April 23, 2020
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How does nature tie into ideas about science, politics, economics and history? Notable writers Lauret Savoy and Andrea Wulf address this topic in a pair of upcoming events at Kenyon College.
Savoy, a professor of environmental studies at Mount Holyoke College, will speak Wednesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. in Rutherford B. Hayes Hall, room 109. A woman of African American, Euro American and Native American heritage, Savoy examines the complex ties among natural and cultural histories and explores how stories are told about the American land’s origins. Her most recent book is “Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape,” which was a finalist for the PEN American Open Book Award and the Phillis Wheatley Book Award.
“Lauret Savoy approaches American history as a geologist, tracing her family’s unwritten history through an American landscape defined by racial violence to show us that the ways we look at landscape can’t be separated from our knowledge of what men have done to and on that land,” said Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, the National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Professor of English, who invited Savoy and Wulf to speak.
Andrea Wulf, the author of the New York Times best-seller “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World,” speaks Thursday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in Higley Hall Auditorium. Wulf’s biography of von Humboldt explores how the German naturalist created a modern understanding of nature that is connected to global politics and economics. Wulf is the winner of the inaugural James Wright Award for Nature Writing, given jointly by the Kenyon Review and the Nature Conservancy. “The Invention of Nature” also won the Royal Society Science Book Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among other awards.
“Wulf and Savoy write brilliantly about landscape as a metaphor for human consciousness and history, the ways we use nature as a mirror of our own ideas about what it means to be human,” Lobanov-Rostovsky said. “They make clear that we can’t separate nature from ideas like race, politics or historical memory because we use nature to make ideological claims.”
“Both Savoy and Wulf remind us that the art of writing about science requires recognizing the ways we use those scientific narratives to justify our politics, our violent history and our devastating effects on the natural world,” Lobanov-Rostovsky added.
The visits by Savoy and Wulf are part of a series of events focused on science and writing. The event series included a March 22 lecture by science journalist Lauren Redniss, the winner of a 2016 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant who is known for her innovative work in visual nonfiction.
Their visits are sponsored by the NEH Distinguished Teaching Chair, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the President, the Brown Family Environmental Center, the Kenyon Review, the Environmental Studies Program, the Department of History, the American Studies Program, the Robert P. Hubbard Chair in Poetry and the Richard L. Thomas Chair in Creative Writing.