The Ecomedia of Polar Exploration – Hester Blu

Date(s) - 11/13/17
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Northwestern University Hall

Hosted by
Northwestern University

The Ecomedia of Polar Exploration – Hester Blu

Northwestern University

Monday, November 13, 2017 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

When faced with climate extremity, polar expedition members in the long nineteenth century experimented with media forms adequate to representing their position both out of place (at the ends of the earth) and out of time (in sunless polar winters, absent diurnal time). These forms might be called “polar ecomedia.” Blum’s talk will focus on the ephemeral forms of expeditionary polar ecomedia, which include ship newspapers, notes in bottles, letters and cairn messages, and rescue notices printed on colored silk, all of which polar sailors used to mark time and communicate information. In the polar regions, ephemera are testimonials to (and fuel for) resilience, perhaps counterintuitively. In our contemporary Anthropocenic moment of accelerating Arctic and Antarctic polar ice sheet collapse, human life on earth can itself feel ephemeral, both because of and despite humans’ irreversible impact on global climate and the geological record. The evanescent textual records generated in polar extremity offer unexpected conceptual and formal devices for describing, comprehending and, most ambitiously, surviving climatic extremity.

Hester Blum is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Penn State University, where she teaches courses in nineteenth-century US literature and culture, oceanic studies, material text studies and the history of the book, popular fiction, Herman Melville, and the environmental humanities. Her first book, The View from the Mast-Head: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (UNC Press, 2008), received the John Gardner Maritime Research Award.

This event is made possible by generous support from the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, the Department of English, and the Indigenous Studies Research Initiative.