LAWRENCE — Where do the stories we tell about the weather come from? How long have we been telling them? Centuries before the advent of global warming accelerated by industrialization, humans imagined their own actions to bring about weather events. Professor Kellie Robertson of the University of Maryland will take up these timely issues in the annual Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture in the Department of English at the University of Kansas.
Robertson’s lecture, “Dark and Stormy: Telling Stories about the Weather,” will explore what climate change looked like before the present Anthropocene era, the period during which human activity has been the main influence on the environment. Medieval and early modern writers grappled constantly with how to describe the aftermath of destructive storms. These writers offer a much needed perspective on the present.
Robertson will describe how medieval and early modern writers embodied an odd but enduring position: one in which writers simultaneously imagine themselves as directly responsible for storms and other weather events, even as they experience themselves as being the helpless object of them. Earlier writers, contending with this difficult position, offer a much needed perspective on the climate problems of the present.
Free and open to the public, the lecture will take place 7 p.m. April 1 in Watson Library, Third Floor West.
Robertson is professor of English at the University of Maryland. In addition to numerous articles on medieval and early modern literature and the environment, she is most recently author of "Nature Speaks: Medieval Literature and Aristotelian Philosophy" (Penn, 2017). She is also author of "The Laborer’s Two Bodies: Labor and the ‘Work’ of the Text in Medieval Britain, 1350-1500" (Palgrave, 2006) and co-editor of "The Middle Ages at Work: Practicing Labor in Late Medieval England" (Palgrave, 2004).
The Gunn Lecture was endowed by the late Richard W. Gunn, brother of James Gunn, KU professor emeritus of English and founding director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.