Faculty Invited to Submit Proposals for Gerard Manley Hopkins Conference

Faculty are invited to submit proposals for a special conference to honor Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins

Virtual Hopkins:  June 2021 Conference Will Assess Environmental Realities of Poet’s Work

By Lesley J. Higgins, English Professor, York University (Toronto)

Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was acutely aware of humanity’s impact on the environment: an upcoming virtual conference will focus on ecocritical approaches to the creative, ethical and cultural dimensions of his writings.

He could marvel at engineering projects like the Great Laxley Wheel on the Isle of Man but fret when nature became “smeared” with human detritus, or lament when a stand of poplars was destroyed to feed the insatiable industrial appetite for lumber. Each poem features a speaker finely attuned to the natural world, its creatures and processes—whether a bird breasting the wind, a fierce storm at sea, or “cliffs of fall/ Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.”

Organizers of a virtual international Hopkins conference being planned for June 2021 are hoping that the theme, “Hopkins and His Environments,” will attract presenters who are particularly interested in ecocritical approaches to the creative, ethical and cultural dimensions of his writings. “Environments” is broadly defined, however: natural, textual, aesthetic, political, theological, Jesuitical and social. Topics that participants find compelling could include Hopkins and Victorian science; Victorian eco-systems and environmentalism; the literary and aesthetic environments of his poetry and prose (including Pre-Raphaelite, Aestheticist, or Decadent art); the intersections of his works and those of his contemporaries; and the political and cultural “surroundings” of Hopkins’ life in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

As a popular term, “environment” came into its own in the 19th century, featured in works by the likes of Thomas Carlyle, Herbert Spencer and Henry Sidgwick. “Hopkins and His Environments” will be a three-day exploration of its literary, scientific, social, political and cultural implications in relation to a remarkable poet. Faculty at Jesuit colleges and universities are invited to submit proposals for 20-minute presentations during the Conference, which will be held by Zoom. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 25, 2021; please consult the conference website, gerardmanleyhopkins.online, or contact Professor Lesley Higgins, 19higgins55@gmail.com, for more information.