Eco-Translation: Comparative Literature and the Environmental Humanities

02 December 2020, 3:00 pm–5:00 pm

Eco-Translation: Comparative Literature and the Environmental Humanities

Part of the Convocation Seminars in World Literature and Translation. Postgraduate workshop co-convened with LINKS (London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies) Discussants: Florian Mussgnug (UCL) and Danielle Sands (Royal Holloway University London) Chair: Ruth Cruickshank (Royal Holloway University London).

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Cathy Collins

Part of the Convocation Seminars in World Literature and Translation

Postgraduate workshop co-convened with LINKS (London Intercollegiate Network for Comparative Studies)

Discussants: Florian Mussgnug (UCL) and Danielle Sands (Royal Holloway University London)
Chair: Ruth Cruickshank (Royal Holloway University London)

Global warming demands new forms of linguistic and conceptual inventiveness that can alert readers to unfamiliar and counterintuitive scales. As ecocritic Timothy Clark has suggested, much environmental damage happens at a scale that cannot be fully expressed by traditional realist modes of literary representation. It is brought about by individual human actions which are not ecologically significant in themselves but which collectively, across space and over time, threaten much of what we value about humanity and the more-than-human world. In the context of the climate crisis, this relation between individual observable causes and vast global effects marks a stark challenge to familiar anthropocentric narratives. It demands an unprecedented ability to move between counterintuitive scales and to communicate the unfamiliar. Writerly and critical attention to nonhuman subjectivity – a creative process that is also known as inter-species translation – marks a particularly important aspect of this new cultural and political agenda. 

In this workshop, we will read and discuss three chapters: by Timothy Clark, who has linked scalar literacy to the political critique of anthropocentrism; by cultural theorist Michael Cronin, who has stressed the significance of translation, beyond its linguistic origins, as a powerful metaphor for inter-species exchange; by Kari Weil who invites us to explore the apparent paradox of posthuman autobiography. Eco-translation, as defined by Cronin, and posthumanism, for Weil, foreground the importance of the more-than-human world, not as a mere backdrop or context for human stories, but as a co-constitutive presence that intersects with human culture and society in a single, volatile temporal force field. Translation, which “on the face of it appears to be a pre-eminently human activity”, thus comes to express extended forms of ecological relatedness (Cronin 2017: 13). Dramatic shifts in the common perception of distance, proximity and context, according to Cronin and Weil, are not only a persistent feature of cultural and linguistic translation: they also define our planetary habitat in times of anthropogenic crisis.

Preparatory Reading
Timothy Clark, “Scalar Literacy”, in The Value of Ecocriticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 38-56.
Michael Cronin, “Translating Animals”, in Eco-Translation: Translation and Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene (New York and London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 67-93.
Kari Weil, “Autobiography”, in Bruce Clarke and Manuela Rossini (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Posthuman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 84-95.