Abstracts for Week Eleven
Susan Howe’s Telepathy
One of the most important U.S. poets of her generation, Susan Howe was born in Boston in 1937. Daughter of Dublin-born Mary Manning (an actor and playwright for the Gate and Abbey Theatres and close associate of W.B. Yeats and Samuel Beckett), Howe began as a visual artist. Her text-based work eventually led her to composing poems, always with strong visual elements. She has published numerous books of poetry and essays with the esteemed press, New Directions.
Howe is also an eminent critic. She is author of My Emily Dickinson (1985), one of the groundbreaking studies of the 19th-century poet. Howe has described herself as a ‘library cormorant’, as she often uses archive material, from New England Puritan sources through William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, in her work.
This talk looks closely at Howe’s most recent book, Spontaneous Particulars: The Telepathy of Archives (New Direction, 2014), and explores her singular achievement in American poetry and letters. Jonathan Creasy’s New Dublin Press is producing an ‘Evening with Susan Howe’ in Dublin – readings and conversations – in June, so this talk should provide a primer for that historic occasion.
“We are entering the age of the insect”: Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend as early eco-horror
The post-war years were formative for American eco-horror as we recognise it today, prompting a change in both the ways in which and the scale on which humanity perceived its ability to wreak havok on the natural world. Rachel Carson is rightly credited with bringing environmentalist concerns into the mainstream with Silent Spring (1962), and a wave of nature-themed horror films followed this burgeoning awareness. Earlier examples of post-World War II eco-horror, however, are less frequently recognised, even though the years after 1945 saw the emergence of a different kind of concern about nature; not focused simply on halting or reversing its erosion, but rather worried about the unintended side-effects of tampering with the natural world.
This paper will examine Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954), a landmark in horror fiction, through an ecocritical lens, and highlight the ways in which it demonstrates a broadening and maturing of ecological concerns rarely recognised in pre-Carson texts. In doing so, it will aim to expand the current understanding of what consitutes eco-horror, and to explore previously unrecognised facets of a significant genre-text.