Keynote Speakers

Adam Dickinson

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LAdam Dickinson’s creative and scholarly writing has focused primarily on intersections between science and poetry as a way of exploring new ecocritical perspectives and alternative modes of poetic composition. His scholarly work has recently been included in the Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism and Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context. Forthcoming work includes a chapter in Fueling Culture: Energy, History, Politics. His poems have appeared in anthologies such as Breathing Fire 2: Canada’s New Poets and The Shape of Content: Creative Writing in Mathematics and Science. He has published three books of poetry. His most recent book, The Polymers, was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. His next book, which involves chemical and microbial testing on his body, will be published in the fall of 2017. His work has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, and Polish. He has been featured at prominent international literary festivals, such as Poetry International in Rotterdam, The Harbourfront International Festival of Authors in Toronto, and the Oslo International Poetry Festival in Norway. He is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, where he teaches poetics and creative writing.

Frans Vera

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Frans VERA was born on 4 June 1949. He finished his studies in Biology at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1978, and started his career as a civil servant at “Staatsbosbeheer” (the National Agency for Nature Management and Forestry). Later he went on to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, and then moved to the Wageningen University, where in 1997 he finished his PhD thesis entitled “Metaforen voor de Wilderness. Eik, hazelaar, rund en paard” (“Metaphors for the Wilderness: Oak, Hazelnut Tree, Cattle and Horse”). In 2000 an updated and extended version was published as Grazing Ecology and Forest History, published by CABI Publishing, Wallingford. In 2007 an English popular version was published by Staatsbosbeheer with the title: Wilderness in Europe. What Really Goes on between the Trees and the Beasts. In 1997 he returned to the ministry, where he worked up to 2003, when he joined Staatsbosbeheer (the National Agency for Nature Management and Forestry) again. Since 2012 he has been on secondment at the Foundation Natural Processes. He has been retired since 1 June 2014.

Frans VERA’s passion is nature conservation. Throughout his career, he started and remained involved in re-establishing natural processes in given areas for the benefit of nature. The main question he asked himself and tried to answer initially was “What is ‘nature’ and ‘natural’? What did the ‘natural’ landscape once look like?” In the process of searching for the answer to that fundamental question, he came across paradigms that he did not find congruent with what he saw in reality, whether based on his own experience or on what he read in scientific literature. He therefore challenged these paradigms, especially the one positing that the Lowlands of Europe were, in their primeval conditions, covered by a closed canopy forest.  Challenging this paradigm also entailed questioning its corollary, namely that large indigenous herbivores such as aurochs, European bison, red deer, elk, wild boar, and roe deer were in fact ecologically non-existent, because otherwise there could not have been a closed canopy forest. In the course of his research, Frans VERA went through many layers in the cultural landscape before he finally ended up in and with the wilderness as the beginning of the cultural landscape. It brought him to the conclusion that without knowledge of how the wilderness functions, we cannot understand our culture.

Two projects formed the guiding thread throughout his working life: the Oostvaardersplassen in the South Flevoland polder, on the one hand, and giving back the flood-plains of the large rivers Rhine and Meuse to the river, on the other. VERA’s numerous books, chapters in books intended both for lay and specialized readerships, and papers in scientific journals are all about an attempt to answer this double question of what our natural landscape once looked like and what the ecological drivers for that landscape were.

Hubert Zapf


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HUBERT ZAPF is Professor and Chair of American Literature at the University of Augsburg. His main areas of research are Cultural Ecology, English and American Literature, Literary and Cultural History and Theory. He is co-editor of Anglia: Journal of English Philology, of the Anglia Book Series, of the Handbooks in English and American Studies (DeGruyter), and of the book series Text und Theorie (Königshausen & Neumann). His publications include Literatur als kulturelle Ökologie, 2002; Amerikanische Literaturgeschichte (ed.), 3rd ed. 2010; American Studies Today: New Research Agendas (co-ed.), 2014; Literature and Science (ed.), Special Issue of Anglia 2015; Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology (ed.)  De Gruyter, 2016; Literature as Cultural Ecology: Sustainable Texts (Bloomsbury, 2016); “Ecological Thought in Europe and Germany,” in Cambridge Global History of Literature and Environment, eds. Louise Westling and John Parham, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.