Research Proposal - Plan for Summer 2021
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.