Loyola University Maryland’s Humanities Symposium presents an opportunity to explore one of the nation’s most pressing issues: climate change.
Renowned science fiction author Jeff VanderMeer, dubbed “the weird Thoreau” by The New Yorker, will be delivering the keynote address, “Landscape, Change and the Long Road Ahead.”
The event is free, open to the public and will take place in McGuire Hall at the Andrew White Student Center at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 17. It will also be streamed virtually.
“Our main goal has been to get a large portion of the Loyola community to read the same work at roughly the same time and to be engaged in a common inquiry,” according to a university description of the symposium.
Every year since Loyola’s Humanities Center was established more than 20 years ago, faculty representatives from the humanities steering committee have chosen a text meant to be accessible but challenging.
In 2022, that text is “The Left Hand of Darkness,” a 1969 award-winning novel by Ursula K. Le Guin set on an icebound planet with gender-fluid inhabitants. Students and faculty will engage in a weeklong series of discussions on this text to stimulate intellectual conversation across the campus community.
The week culminates in a keynote speech by VanderMeer and a reading and from his own works earlier that day at 3 p.m. A book signing will follow.
VanderMeer has frequently woven ecological themes into his stories.
His New York Times bestselling “Southern Reach” trilogy explores the relationship between humanity and environment, imagining a future in which nature has become destructive. It follows expeditions to the seemingly pristine natural “Area X” that winds up causing disappearances and illnesses, and remains shrouded in mystery.
The first novel of that series, “Annihilation,” along with three novels outside of the series—“Dead Astronauts,” “Borne” and “The Strange Bird”—have been adapted to TV or film.
These works touch on the effect of human control on nature and animals and the relationship between nature, humanity and technology.
His latest work, “Hummingbird Salamander,” explores biotech and themes of ecological preservation. It has also been optioned by Netflix and Michael Sugar, according to VanderMeer’s author website.
Symposium director and Loyola writing professor Marian Crotty is thrilled to welcome VanderMeer.
Crotty notes that “The Left Hand of Darkness” author Le Guin said her intention was not to predict the future but to use science fiction to describe our present reality. VanderMeer does this, too.
“When I think of contemporary science fiction writers who best achieve that goal, Jeff VanderMeer immediately comes to mind,” Crotty says in a news release. “His writing is varied, engaging and accessible, but also tackles some of the most pressing issues of our times.”
Crotty says he hopes the symposium will be an opportunity for the larger community to reflect on these topics and the role stories play in determining what seems possible.
Advanced registration is required to reserve a free spot to the in-person and virtual events. Visit loyola.edu/join-us/humanities-symposium/register, stop by the student center box office or call the box office at 410-617-5932 to register.