Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Friday, February 8, 2013

Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities

I had the pleasure, this week, of seeing for the first time the website for Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities.  This is a new scholarly journal edited by Stephanie Foote (currently Associate Professor of English and Gender and Women's Studies here at Illinois) and Stephanie LeMenager, who is an Associate Professor of English at UCSBFuture volumes will be published in digital form by the University of Nebraska Press, and the website indicates that the journal will start taking subscriptions this summer.  

Environmental humanities is a relatively new field-name under which one can find several scholarly approaches with their own critical histories.  Ecocriticism as been a thing for some time now, for example, as has science studies, the history of science, and environmental ethics.  Now, because of the urgency of the environmental crisis we all face, there is a growing scholarly momentum to bring these and other fields together, and to create spaces for interdisciplinary collaborations informed by humanistic questions between humanities, social sciences, and the sciences.  Many universities, including ours, now have specific centers or initiative designed to foster such collaborations.  There is a greater and greater need to bring the considerable analytical resources of the humanities--cultural studies, history, philosophy, analysis of representation and language, etc--to bear on the urgent and omnipresent problems associated with sustainability or environmental concerns.  There is of course a history associated with every aspect of the environment and of our real and imagined relations to it, and those relations are mediated in countless ways by the way we frame and narrate them in all kinds of discourse (scientific, literary, journalistic, etc., etc.).  Environmentalism necessarily involves epistemologies and ethics, rhetorics and literacies.  I am being glib and gestural here, perhaps, but the point is that humanistic scholarship--which is fundamentally about the ways that people construct meaning and and the ways we in turn are shaped by constructed meanings--has an essential role to play in the directions our thinking about sustainability and the environment take going forward.   

UIUC, which boasts outstanding faculty in the humanities as well as in sciences, is a natural center for this kind of inquiry, and that is why I am so enthusiastic about the launching of Resilience, which I fully expect to become an important venue for the highest-level work in environmental humanities.

But enough about what I think.  Here, pasted in from the journal's webpage, is a brief overview of the journal's mission: "The emerging sustainability initiatives developing on university and college campuses worldwide, and the increasing focus on environmentalism in various scientific disciplines often exclude the humanities, despite the fact that the past five years have seen the birth of a vibrant interdisciplinary field, the environmental humanities. But the expertise of the sciences in diagnosing environmental problems has not, as of yet, translated into a coherent vision for how sustainability can be used to challenge contemporary conversations about environmental issues. Resilience aims to place the environmental humanities at the center of such conversations, to set a broad agenda for academic humanists interested in the sustainability project, and to create a venue where the humanities can reach a broad academic audience and contribute to large-scale shifts in conceptualizing environmentalism and sustainability."

I would encourage you, if you are curious about the journal and inclined towards the use of social media, to "like" Resilience on Facebook or to follow them on Twitter.

Exciting and important stuff.  Congratulations, Stephanie, on the launch!

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