22 Oct Strange/Letters

Call for presentations:
an ASLEC-ANZ symposium

Proposal submission deadline:
Tuesday 1st December 2020

Notification of proposal acceptance:
Friday 10th January 2021

Symposium date:
Friday 5th February 2021
These are strange – and, for some, estranging – times. Dislocated from one another by lockdowns, border closures, and the unsustainability, cost, and even danger of travel, we’re reminded of the letter, a mode of affective communication across divides of space and time, and between others. The word “correspondence” describes both letters and what happens when others respond to each other, in any form, through adaptation or analogy. Corresponding can make us strange or bring us into contact with strangeness. When the City of Melbourne assigned email addresses to 70,000 street trees, hoping for passers-by to report on urban maintenance issues, the council’s inbox was flooded instead with arboreal love letters and existential ruminations. Alexis Wright’s letter (-cum-polemic-cum-poem) “Hey, Ancestor!”, published on Invasion Day in 2018, hails an ancestor who acts strangely in strange times, and who may be abundantly strange to the whiteGuardian-reader the letter addresses slantwise. In making strange this reader’s ideas of ancestry, earth, law, weather and writing itself, the letter reifies the correspondence between climate collapse and “little pieces of paper telling lies” about ownership of country. In Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large, Vicki Kirby tells of the “intriguing communication, a sort of stuttering chatter between the ground and the sky” that precedes a lightning strike. Buildings and trees initiate strikes, “sending out … upward ‘leaders’ of invitation”. This is a messaging, in Kirby’s account, that confounds clear divisions between cause and effect, subject and object.

The Association for the Study of Literature, Environment & Culture – Australia & New Zealand welcomes proposals for Strange/Letters, an interactive online symposium on letters, strangeness, and ecology on 5th February 2021. Scholars in the environmental humanities and arts are invited to submit proposals for letters, in all senses of the word and of any kind, that consider:

  • strange ecosystems
  • strange language
  • strange kin
  • correspondence and ecology
  • meetings between strangers
  • strange weather
  • estrangement
  • becoming strange

Proposals may be for letters of no more than twenty minutes duration that will be performed/presented in live zoom sessions, or for material objects-as-letters that will be imaged online or shared via post with symposium delegates. We also welcome collaborative proposals. The symposium day will consist of live online performances and an interactive round-table in which we reply and respond to each other’s provocations.

Please send enquiries and proposals of 250 words with a short (<100 word) biographical note to by 1st December 2020.

Image by Margaret Donald on Flickr.

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