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010043 - 04 Mar 2021
Viewed by 369
Abstract
The complex narrative composition of image and text in Max Frisch’s Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän discloses entanglements between humans and nonhuman entities that impact the narrative and that demand careful consideration. The story depicts the aging protagonist’s struggle with memory loss and [...] Read more.
The complex narrative composition of image and text in Max Frisch’s Der Mensch erscheint im Holozän discloses entanglements between humans and nonhuman entities that impact the narrative and that demand careful consideration. The story depicts the aging protagonist’s struggle with memory loss and his careful examination of the valley’s mountain formations in fear of a landslide. In this analysis, I show that both of these threats can be read as entangled with nonhuman agents. By focusing on the material dimension of the text, two central and related shifts occur: the background element of rain becomes foregrounded in the narrative, and the natural formations of the valley that are assumed to be static are revealed to be dynamic. These shifts lead to an interpretation of Frisch’s text focused on the impacts of rain and the temporal scale of the text’s geologic dimension. Approaching the text through the lens of material ecocriticism unveils the multiple agencies at play, decenters the human, and illustrates the embodied experience of climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Imagination and German Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Image, Environment, Infrastructure: The Social Ecologies of the Bergfilm
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010038 - 26 Feb 2021
Viewed by 251
Abstract
The German mountain film (Bergfilm) has received extensive critical attention for its political, social, and aesthetic implications, but has received remarkably little attention for its role in the environmental history of the Alps. This article considers the Bergfilm within the long [...] Read more.
The German mountain film (Bergfilm) has received extensive critical attention for its political, social, and aesthetic implications, but has received remarkably little attention for its role in the environmental history of the Alps. This article considers the Bergfilm within the long history of depictions of the Alps and the growth of Alpine tourism in order to ask how the role of media in environmental change shifts with the advent of film. The argument builds on Verena Winiwarter and Martin Knoll’s model of social-ecological interaction, Adrian Ivakhiv’s theoretical framework for the environmental implications of film, and Laura Frahm’s theories of filmic space. Through an analysis of Arnold Fanck’s films Der heilige Berg [The Holy Mountain, Fanck 1926] and Der große Sprung [The Great Leap, Fanck 1927], which are compared with Gustav Renker’s novel Heilige Berge [Holy Mountains, Renker 1921] and set into the context of the environmental history of the Alpine regions where the films were shot, the author argues that film aesthetics serve as a creative catalyst for environmental change and infrastructure development. While some ecocinema scholars have argued that environmental films teach viewers new ideas or change modes of behavior, this analysis suggests that film aesthetics are most effective at accelerating processes of environmental change that are already underway. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Imagination and German Culture)
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Open AccessArticle
Dialektik der Erschließung: The German–Austrian Alps between Exploration and Exploitation
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010017 - 18 Jan 2021
Viewed by 334
Abstract
Focusing on the so-called Nördliche Kalkalpen or Northern Limestone Alps of Germany and Austria, I will discuss how human interaction with these mountains during the age of the Anthropocene shifts from scientific and athletic exploration to commercial and industrial exploitation. More specifically, I [...] Read more.
Focusing on the so-called Nördliche Kalkalpen or Northern Limestone Alps of Germany and Austria, I will discuss how human interaction with these mountains during the age of the Anthropocene shifts from scientific and athletic exploration to commercial and industrial exploitation. More specifically, I will examine travel narratives by the nineteenth-century mountaineers Friedrich Simony and Hermann von Barth, juxtaposing their respective experiences in diverse Alpine subranges with the environmental history of those regions. This juxtaposition harbors a deeper paradox, one that can be formulated as follows: Whereas Simony and Barth both rank as historically important Erschließer of the German and Austrian Alps, having explored their crags and glaciers in search of somatic adventure and geoscientific knowledge, these very sites of rock and ice were about to become so erschlossen by modernized tourism that one wonders where the precise boundaries between individual-based discovery and technology-driven development lie. In other words, during the nineteenth century a kind of Dialektik der Erschließung (a variation on Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialektik der Aufklärung) manifests itself in the increasing anthropogenic alteration of the Alps. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Imagination and German Culture)
Open AccessArticle
Rumors of Nature: An Ecotranslation of Ulrike Almut Sandig’s “so habe ich sagen gehört”
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010014 - 04 Jan 2021
Viewed by 473
Abstract
Only recently have scholars begun to discuss the implications of the Anthropocene for the translation of literature, introducing the new practice and study of ecotranslation. The Anthropocene—a term popularized by Paul Crutzen—describes the current epoch as one where human activity gains a large [...] Read more.
Only recently have scholars begun to discuss the implications of the Anthropocene for the translation of literature, introducing the new practice and study of ecotranslation. The Anthropocene—a term popularized by Paul Crutzen—describes the current epoch as one where human activity gains a large negative impact on geology and ecosystems. In light of this, an ecological approach to translation is not only useful but necessary for addressing the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. Ecotranslation can be understood as translation that recognizes and retains ecological themes from the source text. This study looks at the application of ecotranslation theory to an English translation of the German poem “so habe ich sagen gehört” by Ulrike Almut Sandig. The poem critiques preconceived notions about how humans relate to and conceptualize nature, making it an ideal source for applying ecotranslation. Through a close reading and interpretation of the poem, its ecological features are noted, then close attention is given to their translation. Comparison of the ecotranslation with an existing translation displays that an ecological approach can lead to a particular recognition and emphasis of ecological aspects. The resulting translation differs significantly from those translations lacking an ecological emphasis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Imagination and German Culture)
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Open AccessArticle
The Past Erased, the Future Stolen: Lignite Extractivism as Germany’s Trope for the Anthropocene
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010010 - 30 Dec 2020
Viewed by 384
Abstract
Coal, and even more so, brown coal or lignite, is currently under-researched in the energy humanities. Lignite still provides approximately 25% of “green” Germany’s energy; its extraction obliterates human settlements and vibrant ecosystems, and its incineration produces more CO2 than any other [...] Read more.
Coal, and even more so, brown coal or lignite, is currently under-researched in the energy humanities. Lignite still provides approximately 25% of “green” Germany’s energy; its extraction obliterates human settlements and vibrant ecosystems, and its incineration produces more CO2 than any other fossil fuel, contributing massively to climate change. After discussing German mining history, the genres of the energy narrative, the bioregional novel, and ecopoetry, and earlier literary treatments of lignite mining, I analyze recent lignite novels by Anja Wedershoven, Andreas Apelt, Bernhard Sinkel, and Ingrid Bachér, and ecopoems by Max Czollek and Marion Poschmann. I discuss socioenvironmental issues such as “slow violence” and “environmental injustice” enacted upon rural communities that are being resettled in “sacrifice zones” for national energy needs; political–economic entanglements, and activism against this complete devastation of the naturalcultural landscape; differences in representation in narrative and lyrical texts; and how the authors frame local perceptions of the mining operations and the resulting “moonscape” within the larger temporal and spatial scales of the Anthropocene. I argue that these literary texts prefigure where the Earth may be headed in the Anthropocene, and that Germany’s lignite extractivism can be considered a trope for the Anthropocene. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Imagination and German Culture)
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