Environmental Humanities Group Launches New Publications

Environmental Humanities Research Group Publishes Flatland Website and Defining Environments Book

The first cohort of the HRI-Mellon Environmental Humanities Research Group launched in 2018. Inspired by the setting of our university, this group of undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty collaborators organized their inquiries around the theme of "Flatland." This fall, they published the Flatland website, which presents results of their inquiries and group study, as well as information on the collaborators and their projects.

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Flatland website homepage image of dark clouds over a corn field

Another publication was developed as a result of the pandemic. Because of COVID-19, the 2019–20 Environmental Humanities undergraduate interns’ long-planned undergraduate research symposium in spring 2020 was canceled. Instead, they demonstrated great fortitude and improvisational skills, and channeled their energies into a publication titled Defining Environments: Critical Studies in the Natural World, which features their research and five of their slated fellow presenters’ essays. Defining Environments went to press over the summer, and you can view a digital copy on ISSU. HRI congratulates interns Alaina Bottens, Sarah Gediman and Amanda Watson on producing an impressive showcase of undergraduate research in the environmental humanities. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recently profiled two undergraduate students who contributed research to the book: Matt Fanelli and Sophie Luijten.

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Cover of Defining Environments book with a variety of shapes and colors

2019–20 marked the final year of the Mellon Environmental Humanities Research Group, and under the leadership of director and faculty fellow Robert Morrissey (History), the collective undertook an engaging slate of events and activities. Among these were their vibrant contributions to the campus curriculum: Professor Morrissey and Post-Doctoral Fellows Leah Aronowsky and Pollyanna Rhee taught environmental humanities courses they’d spent the year prior developing, and which were offered in collaboration with the Campus Honors Program. Professor Morrissey’s “Wilderness in American Culture,” and Dr. Aronowsky’s “The Politics of Nature,” ran in the fall. Dr. Rhee’s “American Wastelands” ran in the spring semester, wherein Professor Morrissey also adapted History 202: “American Environmental History” for online teaching, with support from the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

A bright future beckons for all the members of the research group: Dr. Aronowsky will take up a three-year appointment to the prestigious Society of Fellows at Columbia University this fall, and Dr. Rhee joins the U of I’s Department of Landscape Architecture as an Assistant Professor. Pre-Doctoral Fellow Jessica Landau defended her Ph.D. in Art History this summer and is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Art History and Museum Studies at the University of Pittsburgh this fall. Pre-doctoral fellow Douglas Jones continues his Ph.D. studies in History and has been awarded a Dibner Research Fellowship in the History of Science and Technology at The Huntington Library.