Research Proposal - Plan for Summer 2021

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I will explore how representations of the Mediterranean Sea in Modern Greek prose challenge or perpetuate the tendency to overstate humans’ conceptual comprehension of nature and place it only in a cultural, aesthetic or utilitarian context. Attributing such human-based values to nature can justify prioritizing human ambitions over morally dubious interventions in the environment. If action on issues like climate change entails reconsidering the way we appreciate nature, then acknowledging its independence and intrinsic value could challenge such invasive interventions.

Focusing on the Mediterranean Sea aids the deconstruction of overbearing anthropocentric narratives, as the sea is less dominated by humans than land, while analyzing Modern Greek prose can yield approaches to nature that have not received academic attention, as this genre is overshadowed by the focus on Ancient Greek literature and Modern Greek verse. I will use an interdisciplinary framework combining three fields that revise the dynamics between the human and the nonhuman: material ecocriticism, which highlights matter’s agency, blue humanities, an interdisciplinary inquiry into marine environments, and Object-Oriented Ontology, a philosophical movement equating human and nonhuman existence. I will examine works by Andreas Karkavitsas, who presents the sea as an agent without anthropomorphizing it, Stratis Myrivilis, who is self-conscious about humans’ limited comprehension of nature, Alexandros Papadiamantis and Dimitris Hatzis.

I will explore factors that shape these modest approaches to nature, like national identity, culture and landscape. In the second summer, comparative analysis of Greek and Spanish portrayals of the Mediterranean could further illuminate how these factors interact to foster particular ideas of nature. This understanding can inform attempts to revise collective attitudes to nature from the local level to the global in ways tailored to specific landscapes and cultures.

Eirini Vryza

Student (English and Philosophy), University of St Andrews

Hi! I am Eirini Vryza (I often go by Irene). I am a student at the University of St Andrews, and I study English and Philosophy! I am particularly interested in ecocriticism as a critical approach to literature, and I love logic and philosophy of language in philosophy. I have also been quite impressed with object-oriented ontology, and I'd say that although my focus is primarily logic and philosophy of language, one of my favorite philosophers is Peter Singer! In my research project I will be looking at local narratives about nature and how anthropocentrism can be excluded from our collective narratives towards nature by exploring modern Greek literature (prose) and using object-oriented ontology, material ecocriticism and blue humanities as theoretical frameworks. 

I am very engaged in effective altruism, particularly in the areas of animal welfare and climate change, and I am also part of the amazing organization that is in St Andrews and many other university called One For The World, which promotes effective giving for global health and extreme poverty.