Augsburg Cultural Ecology Research Group
Recently published books
Zapf, Hubert. Ed. Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2016.
Ecocriticism has emerged as one of the most fascinating and rapidly growing fields of recent literary and cultural studies, which involves a decidedly transdisciplinary and international paradigm of research and teaching. The volume maps some of the most important developments within contemporary Ecocriticism from a variety of different angles, approaches, areas, and perspectives. It introduces relevant theoretical concepts and issues, and demonstrates their relevance for the analysis of texts and other cultural phenomena.
Zapf, Hubert. Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.
About Literature as Cultural Ecology
Drawing on the latest debates in ecocritical theory and sustainability studies, Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts outlines a new approach to the reading of literary texts. Hubert Zapf considers the ways in which literature operates as a form of cultural ecology, using language, imagination and critique to challenge and transform cultural narratives of humanity's relationship to nature. In this way, the book demonstrates the important role that literature plays in creating a more sustainable way of life. Applying this approach to works by writers such as Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Zakes Mda, and Amitav Ghosh, Literature as Cultural Ecology is an essential contribution to the contemporary environmental humanities.
Find out more here.
Dürbeck, Gabriele, Urte Stobbe, Hubert Zapf and Evi Zemanek. Eds. Ecological Thought in German Literature and Culture. Ecocritical Theory and Practice. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017.
Edited by Gabriele Duerbeck; Urte Stobbe; Hubert Zapf and Evi Zemanek - Contributions by Aaron S. Allen; Martin Bemmann; Hannes Bergthaller; Benjamin Bühler; Nils Büttner; Axel Goodbody; Jakob Christoph Heller; Richard Hölzl; Matthias Hurst; Werner Konold; Anke Kramer; Angelika Krebs; Wolfgang Lueckel; Timo Müller; Kate Rigby; Caroline Schaumann; Jens Soentgen; Heather I. Sullivan; Silvio Vietta; François Walter; Berbeli Wanning and Udo Weilacher
The volume offers a survey of the contribution of German literature and culture to the evolution of ecological thought. As the field of ecocritical theory and practice is rapidly expanding towards transnational and global dimensions, it seems nevertheless necessary to consider the distinct manifestations of ecological thought in various cultures. In this sense, the volume demonstrates in twenty-six essays from different disciplines how German literature, philosophy, art, and science have contributed in unique ways to the emergence of ecological thought on national and transnational scale. The volume maps the most important and characteristic of these developments both on a theoretical and on a textual-analytical level. It is structured in five parts ranging from proto-ecological thought since early modern times (part I) to major theoretical approaches (part II), environmental history (part III), and ecocritical case studies (part IV), to ecological visions in different media and art forms (part V).
Schliephake, Christopher. Urban Ecologies. City Space, Material Agency, and Environmental Politics in Contemporary Culture. Environmental Theory and Practice Series, Lexington Books, 2015.
The transdisciplinary study looks at contemporary urbanity from an ecocritical point of view, focusing on spatial, material, and political aspects. Arguing that cities are places that contribute significantly to our current ecological crisis (and are, at the same time, places where it shows itself acutely), the work seeks to re-embed the urban into our “environmental imagination”. The individual chapters therefore tackle issues of spatial conflicts, material agency, and environmental injustice in contemporary urbanity by the reading of different media and texts, including non-fictional urban writings that re-examine current patterns of urbanization from an “eco-cosmopolitan” perspective, tv-series like The Wire, which deal with the post-industrial city and re-invite an interpretation of the inner-city drug trade as a public health issue, documentaries like When the Levees Broke, which investigate the destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina as a “natural-technological” and “social disaster”and show that the urban is itself embedded in a larger ecosystem, and science-fiction films that offer images of the “posthuman” city, allowing us to perceive the manifold agents that make up a city and questioning whether it can indeed be conceptualized as a “human-dominated ecosystem”. Before this background, the study engages with cultural ecology, material ecocriticism, environmental philosophy, urban sociology, geography, and biology in order to show what and how the environmental humanities can contribute to the study and the (future) planning of our urban worlds.
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Madness in the Woods: Representations of the Ecological Uncanny. Studien zu Literatur, Kultur und Umwelt / Studies in Literature, Culture, and the Environment
Edited By Tina-Karen Pusse, Heike Schwarz and Rebecca Downes
Since storytelling began, narratives of getting lost in the woods or of choosing to live in the heterotopian space of the woods have remained popular and are, at the time of writing, experiencing a new revival. The theory of ecopsychology supplies a productive paradigm for understanding mental well-being in a cultural landscape suffused with reimaginings of nature as ‘unspoiled wilderness’. The eco-psychopathologies presented in the essays in this volume range in origin from medieval literature to contemporary films and online games.
What Is Cultural Ecology?
Cultural Ecology is a transdisciplinary research paradigm in ecocritical literary studies developed in previous publications by Hubert Zapf such as Literatur als kulturelle Ökologie (2002), Kulturökologie und Literatur (2008) and newly systematized in Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts (2016). It presupposes that cultural systems and phenomena are interrelated with ecological ones, and that they can thus be analyzed in ecological terms. Building on work by Gregory Bateson, Peter Finke, and Wolfgang Iser among others, the approach proposes a theory of imaginative literature that considers literature itself as a particularly powerful form of cultural ecology. Its central assumption is that literature acts like an ecological force in the larger cultural system.
As a medium of 'cultural ecology,' literature senses and symbolically corrects problematic developments within a culture; besides, it contributes to the continual creative self-renewal of language, perception, and cultural imagination. It is thus no luxurious, useless, or out-of-touch occupation, as current economic ratio would have it. Thanks to its capabilities for cultural criticism and cultural renewal, it fulfils a vital function in the spiritual self-preservation and the enduring evolution of our culture as a whole, and can thus be described as a sustainable form of textuality.
The project is being developed in numerous book publications and articles in journals and essay collections. The national and international response to the research paradigm of literature as cultural ecology is documented, among others,
Clark, Timothy. Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment, Cambridge: Cambridge UP 2011 (subchapter p. 153-55).
Gersdorf, Catrin and Sylvia Mayer, eds. Natur – Kultur – Text. Beiträge zu Ökologie und Literaturwissenschaft. Heidelberg: Winter, 2005 (several contributions).
Goodbody, Axel. Nature, Technology and Cultural Change: The Challenge of Ecocriticism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 (especially chapter “Theoretical Perspectives”).
Goodbody, Axel and Kate Rigby, eds. Ecocritical Theory. New European Approaches, Charlottesville/London: Virginia UP 2011 (71-83).
Gymnich, Marion and Ansgar Nünning, eds. Funktionen von Literatur.Theoretische Grundlegungen und Modellinterpretationen. Trier: WVT, 2005 (several contributions).
Müller, Timo and Michael Sauter, eds. Literature, Ecology, Ethics. Recent Trends in Ecocriticism. Anglistische Forschungen. Heidelberg: Winter, 2012 (several contributions).
“From Literary Anthropology to Cultural Ecology: German Ecocritical Theory Since Wolfgang Iser.” Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches. Ed. Axel Goodbody and Kate Rigby. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011. 71-83.
The Research Group
The Augsburg Cultural Ecology Research Group at the Chair of American Literature consists of Christina Caupert, Katharina Donn, Gerald Farca, Julia Fendt, Johanna Hartmann, Milena Krischer, Alexander Lehner, Timo Müller, Julia Rössler, Michael Sauter, Christopher Schliephake, Erik Redling (meanwhile Halle), Senta Sanders, Heike Schwarz, Kirsten Twelbeck, and Hubert Zapf. It discusses recent texts and theories of ecocriticism and cultural ecology in colloquia, workshops, and conferences. The group cooperates with international partners, especially with Serenella Iovino (University of Turin), who was a guest professor and Humboldt scholar at the Chair of Amerikanistik from 2010 to 2012.
A number of publications by members of the research group examine theoretical aspects of the cultural ecology paradigm and its applicability to literary texts of different genres, periods, and cultural backgrounds. Members also serve on the advisory boards of Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment (Hubert Zapf) and the book series Lexington Ecocritical Theory and Practice (Heike Schwarz, Hubert Zapf).
The research group currently interlinks with the DFG Research Network Environmental Crisis and the Transnational Imagination. The network is coordinated by Timo Müller; Hubert Zapf and Michael Sauter are core members.
Ecology and Games: Regenerative Play
Gerald Farca, Alexander Lehner
The “EAG: Regenerative Play” research program sets out to scrutinize a form of play that is regenerative in various ways and aims to resensitise the player of video game narratives to the beauty of the natural world, the benefits of a balance between ecosystems, and forms of sustainability. This occurs through aesthetic experiences in the gameworld, where the player may find or actualize participatory spaces (utopian enclaves) with the potential of establishing a counter-discourse to negative tendencies of the empirical world through play. This includes the players’ experience of the (natural-cultural) environment, the interaction with characters or animals, or player actions such as the creative use of items, moral/ethical choices concerning the human and non-human, as well as the establishments of a society as a whole, etc.).
To explain this regenerative effect of play, the program builds on the results of Farca’s 2017 dissertation—“Playing Dystopia: Nightmarish Worlds in Video Games and the Player’s Aesthetic Response”—and Lehner’s research into self-reflexive video games intertwined with ecological issues. It aims to further illuminate the player’s experience of meaning in the gameworld by laying emphasis on the tripartite dialectic between (eco)game, player, and culture (world). The act of play is as such regarded from a phenomenological point of view, where the player composes creative connections between the gameworld and her/his empirical surroundings.
The research endeavor follows a theoretical approach and situates itself in a transdisciplinary environment by relating the research fields of cultural ecology/ecocriticism, utopian/dystopian studies, theories of fiction/narratology/aesthetic response to game studies and game culture in general. Of particular concern will thus be the structural organizing of the above-mentioned participatory spaces (their perspectival structures, interrelations, and arising blanks) and how a counter-discourse to negative tendencies of the contemporary present is initiated through play—and in the interplay of the fictive, the imaginary, and the real.
Caupert, Christina. “Ecocriticism and The House of Mirth? Imaginative Literature and Cultural-Ecological Ethics.” Literature, Ecology, Ethics: Recent Trends in Ecocriticism. Eds. Timo Müller and Michael Sauter. Heidelberg: Winter, 2012. 131-45.
Caupert, Christina, and Timo Müller. “The Ecological Function of Imaginative Texts: A Recent Model in Theory and Practice.” The Future of Ecocriticism: New Horizons. Ed. Serpil Oppermann et al. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishers, 2011. 268-278.
Caupert, Christina. “Melvilles ‘Bartleby’ aus kulturökologischer Perspektive.” Kulturökologie und Literatur: Beiträge zu einem transdisziplinären Paradigma der Literaturwissenschaft. Ed. Hubert Zapf. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008. 175-190.
Caupert, Christina. “What Are We? The Human Animal in Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape.” New International Voices in Ecocriticism. Ed. Serpil Oppermann. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2015. 161-175.
Caupert, Christina. “Umweltthematik in Drama und Theater.” Ecocriticism: Eine Einführung. Eds. Gabriele Dürbeck and Urte Stobbe. Köln: Böhlau, 2015. 219-232.
Caupert, Christina. “Materialität, Geist, Interaktion: Ökokritische Annäherungen an die dramatische Gattung.” Ökologische Genres und Schreibmodi. Ed. Evi Zemanek. (forthcoming)
Donn, Katharina. „Beyond the Wasteland: An Ecocritical Reading of Modernist Trauma Literature.” Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology. Ed. Hubert Zapf. Berlin and Boston 2016: 551-569.
Farca, Gerald and Charlotte Ladevèze. “The Journey to Nature: The Last of Us as Critical Dystopia.” Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FGD, vol. 13, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-16. DiGRA Digital Library, http://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/the-journey-to-nature-the-last-of-us-as-critical-dystopia/. Accessed 05 Oct. 2017.
Lehner, Alexander. “Videogames as Cultural Ecology: Flower and Shadow of the Colossus” Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment, vol. 8, no. 2, 2017, pp. 56–71. http://ecozona.eu/article/view/1349/2089. Accessed 18 Nov. 2017.
Müller, Timo and Michael Sauter, eds. Literature, Ecology, Ethics. Recent Trends in Ecocriticism. Anglistische Forschungen. Heidelberg: Winter, 2012.
Müller, Timo. “From Literary Anthropology to Cultural Ecology: German Ecocritical Theory Since Wolfgang Iser.” Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches. Eds. Axel Goodbody and Kate Rigby. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011. 71-83.
Müller, Timo. “Between Poststructuralism and the Natural Sciences: Models and Strategies of Recent Cultural Ecology.” Anglistik 21.1 (2010): 175-191.
Müller, Timo. “Notes Toward an Ecological Conception of Bakhtin’s ‘Chronotope.’” Ecozon@ 1.1 (2010): 98-102.
Müller, Timo. “Formen kulturökologischen Erzählens von Dickens bis Ishiguro.” Kulturökologie und Literatur: Beiträge zu einem transdisziplinären Paradigma der Literaturwissenschaft. Ed. Hubert Zapf. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008. 59-74.
Müller, Timo.“Kritische Theorie und Ecocriticism.” Ecocriticism: Eine Einführung. Ed. Gabriele Dürbeck and Urte Stobbe. Cologne: Böhlau, 2015. 160-71.
Müller, Timo. “The Ecology of Literary Chronotopes.” Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology. Ed. Hubert Zapf. Berlin and Boston 2016: 590-604.
Redling, Erik. “‘Portraits of Things’: Cultural Ecology and Gertrude Stein’s Modernist Experiments in Tender Buttons.” The Future of Ecocriticism: New Horizons. eds. Serpil Opperman and Elis Yildirim.
Redling, Erik. “Kreativität, Improvisation und Spontaneität: Differenz und Intermedialität von Bebop Jazz und Beat-Literatur aus kulturökologischer Sicht.” Kulturökologie und Literatur: Beiträge zu einem transdisziplinären Paradigma der Literaturwissenschaft. Ed. Hubert Zapf. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008. 89-103.
Sauter, Michael. “Ethische Aspekte des kulturökologischen Literaturmodells am Beispiel von Philip Roths The Human Stain. Kulturökologie und Literatur: Beiträge zu einem transdisziplinären Paradigma der Literaturwissenschaft.” Ed. Hubert Zapf. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008: 309-322.
Schliephake, Christopher. “Memory, Place, and Ecology in the Contemporary American Novel.“ Literature, Ecology, Ethics: Recent Trends in Ecocriticism. Ed. Timo Müller and Michael Sauter. Heidelberg: Winter, 2012. 95-112.
Schliephake, Christopher. ”The Materiality of History and the Shifting Shapes of Memory in John Hersey’s Hiroshima and Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour.” Ecozon@ 4.1 (2013). 61-77.
Schliephake, Christopher. “Körpergedächtnis und Kulturökologie in der zeitgenössischen graphic novel.” Naturgeschichte, Körpergedächtnis: Erkundungen einer kulturanthropologischen Denkfigur. Ed. A. Bartl and H.-J. Schott. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2014. 347-369.
Schliephake, Christopher. Urban Ecologies: City Space, Material Agency, and Environmental Politics in Contemporary Culture. Ecocritical Theory and Practice Series. Lanham: Lexington, 2015.
Schliephake, Christopher. “Literary Place and Cultural Memory.” Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology. Ed. Hubert Zapf. Berlin and Boston 2016: 569-589.
Schwarz, Heike. “Who are we? Where are we?: Eco-Psychological Readings of Henry David Thoreau and Chuck Palahniuk.” Reading Nature: Cultural Perspectives on Environmental Imagery. Conference Proceedings. Madrid 2011.
Schwarz, Heike. “Wilderness as Laboratory: Ecocentrism as Remedy in the American and Canadian Environ-Mental Novel.” Ed. Tina Pusse. From Ego to Eco: Imagining Ecocentrism in Literature, Film and Philosophy. (forthcoming)
Schwarz, Heike. “Thou Shalt (Not) Kill: Environmental Ethics and Animal versus Species Protection in T.C. Boyle´s When the Killing´s Done. (in preparation)
Schwarz, Heike. “’Leave the Grass!’: Urban Gardening as Civil Disobedience in American EcoCulture.” (in preparation)
Twelbeck, Kirsten. “Die Kunst der Nachhaltigkeit: Agnes Denes’ „Wheatfield. A Confrontation.” Environmental Humanities: Konzepte, Themen, Forschungsperspektiven. Eds. Matthias Schmidt and Hubert Zapf. Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2020 (forthcoming).
Twelbeck, Kirsten. “The Toast Hawaii / Pumpernickel Divide.” March 2020. Foodfatnessfitness.com
Twelbeck, Kirsten. “Flowers.” An Eclectic Bestiary: Encounters in a More-than-Human World. Bielefeld: transcript, 2019. 53-63.
Twelbeck, Kirsten. “ ‘The Governing Power of the World’: Feminism, Motherhood, and Modern Science in Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora,” Literary Knowledge Production and the Life Sciences. Special Issue. Eds. Katrin Hoepker and Heike Schäfer. LWU Quarterly 48.3 (2017). 165-178.
Twelbeck, Kirsten. “Eden Refound(ed): Post Civil War Literary Gardening.” Rereading The Machine in the Garden. Eds. Eric Erbacher, Florian Sedlmeier and Nicole Maruo-Schröder. Frankfurt a.M.: Campus, 2014. 58-76.
Zapf, Hubert. “Literature as Cultural Ecology: Notes Towards a Functional Theory of Imaginative Texts, with Examples from American Literature.” Literary History/ Cultural History: Force-Fields and Tensions. REAL – Yearbook of Research in English and American Literature, 17, 2001, ed. Herbert Grabes, 85-100.
Zapf, Hubert. Literatur als kulturelle Ökologie. Zur kulturellen Funktion imaginativer Texte an Beispielen des amerikanischen Romans. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2002.
Zapf, Hubert. “Robert Frost: An Ecological Perspective.” Robert Frost Review 14 (2004): 69-85.
Zapf, Hubert. “Das Funktionsmodell der Literatur als kultureller Ökologie: Imaginative Texte zwischen Dekonstruktion und Regeneration.” Funktionen von Literatur. Theoretische Grundlagen und Modellinterpretationen. Eds. Marion Gymnich und Ansgar Nünning. Trier: WVT, 2005. 55-75.
Zapf, Hubert. Ed, Kulturökologie und Literatur: Beiträge zu einem transdisziplinären Paradigma der Literaturwissenschaft. Heidelberg: Winter, 2008.
Zapf, Hubert. “Literary Ecology and the Ethics of Texts.” New Literary History, 39.4 (2008): 847-868.
Zapf, Hubert. “New Directions in American Literary Studies. Ecocriticism and the Function of Literature as Cultural Ecology.” English Studies Today. Recent Developments and New Directions. Eds. Ansgar Nünning and Jürgen Schlaeger. Trier: WVT, 2008. 139-164.
Zapf, Hubert. “Kulturelle Ökologie und literarisches Wissen. Perspektiven einer kulturökologischen Literaturwissenschaft an Beispielen der American Renaissance.” KulturPoetik / Journal for Cultural Poetics, 8.2 (2008): 250-266.
Zapf, Hubert. “Ecocriticism, Cultural Ecology, and Literary Studies.” Ecozon@. Online Journal of the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and Environment. 1.1 (2010): 136-147.
Zapf, Hubert. “Creative Matter and Creative Mind. Cultural Ecology and Literary Creativity.” Material Ecocriticism. Eds. Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012 (Forthcoming)
Zapf, Hubert.“Cultural Ecology and Literary Life Writing.” Ecology and Life Writing. Eds. Alfred Hornung and Zhao Baisheng. Heidelberg: Winter, 2013.
“Kulturökologie und Literatur.” Ecocriticism: Eine Einführung. Ed. Gabriele Dürbeck and Urte Stobbe. Cologne: Böhlau, 2015: 172-184.
Zapf, Hubert. Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.
Zapf, Hubert. Ed. Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2016.
The Environmental Research Group’s website at the American Studies Department
A number of Ph.D. projects have emerged within the framework of a cultural-ecological approach:
Caupert, Christina. Kulturelle Ökologie des Dramas und Theaters. (AT)
Cierpinska, Aleksandra. Cultural Ecology of the African American Haiku. (AT)
Demmler, Monika. Biophilia and the Aesthetics of Blues, Jazz, and Hip-Hop in African American Prose Fiction.
Donn, Katharina. Trauma in Post-9/11 Literature.
Fendt, Julia. Wissenschaft und Imagination in der Literatur.(Science and Imagination in Literature)
Hirson, Christina. Die Überwindung des Natur/Kultur-Dualismus im Werk von Mary Austin. Eine literaturökologische Analyse. (AT)