The Language of Plants: Science, Philosophy and Literature

Co-edited with Monica Gagliano and John Ryan


 Ecocriticism’s rise to prominence in the fields of literature and cultural studies has been paralleled by the investigations of plant intelligence in botany and by novel philosophical approaches to the ontology of plants. However, attempts to integrate these bodies of knowledge have been scarce. The Language of Plants will commence a dialogue between philosophy, science, literature and cinema dealing with plants. The aim of the edited collection is to develop a better understanding of plant life through critical awareness, conceptual rigor, and interdisciplinary thinking.


Envisioned as a ground-breaking work that will bridge a number of fields, The Language of Plants will (1) allot to literature, cinema and the arts a special role in the integration of the scientific and philosophical research on plants at the experiential level, (2) promote the freedom of imagination necessary for the rethinking of vegetal life and, thereby, (3) inspire further philosophical and scientific investigations. The book will not only seek to consolidate the nascent paradigm shift in the human conceptualization of vegetation, but it will also join ongoing discussions of plant ethics.


The overarching focus of The Language of Plants is language itself, broadly conceived. In one sense, language represents, mediates or expresses something about the plant world in all disciplines—across the humanities and sciences—leading to discourses of the plant world. Innovative philosophical thinking and groundbreaking scientific research similarly call into question the limits of language in describing the botanical world and human-plant dynamics. In another sense, plants exhibit varieties of communicative modes that constitute the language they use to make sense of and navigate their worlds. Understanding the language of plants ultimately has implications for environmental ethics and environmental politics.  


The Language of Plants is forthcoming with Minnesota University Press in 2017.



Portuguese Literature and the Environment

Co-edited with Victor K. Mendes


This co-edited book aims to explore the relationship between Portuguese literature and the environment. From the link between nature and poetry in the Medieval “cantigas,” through the bucolic verse of the Renaissance, all the way to the Romantic and post-Romantic nostalgia for a pristine natural or rural landscape under threat in the wake of industrialization, Portuguese literature has frequently reflected on the connection between humans and nature. More recently, neo-realism has returned to natural landscapes as the backdrop for social struggle, while the postcolonial turn in contemporary literature has highlighted the contrast between the environment of the former colonies and that of Portugal.


But nature has neither served merely as a setting for literary endeavors, nor as a simple cultural marker, separating colonizers and colonized. Portuguese writers have engaged directly with the environment in a myriad different ways and have incorporated nature in their texts not only to prompt social, political or philosophical reflections on human society, but also as a way to learn from the specific mode of being of our “others.” What can the natural environment, animals and plants, teach us? How can we represent nature aesthetically? And what does a nature-inflected writing look like?


 Portuguese Literature and the Environment, will address the following topics, related to Portuguese literature:

  •  ecocritical readings of literary works;
  • representations and uses of nature and landscape in literature;
  • genres and conventions for describing and narrating the environment;
  • animals and plants in literary texts;
  • the environment in post-colonial literature;
  • environmental readings and literary theory (formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, etc.);
  • a Portuguese critique of Western anthropocentrism;
  • ecocriticism and gender studies  (including misogyny, homophobia and ecophobia);
  • readings of the Portuguese countryside and the city after ecocriticism.



The Environment in Brazilian Culture. 

with Maria Esther Maciel


This project brings together essays on various aspects of Brazilian culture and its relation to the environment, including ecocriticism in literature and cinema, plants and animals in Brazilian writings, colonial and post-colonial perceptions of the environment, and Brazilian critiques of anthropocentrism.