A webinar on the ecological civilization and geographic writing in contemporary foreign literature was recently held.
Scholars shed light on the relationships between people and rivers, people and geography, and people and natural environments in contemporary foreign literature, in order to uncover literary views on environmental challenges and ecological crises.
Researchers engaged in literary theories should thoroughly investigate the ecological civilization and geographical writing in literature, revealing how writers respond to changes in the new era and cultivate new discourse mechanisms. Exploring the ways contemporary foreign writers reshape our understandings of nature, from the perspective of a community of shared future for mankind, contributes to the formation of beneficial ecological values and the construction of a contemporary Chinese ecological civilization.
"The development of civilizations is inseparable from the nurturing of rivers, seen from the Euphrates River and the Mesopotamian civilization, the Nile River and the ancient Egyptian civilization, the Ganges River and the ancient Indian civilization, the Yellow River and the Chinese civilization," said Lu Jiande, director of the Center for Comparative Literature and Transcultural Studies at Xiamen University.
When researching the relationship between mankind and the world's major rivers, Lu noted that the concepts of conforming to nature and "the unity of man and nature" in traditional Chinese culture, are inspiring for handling the relationship between man and nature.
Tian Junwu, a professor from the School of Foreign Languages at Beihang University, focused on the relationship between the growth experiences of protagonists and rivers in the works of American writers such as Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Gary Paulsen. From the angle of de-anthropocentrism, Tian elaborated on the relationships and interactions between the US modernization process and rivers and oceans, interpreting the impact of human activities on natural environments.
Exploring the man-nature relationship facilitates deep reflections on anthropocentrism in Western societies, and fosters the harmonious coexistence of man and nature, said Jin Li, a professor from the School of English and International Studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Wang Zhuo, a professor from the School of Foreign Languages at Shandong Normal University, discussed the "rebellious" character of the "natural writing" of contemporary Native American poetry. Compared with the stereotypes created by white American writers that portray Native Americans as yearning to align with nature, contemporary American Indian poems convey a strong impulse to integrate into urban life and the modernization process. This seemingly "reverse" eco-literary writing trend exactly showcases the natural vitality of North American Indians and their free souls who manage to release themselves from the shackles of white ethnocentrism and yearn for a better life.
Luo Lianggong, a professor from the School of Foreign Languages at Central China Normal University, focused on the writing of the Black American poet Langston Hughes, and analyzed the motivation and significance of his writings on nature. Hughes' poems are not really against nature, but against the "natural" way of racism and the commodification of Black people.
Inspired by the works of American writer Annie Proulx, Liu Ying, a professor from the College of Foreign Languages at Nankai University, suggested accepting and actively communicating with the outside world in the context of globalization, while remaining centered on local subjectivity. This is beneficial to local sustainable development.
Unique functions and attributes are embodied in an ecological civilization and in geographic writing that are set in the context of specific ethnic groups and in specific regions, providing a new vision for sustainable development and demonstrating the creativity and research prospects of literary space, said Wang Shouren, a professor from the School of Foreign Studies at Nanjing University.
Since the French scholar Bertrand Westphal put forward "geocriticism," academics have witnessed a wave of literary criticism from the perspective of space and geography. Under the premise of adhering to the literary standard, the research trend broke the inertia of traditional literary criticism that emphasized temporal dimensions. Literary works involving geographical spaces and landscapes provide a reference for nature conservation and the construction of a contemporary ecological civilization.
When probing the American scholar Robert Tally's insights into geocriticism, Fang Ying, a professor from the School of Foreign Languages at Zhejiang Gongshang University, revealed the applicability of spatial theory in critical practice, from the dimensions of existentialism, poetics, and literary criticism.
Chen Rong, a professor from the Institute of Foreign Literature at Beijing Foreign Studies University, focused on the dark imaginations of poisonous flowers, ghost trees, and man-eating plants by American writers Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charlotte Gilman, and Annie Proulx. Chen discussed the symbiotic relationship between man and nature in Gothic-style fiction which subverted traditional narratives about plants.
When looking into the unique postmodern narratives of There But For The by the British writer Ali Smith, Cai Bin, a professor from the College of International Languages at Hohai University, analyzed "natural" and "unnatural" narrative methods in the work, and dug deep into postmodernist philosophical connotations from descriptions concerning interpersonal relationships in modern society.