A girl walking in front of a projection of a flowering tree

A Bent but Beautiful World: Literature, Art, and the Environment

Related: The Future of the Humanities Project

Over the course of the 2022-2023 academic year, the Future of the Humanities Project sponsored a series of lectures on literature, art, and the environment in collaboration with Campion Hall, Oxford, and Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.

In this series, we heard from eminent speakers about the way that art and literature have through the ages foregrounded the inspirational beauty, delicacy, and strength of the natural world of which we are a part. We also asked how art and literature can intervene in a world dominated by environmental desecration. Can art and literature suggest new ways of relating to the natural world? Is it possible, as Freya Mathews asks, for us to “sing the world” and thus to develop poetic and artistic rapport with the earth in its "inner dimensions"? In the first online events of the series taking place this fall, our speakers examined examples from literature, theatre, visual arts, and photography. The hour-long virtual events included a Q&A with the audience. 

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Event Series

A cabin in the woods

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Marilynne Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping (1980), treats generations of Foster women tending the family home in fictitious Fingerbone, Idaho. They contend with regular lunar floods, a lake that…

A stone church in the English countryside

The Might and Mind of the Measurer

The natural environment has been a central concern of English literature from the earliest times. It is often overlooked that the English literary tradition, renowned for Chaucer, Shakespeare, and…

A detail of embroidery artwork by Phoebe Anna Traquair of an angel with orange hair and wings

Phoebe Anna Traquair, Dante, and William Blake

Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852-1936) was one of the leading contributors to the British arts and crafts movement, and she was one of the first three women elected to the Royal Scottish Academy. Born in…

Aerial view of London

Nature as a Respite from Poverty

In this talk, Tali Chilson will discuss how Jewish writers from London’s East End reconstructed a slum that was home to a community of working-class immigrants living in abject poverty. She will…