2019 Alabama Symposium | AUM

2019 Alabama Symposium

Symposium Details

Auburn University at Montgomery will host the 2019 Alabama Symposium on Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Studies Nov. 7-8, 2019, in Montgomery, Ala. This year’s theme, the Anthropocene, seeks to answer the question: “Is the Anthropocene useful to the humanities, and to 18th and 19th century studies specifically? To answer the question, the symposium will include workshops, readings and roundtable discussions on this geological epoch known as “The Age of Humans.”

No prior knowledge of Anthropocene studies is required to attend the symposium. The major goal is for participants to learn about the intersections of the Anthropocene with 18th and 19th century studies.

A free event, the symposium is held annually by different host institutions and brings together literary scholars, historians, and graduate students from colleges and universities in Alabama and surrounding states.

About the Theme

Perhaps no concept has become dominant in so many fields as rapidly as the Anthropocene, literally meaning “The Age of Humans.” This period is the proposed name for our current geological epoch, beginning when human activities started to have a noticeable impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. 

Nobel-prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen popularized the term in 2000, spurring nearly two decades of debate, with most scholarship centered on defining the characteristics of the Anthropocene and in establishing its dates. Crutzen initially proposed that the Anthropocene began with the Industrial Revolution, citing James Watt’s patent of the steam engine in 1784 as a possible marker, while other scientists have since argued for the “Orbis spike” of 1610 or the “bomb spike” of 1964.

Long embraced by the natural sciences, the Anthropocene has become commonplace in the humanities and social sciences, where it has taken firm enough hold to engender a thoroughgoing critique. Indeed, criticisms of the Anthropocene have become so familiar that in some circles the Anthropocene is “considered rather worn-out and déclassé.” Detractors see the Anthropocene as perniciously universalist: this “age of man,” many argue, is in fact an era in which Western colonial powers have systematically plundered natural resources, passing the direst burdens of climate change to people in the Global South. 

Other observers see Anthropocene discourse as harmfully technocratic. As feminist thinkers point out, the Anthropocene is often aligned with a disembodied “view from nowhere,” which purports to be neutral, yet abets conceptions of the planet as a “system” to be managed, preferably by first-world experts. In response to these and other critiques, some scholars have called for “multiple, debatable, and polemical narratives” of environmental change to supplant a “single hegemonic narrative that is supposedly apolitical.”

Schedule of Events

Public Lecture by Lisa Ottum
Thursday, Nov. 7 | 5 - 6 p.m. | Library Tower East Room

Lisa OttumLisa Ottum, associate professor of English at Xavier University, is the symposium's keynote speaker. She is co-editor of Wordsworth and the Green Romantics: Affect and Ecology in the Nineteenth Century and has written numerous articles on the intersections of ecocriticism, affect studies, Romantic-era literature, and contemporary environmental education. Her talk is titled: "The Deep Time Life Kit: Thinking Tools for the Anthropocene." The lecture will be followed by a social gathering at The Tipping Point.

Alabama Symposium on Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Studies
Friday, Nov. 8 | 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. | Taylor Center, Room 221

Time Event
10 – 10:30 a.m. Breakfast
10:30 a.m.–12 p.m. Workshop/Roundtable Discussion
12 – 1 p.m. Lunch
1 – 1:45 p.m. Lecture by Lisa Ottum (Xavier): "Monsters of Our Own Making: Mary Shelley and the Feel of the Anthropocene"
1:45 – 2:30 p.m. Lecture by Deanna Kreisel (Ole Miss): "The Future and Its Discontents: Eco-Time in Two Victorian Poems"
2:30 – 3 p.m. Closing Remarks

Maps, Parking, and Lodging

Campus Maps

Download campus maps and driving directions to AUM.

Campus Maps


Download the free parking pass and display it on your dashboard. The pass can be used to park in white-lined spaces only.

Parking Pass


Since the symposium is free and held on the AUM campus, there is no official hotel for lodging. If you plan to stay overnight in Montgomery on Thursday and/or Friday, you can book a hotel room through AUM for a discounted rate at Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn, or Homewood Suites. For details, please contact Seth Reno at sreno@aum.edu.


Symposium Organizer
Seth T. Reno, PhD
Associate Professor of English
Auburn University at Montgomery
Liberal Arts 359A