Appel à communication : « Underwater Worlds : Aquatic Visions in Art, Science and Literature » (Oxford, septembre 2015)

underwaterworldsWhat lies beneath the surface of the water ? From sirens and sea monsters to shipwrecks and the drowned city of Atlantis, the unseen depths of oceans, lakes and rivers have formed the canvas for countless imaginative visions and stories. Different cultures have envisioned underwater environments as supernatural forces to be feared, resources to exploit, aesthetic pleasures to be enjoyed and fragile ecosystems to be protected. In the twenty-first century, the on-going endangerment of marine life by human causes such as climate change, overfishing, oil spills and mineral extraction compels us to re-evaluate our relationship with the aquatic world. At the same time, in recent years, rising sea levels, floods and tsunamis have demonstrated in dramatic fashion the vulnerability of our species to changes in the Earth’s water distribution.

In light of these issues, ‘Underwater Worlds’ will examine how humans past and present have imagined and represented aquatic environments through art, literature and other cultural forms. Critical debates about the anthropocene and its sustainability have sparked new interest in representations of nature and humans’ relationships with it. Yet, as Dan Brayton notes in Shakespeare’s Ocean (2012), the majority of ecocriticism has been ‘green’, centred on dry land, neglecting the ‘blue planet’ which covers most of the Earth. At the same time, research into representations of rivers and seas has often focussed on the surfaces traversed by humans rather than the invisible spaces beneath. This conference aims to probe beneath the surface, exploring how underwater environments have been imagined, idealized, feared and elided.

Themes for papers might include (but need not be limited to) :

Representing underwater worlds in narratives, images and objects
Reconstructing underwater worlds in museums and aquariums
Sea life and sea monsters
Technologies of underwater exploration
Histories of marine studies and oceanography
Collecting, classifying and exhibiting aquatic specimens
Sailing and Shipwrecks
Swimming and diving
Fishing, trawling, dredging and panning
Aquatic themes in religion
Water surface and depth as psychoanalytic symbols
Themes of flooding and submergence in art and literature
Underwater film

Please send your 250-word paper abstract to no later than the 30th of April 2015.
General inquiries may be made to the conference organiser Dr Will Abberley at
See also the conference web site


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