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Doctoral dissertation project of Katharina Maria Kalinowski

Trans-lating Nature: An Investigation into the Multiplicity of Languages in Ecopoetry (working title)

Against the backdrop of an increasingly interconnected world with yet increasingly growing disparities, the word globalisation does no longer solely represent cosmopolitan dreams (Apter 2001: 3). Instead, it echoes hegemonic structures, monoaesthetic agendas, and an economic supremacy that builds on a systematic exploitation of human and natural resources. Facing the “death of nature” (McKibben 2006: 7), as virtually no space on earth is “immune from anthropogenic toxification” (Buell 2005: 41) also necessitates rethinking the literary genre formerly known as nature poetry. While ecological footprints overstep planetary boundaries and plastic carpets bury half the matter of poetry, the contemporary movement dubbed ecopoetry seeks to reinvent the romantic idea of pristine nature. Engaging critically with the transformations of what is controversially labelled the anthropocene, ecopoets such as Juliana Spahr, Gary Snyder, or John Kinsella poetically challenge the epistemological separations of nature/culture, biocentrism/anthropocentrism, or foreign/familiar. At the intersection of art, literature, music, biology, and philosophy, their ecopoetic works move beyond the page and turn into ecological activism. Always attached to a desideratum for greater ecological justice, the act of giving value to the natural sphere beyond its commodified function is shaped by the conflicted human-nature relationship. Since humans cannot speak whale, shell, or tree, enacting through language the discords and “manifold relations between the human and the other-than-human world (Fisher-Wirth and Street 2013: xxx) clashes not only against the limits of the human-made language, but ultimately against the limits of the human perspective. In order to comprehensively investigate the intra- and extratextual conflicts underlying ecopoetic processes, the project will combine critical theory and creative poetic practice. With particular regard to global hegemonic structures and power politics of language, the notion of poetically capturing the environment will be examined as a form of (bio)translation. This transdisciplinary approach allows drawing analogies between ecopoetry and the equally dichotomous structure of language translation. Embedded in theories from translation studies, ecocriticism, biosemiotics, and cultural politics, the practical part will entail a self-composed collection of place-based poems. Through poetic exploration, they will investigate other-than-human perspectives, experiment with deconstructive techniques, or test out how the musical anatomy of poetry contributes to a deeper understanding of the entanglements within our environment. Beyond the “death of nature”, visual, multilingual, or multidimensional approaches will illustrate how the ecological translation zone discloses poetic spaces in which multiple languages push against one another and demolish hierarchical structures. As poetry emerges as an enactment of impossibilities, writing is emphasised not merely as a tool, but as an independent craft. The analysis of ecopoetry as a symbiosis of ecocritical reflection, writing, and translating, all rooted in a willingness to think beyond the own skin and accommodate the foreign, will foster a greater transparency of the layered contradictions. On basis of the enhanced understanding, ecopoetry can be situated in the current research landscape and underpinned in its transformative potential to embody non-discriminating interactions with the source text, thus the environment, in future. Since this can lead to a greater awareness of eco-critical writing and its expressed environmental concerns, the project ultimately aims to contribute to a global ecological activism.


Short biography

Katharina Maria Kalinowski, born in Preetz, Schleswig-Holstein in 1992, studied Creative Writing and Drama Studies at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. Following her lifelong passion for language in a professional context, she received her M.A in Writing from the University of Warwick in 2015. Her final year project, a combination of poetry, visual art, and theoretical research, explored the ecopoetics of the Wadden Sea from a bilingual perspective. Continuing her quest for the wording of the world, Katharina worked as a technical translator for Language Insight in London and became a freelance writer and literary translator. Since April 2017, she is a Marie Skłodowska Curie fellow of the a.r.t.e.s. EUmanities programme at the University of Cologne and pursues a joint doctoral degree in collaboration with the Creative Writing Department at the University of Kent. Her transdisciplinary project fuses critical research with creative practice and is supervised by Prof. Hanjo Berressem (Cologne) and Dr. Simon Smith (Kent).

Contact: kkalinow(at)



“Trans-lating Nature: The Art of Ecopoetry. Go to the World.“, 3–6 July 2018, ASLE International Conference on Environmental Humanities “Stories, Myths and Arts to Envision a Change”, Universidad de Alcalá, Spain.

“We Are in This Together: Ecotranslations“, 18 May 2018, Translab Network Workshop “Translaboration: Unleashing the Potential of a New Investigative Category”, University of Westminster.

“Sounding Places: Ec(h)otranslations”, 4–6 April 2018, Bangor AHRC International Conference “Poetry and Sound in Expanded Translation III”, University of Bangor, Wales.

“Trans-lating Nature: The Art of Ecopoetry. (Dis)placing the Ecological Translation Zone“, 26 March 2018, SECL events “Institute of Modern Languages Research Postgraduate Seminar Series”, University of Kent.


Selected publications

“Müllkinder” in: Magma Poetry 72, The Climate Change Issue, Autumn 2018, S. 41.

Literary Translations in: “The Transnational – A Literary Magazine”, Vol. 4, Books on Demand: 2016. ISBN: 978-3844810417. Print.

“A selection of poetry” and “Nico - An Extract: 1938-1956” in: Fractals: An Anthology. Ball Bearing Press: 2015, pp. 89-108. ISBN: 978-0-9566700-7-6. Print.

“Prelude” in: Hesitations, Demon Crew Pamphlet No. VIII/2014–2015. Print.

“Harvest Moon” in: DODO, Eco-Issue No. 4/2014. Print.


Cover photo: Sneakers are repurposed as pot plants, merging the Artificial with the Organic (“Collection de Chaussures” by Michel Blazy at the Venice Art Biennale 2017, Image © designboom; Poem by Brenda Hillman, “Practical Water”, Middletown, Wesleyan University Press, 2009, pp. 4-6.) // Portrait photo: Patric Fouad

a.r.t.e.s. EUmanities has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 713600.

Call: H2020-MSCA-COFUND-2015 | Proposal: 713600 – artes EUmanities