CFP – Lost and Found: In Search of Extinct Species

Explora International Conference

31 March–1 April 2011

CAS (EA – 801) / Toulouse Natural History Museum

Extinction has always fascinated and intrigued men, be they men of science or men of letters. The history of the Earth has been marked by five major mass extinctions, the most famous being undoubtedly the one that saw the end of the dinosaurs on Earth at the close of the Cretaceous period. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the increasing number of paleontological discoveries challenged certainties about the origins and place of man on Earth. The scientists’ search for extinct species and their conclusions, or surmises, undermined literalist readings of the Bible. Hinting at the issue of extinction, the discoveries paved the way for the development of evolutionary theory, climaxing with the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in 1859. The study of fossils was thus poised between conflicting interpretations of the evolution of life on Earth: fossils crystallized conflicts, bringing to light the tensions between science and religion and epitomizing the period’s questionings as to the past and future of man on Earth.

This interdisciplinary conference aims to look at the way in which extinct species and past ecosystems have been represented and sensationalized from the nineteenth century to the present time. It will examine how man’s sudden awareness of species extinction (from the Dodo bird and the Moa to the more recent American pigeon) and/or the threat of extinction have informed literature and the arts, particularly focussing on the impact of climate change in literary and non-literary narratives, on the issue of man’s (in)significance in the history of the Earth and on the literary and artistic significance of end-of-world scenarios.

We invite 20-minute papers that engage with, but are not limited to, the following topics :

- the history of paleontology and fossil classification

- the history of fossil collecting

- the popularisation of geology and paleontology

- the reconstructions of extinct species

- representations of extinct species in literature and the arts

- representations of ecosystems in literature and the arts

- extinct species, ecology and the development of ecocriticism

- theories of mass extinction

- end-of-world scenarios

Please send 300-word proposals (attached as a .doc-file) together with a short biographical note to Deadline for submissions: 20 November 2010.