Creative Approaches to Memory NUBS 4.25
Jul 06, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230706T1100 20230706T1230 Europe/London 6.19. Environmental Memory and Ecofiction NUBS 4.25 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023
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Memory and ecofiction: the case of Rare Stuff
Individual paperCreative Approaches to Memory 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/06 10:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 11:30:00 UTC
At the Memory Studies Association Conference  in Newcastle I hope to present about memory and ecofiction and use the case of my novel, Rare Stuff, as a means to discuss these pressing issues. The novel is based on extensive research, some of it conducted at the Rare Book and Manuscript library at the University of Illinois, and I will talk about the research aspects, use a keynote slide show to screen images of whales and archival cetological texts, and then read a brief section. 
 Rare Stuff, an ecofictional novel set in the mid-1990s primarily in New York's East Village but moving to Chicago and glass houses under the sea, tells the story of Sidney Zimmerman, a slightly lost white-Jewish photographer working on an infinite series of portraits of interracial couples. After the sudden death of Sid's father, the novelist /rare book librarian Aaron, Sid and her Black-Jewish Guadeloupean Melville scholar boyfriend André trace a series of wacky clues Aaron irritatingly left to lead them to the solution of the mysterious disappearance of Sid's mother, a whale enthusiast named Dorothy, eighteen years earlier. Aaron also bequeathed them a manuscript, included as a novel-within-the-novel, set in an underwater universe sporting his wild ideas that his wife had been adopted by Yiddish speaking whales who try to save the planet. Aaron could not face her death, so he constructed fiction.
 Whales have long memories. It was about one hundred years ago that they decided to learn Yiddish. At the time this seemed like a logical choice for environmentally conscious creatures trying to stop climate change by communicating in a widespread human language. Yiddish was, then, international and boasting a vibrant global press. The whales, though, could not know that most of the world's Yiddish speakers would be wiped out. The memory of genocide-both that of Europe's Jews and that of their whale predecessors during the horrific whaling era haunts these gentle giants. 
 Rare Stuff traces the slow realization that the main character, Sid's, identification with her father was stronger than she knew. But she only discovers this when it's too late. And everything in her life first has to become unstuck before it can congeal again. Memory proves a faulty friend throughout the text: Sid struggles to remember her mother, gone for so long, and the novel traces the fragments that erupt from various objects as she gets closer to the truth. Each of the clues Aaron left in a suitcase for Sid and André to find after his death lead them to a new person, a new perspective on Aaron, a new speculation about what happened to Dorothy. Laced with strong environmental overtones, the novel will appeal to anyone who has ever mourned or been concerned with the fate of our planet. 
Presenters Brett Kaplan
Professor, University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Memories of Water: Unsettling Postdictatorship Memoryscapes in Southern Chile
Individual paperConflict, Violence and Memory 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/06 10:00:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 11:30:00 UTC
This paper considers the haunting presence of the Pacific Ocean in two films about Southern Chile. Water itself is rarely analysed as ghostly matter. Its liquid materiality resists the emplacing of memorials, or the permanent accumulation of human-made debris. And yet, in the documentary El Botón de Nácar (The Pearl Button, Guzmán 2015) and the narrative film La Frontera (The Frontier, Larraín 1991), water is depicted as a container of memory, through which violent and emancipatory pasts might be recalled. Both films reckon with the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990) as a period of rupture and trauma in the national past. The enduring violence of this regime dominates the lives of the protagonists, manifesting as the object of their discontent. This is a common theme in postdictatorship Chilean film, however, unlike more conventional attempts to recover memories about the dictatorial past, the films are also drawn to longer transnational histories of state violence, including settler colonialism and the ongoing persecution of indigenous groups. The Pacific is at the centre of this imaginative entanglement, providing a space through which different pasts intersect. 
Drawing on theories of haunting and materiality, I build on Doreen Massey's claim that the filmic representations of material landscapes can provoke reflection on multiple entangled histories, memories and temporalities, potentially enabling a counter-hegemonic form of historiography (2008). Through my analysis, I explore the films' engagement with the complex temporalities and cultural connotations of the ocean in Southern Chile - the cyclical movement of tides, the inevitability of catastrophic tsunamis, the enduring currents between islands that are invisible to the tourist gaze. I also consider the different cultural forms through which the archipelagic landscape is constructed, such as maps, archive imagery and testimony. I argue that by engaging with these temporalities and ways of seeing, the films open alternate ways of thinking about time, history, truth and justice in the Chilean 'transition to democracy'. This disruption potentially opens space for histories of indigenous survival, transnational solidarity, natural disaster and ecological destruction that are often absent or erased from postdictatorship memory culture. 
Struan Gray
Lecturer , Falmouth University
Memory and the Environmental Humanities in the work of Rafael Chirbes, Ana Penyas, and Cecilia Vicuña.
Individual paperCreative Approaches to Memory 10:45 AM - 12:15 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/06 09:45:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 11:15:00 UTC
Memory studies and the environmental humanities, which have come to increasing prominence since the 1990s, are often seen as distinct, or even mutually exclusive, fields, with ecocriticism and the environmental humanities seen as concerned with understanding the links between human culture and complex ecological systems, and memory studies relating to the construction of shared meanings with regard to the past. Recent scholarship (Crownshaw, 2019, 2016, 2014; Schliephake 2016), however, has begun to bridge this divide. Memory studies can enrich traditional ecocritical approaches through emphasizing the cultural significance of shared understandings of historical environmental damage, while the environmental humanities allow scholars working in memory studies to reconsider the anthropocentric tendencies in their work. In this paper, I will combine insights from both fields, focusing on the work of three artists from the Spanish speaking world: the novelist Rafael Chirbes, the graphic novelist Ana Penyas, and the Chilean artist, poet, activist, and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuña. I will describe how their work constitutes memory texts that record, in distinct artistic forms, the global and interconnected impacts of environmental degradation.
Manus O'Dwyer
Stipendiary Lecturer In Spanish , University Of Oxford
Remembering the present: environmental memory and mourning in Jessie Greengrass’s novel The High House (2021)
Individual paperConflict, Violence and Memory 10:45 AM - 12:15 PM (Europe/London) 2023/07/06 09:45:00 UTC - 2023/07/06 11:15:00 UTC
Memory and mourning have always been intimately related. As scholars like Jenny Edkins (2003), Douglas Crimp (1989), and David Eng and David Kazanjian (2003) have articulated, the remembrance of cultural traumas by way of a resistant mourning infused with melancholic loss can produce a sense of the present as both haunted and constituted by the past, both materially (in sites of remembrance such as ruins), but also in ongoing systemic traumas and violence. Extrapolated to an environmental context then, environmentally-attuned memory and mourning work is a strategy by which to remember and assert settler colonialism's historic and continuing role in ecological and climate crisis, thereby historicising the precarious present and refusing its diagnosis as either unanticipated or unprecedented. 
This paper positions Jessie Greengrass's 2021 novel The High House as performing just such environmental memory and mourning work. Through use of the future anterior – a temporal mode that Rick Crownshaw has called the dramatisation of that which will have been (2017) – Greengrass's characters remember and narrate the present moment as their past, demonstrating the generic capacity of the novel to represent the textured temporality of ecological crisis, and, further, to challenge the self-absorption and -indulgence of Western apocalypse or end-of-the-world narratives. The coalescence and combination of environmental memory and mourning work in Greengrass's novel emphasises, rather, that the end of 'a' world is not necessarily the end of 'the' world (Whyte 2017), and urges a reconsideration of contemporary attitudes and relationships to human and nonhuman communities, bodies, spaces, and places. In this way, the novel participates in the wider call –coming from scientists, academics, and activists alike – to reconceptualise 'the human' as merely part of the planetary web – or, perhaps, community – of agential life, and exemplifies what Roseanne Kennedy calls a 'multidirectional eco-memory' (2017) wherein human and animal vulnerability and survival are brought into a single frame, but it also contributes to the articulation of alternative ways of knowing, being, and feeling ecological collapse and crisis that are neither naively optimistic, nor unduly nihilistic.
Alice Carlill
PhD Researcher, Goldsmiths, University Of London
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
PhD Researcher
Goldsmiths, University of London
Stipendiary Lecturer in Spanish
University of Oxford
Falmouth University
Jagiellonian University
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