“America After Nature: Democracy, Culture, Environment”

June 12 – 15, 2014 in Würzburg


“As the greatest lessons of Nature through the universe are perhaps the lessons of variety and freedom, the same present the greatest lessons also in New World politics and progress.” In the opening sentence of Democratic Vistas, a text that responds to the nation’s devastating experiences of the Civil War, Walt Whitman reminds his readers that America, a nation once modeled after nature, should continue to find its political ideal and cultural purpose in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Whitman’s concept of nature was not only informed by the ideas of eighteenth-century natural rights philosophy, but also by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of nature “in the common sense” as a totality of essences unaltered by human labor and industry. At beginning of the 21st century, nature may not have entirely come to an end (McKibben 1989). Yet it currently undergoes what Ursula K. Heise described as a “massive restructuring” (Heise 2010), a process that manifests itself in many ways and that has already resulted in a reduction of ecological variety. Whitman’s contention that nature provide the concepts and ideas at the core of America’s political, cultural, and social structure, and Heise’s suggestion that nature’s massive restructuring will not remain without consequences for the political, social, and economic constitution of modern culture(s) provide the conceptual and historical frame for the 2014 GAAS conference. Topics for workshop may include, but are not restricted to, a critical review of historical and conceptual affiliations of nature with democracy and art; a reevaluation of the cultural, intellectual and political histories of US-American environmentalism and their relation to global forms and manifestations of green thought and activism; a revision of problems and concepts such as environmental justice and environmental governmentality within and beyond the conceptual frame of (the) America(s); and questions that concern the politics and poetics as well as the ethics and aesthetics of representation under the condition of the current ecological crisis.


Keynote Speakers

Robert D. Bullard (Texas Southern University)
Ursula K. Heise (University of California, Los Angeles)
Sylvia Mayer (Universität Bayreuth)
John M. Meyer (Humboldt State University)
Julie Sze (University of California, Davis)
Frank Zelko (University of Vermont)




Prof. Dr. Catrin Gersdorf
Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Neuphilologisches Institut – Lehrstuhl für Amerikanistik
Am Hubland
97070 Würzburg

Tel.: +49 (0)931 31-89170


Weitere Informationen finden Sie auf den Seiten der Universität Würzburg.