Environmental Humanities Research Group at the University of Illinois

This website presents some of the major themes developed by the Environmental Humanities Research Group in their “group study” on Flatland across weekly seminar meetings in 2018-2019. In addition to weekly research group seminar meetings, the HRI Environmental Humanities program also constituted a campus Environmental Humanities Working Group, a larger group of environmental humanists on campus, which met monthly to strategize with the research group about the future of environmental humanities at UIUC, as well as to dialogue with invited guests. The group also ventured off campus, conducting a field trip to view Alexis Rockman’s Great Lakes Cycle art exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, and to see an installation by Emmanuel Pratt, director of the Sweet Water Foundation at the SMART museum of Art at University of Chicago. The outing included visits to local prairie sites: Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, a prairie reconstruction maintained by the U.S. Forest service at the site of a former WWII arsenal, and Loda Prairie, a tiny never-plowed prairie in East Central Illinois.

A full slate of events was offered, including public lectures by Jenny Price and Joni Adamson in the fall, and Ben Johnson in the spring. Lowell Duckert and Keith Woodhouse also visited and met with the group and campus stakeholders to discuss environmental humanities research and professional development issues in the field. The group hosted a public screening of the documentary Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock, and director Myron Dewey participated in a Q&A after the screening, as well as met with the research and working groups during his visit. The year of programming concluded with an Environmental Humanities Undergraduate Research Symposium: “Deconstructing and Reshaping Untold Narratives,” organized by the group’s outgoing interns, Juan Martin Luna Nunez, Clara Pokorny, and April Wendling, who presented their own research projects and dialogued with other student presenters, as part of Undergraduate Research Week in April.

As for the fellows’ own work in the environmental humanities field, both outgoing Pre-Doctoral Fellows Samantha Good and Alexandra Paterson defended their dissertations at the close of the academic year. Dr. Pollyanna Rhee secured a tenure-track job with the Department of Landscape Architecture on our campus (slated to begin fall 2020), and Dr. Leah Aronowsky won the Rachel Carson Award from the American Society for Environmental History for best dissertation as well as received the 2019 Ronald Rainger Award for best early career work on the history of the earth and environmental sciences from the History of Science Society. Please join IPRH in congratulating our Mellon Environmental Humanities Fellows on their many impressive achievements.

Growing out of the group’s curriculum-development goals, four courses will be offered this 2019–20 academic year: Professor Morrissey will be teaching “Wilderness in American Culture” and “American Environmental History”; Dr. Aronowsky will offer “Politics of Nature”; and Dr. Rhee will offer “American Wastelands.” IPRH is pleased to collaborate with the Campus Honors Program and the Department of History to make these Environmental Humanities courses available to U of I undergraduates.

check out other Flatland contributions below