Louise Economides - English
As an English Professor at the University of Montana who specializes in British Romantic literature and ecocriticism, my career has led me down some unexpected paths. Compared to other academic disciplines such as Biology, Political Science or Philosophy, English has been rather slow in responding to the dramatic ecological changes occurring in the world today. Nevertheless, my research and teaching experience lead me to believe that literature and the other arts have a vital role to play in the ongoing work of imagining alternatives to environmental destruction and social injustice.
When I first arrived in Missoula, I was inspired on a daily basis by the sublime landscape surrounding our campus as well as by more rarified experiences of majestic scenery in nearby Glacier National Park. Having done my doctoral work in a Midwestern town surrounded by cornfields, I was happy to be back in “God’s country” with wilderness at my back door and a great diversity of animal and plant life close by. The longer I have resided here, however, the more I’ve come to realize that the wilderness Montanans celebrate is as micro-managed as any large-scale farm. Many traces of human intervention in this state – such as the famous Berkeley Pit in Butte – are as sublime in their scale and their ability to inspire both awe and terror as any glacial formation. While my research continues to be driven by a quest to understand how the environment inspires ethical action and aesthetic perception, my recent work also explores how contemporary global technology and pollution are radically re-defining how we experience “nature” today. I’m currently writing a book contrasting wonder and the technological sublime as ecologically important discourses within Romantic-era and contemporary literature.
My work with undergraduate students in UM’s “Wilderness and Civilization” program has opened my eyes to the complexity of the debates surrounding resource management and biodiversity. It has also made me consider how literature can inform such controversies. I’ve also been very fortunate to learn from talented graduate and undergraduate students in the English Department that conduct bold research in still-developing fields such as environmental justice, ecophenomenology, globalist ecology and ecopoetics. It’s exciting to work with others who are passionate about literature and the environment. In fact, my colleagues and I are in the process of co-designing a concentration in this field of study. In my experience, UM offers many opportunities for those seeking to pursue academically adventurous study.