Guest Lecture: Environmental Humanities, Universität Augsburg

How can we bring feminist agendas in the environmental humanities up to date? This talk addressed the question of ecofeminist laughter, exploring how we can bridge the gap between Irony and Matter in Postmodern Ecologies.

Angela Carter’s 1979 collection The Bloody Chamber teems with erotic connections between female figures brimming with lost innocence and a wilderness of textual desires. While the feminist agenda of these postmodern fairy tales is contested, I proposed that the metamorphosing ecologies of Carter’s fairy tales offer new habitats for ecocritical thought. Responding to the ecofeminist new materialism developed by Stacy Alaimo and Donna Haraway, we discussed how Carter’s revisited fairy tales offer an opportunity of working irony, laughter and joyous sensuality into the ecofeminist framework. Three questions drove this enquiry: Firstly, how can irony and laughter offer an ecofeminist vision that does not re-affirm – even if unintentionally –  the nature-culture divide? Secondly, how do Angela Carter’s tales offer new perspectives on the role of ecology and embodiment in postmodernism, which does not simply treat nature (as James Applewhite has suggested) as an “object of contempt”? And thirdly, how do modes of irony and laughter negotiate the friction between the new materialism advocated by Stacy Alaimo with its emphasis on human and non-human matter, and a cultural eco-criticism inscribed in language?

This encounter between fairy tale beasts and cyborgs offers new vistas for ecofeminism. Interrelating concepts of irony and embodiment, intertextuality and materiality, irony and eros become unexpected bed-fellows in driving forward ecofeminist agendas.