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Magdalena Ochwat

Magdalena Ochwat

Title: Thinking with Nature. On (New?) Symbiotic Stories

Authors: Piotr Skubała, Magdalena Ochwat & Anna Kopaczewska

Abstract: The purpose of this article is a transdisciplinary reflection on the paths leading out of the Anthropocene, the epoch that has become a symbol of self-destruction of the homo (non) sapiens and their alienation from the natural world.

            We would like to depart from Darwin’s model of evolution based on competition and move toward the symbiotic model based on cooperation, interconnectedness, and balance of interests. This new scientific view perceives life on Earth as a process in which each element attunes with the others and thus provides a continuity of life within a biosphere. Symbiosis turns out to be a regular phenomenon that is fundamental to all living beings and permeates ecosystems. Biology today refers to the human, animal, and plant organism as a biological network that is composed of a host and a myriad of non-human beings where mutual relations, interconnectedness, diversity, and cooperation play a central role. Science clearly proves that the metaphor put forth by Alfred Tennyson, “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” is far from the truth, whereas Douglas H. Boucher is right when he describes nature as a great community “green in root and flower.”  

With reference to the natural sciences and publications by such excellent authors as Lynn Margulis, Suzanne Simard, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, we would like to prove that symbiosis is now regarded as a crucial factor that determines conditions of life on earth. Guided by Albrecht Glenn’s reflection, we aim to relate/present the concepts forwarded by the above scholars to/in the context of the humanities and the arts, thus laying the foundations for a new branch of ecocriticism (symbiocriticism) and the basis for a new conceptual framework of the world, i.e., the Symbiocene––an era that could replace the Anthropocene.

Viewed as a training in collective imagination in the area of good interspecies life in the spirit of symbiocriticism, we would like to present interpretations of the newest books (i.e., Izabela Klementowska, Drzewa [Trees],Richard Powers, The Overstory,Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,and Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree. Uncovering the Wisdom and Intelligence of the Forest), film productions (e.g., Avatar), and readings in older texts that could be read anew by means of symbiotic interpretative keys, yet without repeating errors of dichotomization and alienation (e.g., social utopias in Le Guin or Selma Lagerlöf’s The Wonderful Adventures of Nils).

            As part of the conclusion, we will make an attempt to visualize the Symbiocene and its assumptions. We will present how our species reconnects to the tides, rhythms, and cycles of a greater biospheric community we are inherent and inseparable part of.

Bio: Magdalena  Ochwat,  Ph.D. –  is  an  Assistant  Professor  at  the  Institute  of  Literary  Studies  at  University  of  Silesia  in  Katowice,  associated  with  the  University  of  Silesia  Interdisciplinary  Centre  for  Research  on  Humanistic  Education.  Her  research  interests  focus  on  Polish  language education, the use of literary reportage in education, and the social responsibility of school readings. She is interested in the challenges of the 21st century: global crises, migration, climate change and multiculturalism. She is the Editor-in-chief of the journal Z Teorii i Praktyki Dydaktycznej Języka Polskiego [Theory and Practice of Polish Language Teaching], the program coordinator for Polish philology teachers at the University of Polish Studies as part of the POWER project, and a participant in the School of Ecopoetics.