Call for Papers: Classics in the Anthropocene, UofT Graduate Conference

University of Toronto, Department of Classics, Graduate Conference 
April 19-20, 2019 

Keynote Speakers: Brooke Holmes (Princeton), Katherine Blouin (Toronto) 

The recent popularity of the notion of “the Anthropocene” reflects a growing recognition that human societies and their natural environments radically and reciprocally shape and influence one another. Additionally, there is a looming sense that the ecological conditions under which humankind has thrived for millennia are about to undergo a set of epochal transformations. Speculations about the near-future range from optimistic to pessimistic extremes. Will there be a collective and self-conscious effort to re-shape civilization as we have known it, or a total extinction of life on earth? In either case, humanity faces an unprecedented crisis.

This crisis provides a novel horizon of meaning for the interpretation of human society and culture, past as well as present. The task of rethinking traditional categories such as history, culture, individuality, and nature, has become both possible and necessary. In many disciplines this work is already underway.

The question guiding this year’s conference is how the study of classical literature, philosophy, history, and archeology, might contribute to this rethinking. This might involve investigating the ways ancient attitudes have or have not influenced present ones; how ancient authors conceived of their environment; how ancient authors conceptualized the place of human beings in nature; ancient methods of exploitation and/or preservation of resources; ancient experiences of environmental change. Further potential topics of interest are (but are not limited to):

  • ancient conceptions of nature in general
  • natural disasters, cataclysms, conflagrations, apocalypses
  • nature, politics, imperialism
  • technology and human agency
  • scientific expertise and political deliberation
  • human migration and its relation to environmental change
  • nature in ancient mythology and/or religion
  • ancient philosophical thought about the finitude of civilizations, planets, etc.
  • individual and collective responsibility, inherited guilt: is the Anthropocene in some sense “tragic”?
  • philosophical ethics as learning how to die

Guidelines for submission: Graduate students and early career scholars are invited to submit abstracts of no more than 300 words, for papers of 15-20 minutes in length, to uoftclassicsconference@gmail.com by January 7, 2019. Please include your name and institution in the submission email, but leave the abstract anonymous. Accepted participants will be notified by email in late January. Any questions may be directed to the above email.