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Thursday, April 18, 2019 - 6:00pm to Friday, April 19, 2019 - 6:00pm
Penn State - University Park - Kern Building

Penn State - University Park | April 18-19, 2019


with Kirk B. Sides (U. of Bristol) and Tjawangwa (TJ) Dema (winner, of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry)


This multidisciplinary two-day series will include a lecture (Sides, 04.18.2019), poetry reading (Dema, 04.19.2019), and two workshops (Sides and Dema, 04.19.2019). For a full schedule, see our site.


Participation in the workshops is limited; those interested should submit a registration application here. Registration applications are due by Friday, March 15. Please contact us with any questions. 



Workshop descriptions:

Kirk B. Sides, “Speculative Fiction as Method” (04.19.2018 - 10:00)
Donna J. Haraway claims that science/speculative fiction is “crucial to the practice of thinking” precisely because the genre allows for “thinking-with”, a sympoietic or making-with-others mode of storytelling which pushes against the bounded, autonomous individualism characteristic of our neoliberal moment. This workshop is premised on the notion that science/speculative fiction is particularly suited – as both critical and pedagogical method – for approaching the environmental catastrophes and planetary precarities characterizing the Anthropocene epoch we are now in. We will begin with examples of science/speculative fiction based in differing modes of empathy, and continue with the idea that empathy is a crucial method for practicing what Anna Tsing calls the “arts of living on a damaged planet”. Employing some of these “arts” as both writing and pedagogical practices, the workshop will explore how science/speculative fiction can offer us, as both critics and educators, a mode of thinking open to various aesthetic and disciplinary approaches to histories of world-thinking, as well as to imagining planetary futures. We will experiment with science fictional writing in order to try and better understand how academic practice – both writing and teaching – might continue to take account of our rapidly changing planet in the age of the Anthropocene.

Tjawangwa (TJ) Dema, “Poetry and the Planet” (04.19.2019 - 14:00)
This workshop begins from the premise that planetary and environmental shifts – characteristic of climate change or the age of environmental collapse known as the Anthropocene – present an opportunity to think about how and why we tell stories. To ask ourselves why “it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with” as Donna Haraway suggests. We will view Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s poem “Anointed”, not only to analyse it, but also to communally think with and alongside the poem. In a world of increasing scrutiny for the objectivity and truth-telling of the media, what do primarily fictive mediums such as poetry offer us? If the poet is first and foremost a fabulist how do we marry the intimate with the vast, how do we remain, to borrow Anna Tsing’s phrase, both ‘true and fabulous’?

This enquiry and practice-based workshop explores how poets think about, represent, and tell stories of and in the Anthropocene. In this workshop we will explore eco-poet Helen Moore’s lenses of re/connection, witnessing, resistance and visioning, in order to think about the ways eco-poetry benefits from human and non-human entanglements. What is the role of considering the intersectional in times of planetary precarity? In what ways might race, gender or class precarity complicate eco-poetry and help us to think about how we tell stories of both the global and the individual in a changing world.

Speaker information:
Tjawangwa (TJ) Dema 
is a poet, arts administrator and teaching artist whose poems have appeared in publications including The New Orleans ReviewCordite Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Mandible (Slapering Hol Press, 2014) was selected for publication by The African Poetry Book Fund as part of the Seven New Generation African Poets boxset. Her book-length manuscript The Careless Seamstress won the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize and will be published The University of Nebraska Press in March 2019. Formerly chairperson of the Writer’s Association of Botswana, Dema is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and facilitates writing and performance workshops around the globe. 

Kirk B. Sides is Lecturer in World Literatures in English at the University of Bristol, UK, specializing in 20th and 21st Century African literatures, especially southern Africa; postcolonial literatures and theory; histories of empire; environmental writing and eco-criticism; Afro-futurism and African science fiction. He has published essays on such topics as Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi, Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka, and the intersections between conversations on race in the United States and South Africa. Prior to joining the University of Bristol, he was a fellow/associate in the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.



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