On Jan. 30, the University of Montevallo’s Environmental Studies program will host a discussion exploring the decaying ruins of various American Zombiescapes displayed in the latest book by Associate Professor of English Lee Rozelle.
The book “Zombiescapes and Phantom Zones: Ecocriticism and the Liminal from ‘Invisible Man’ to the ‘Walking Dead’” was recently released through University of Alabama press.
In it, Rozelle examines post-World War II literary landscapes ravaged and desecrated by various disasters. While these tarnished terrains appear permanently unlivable, Rozelle looks past the ruin and rubble to imagine how these areas may one day rebuild and flourish again.
Though an English professor in the classroom, Rozelle has always maintained a sharp interest in biology and ecology as well. In college, he found a home for this duel fascination in the burgeoning ecocriticism literary movement.
While rooted in traditional literary criticism, an ecocritic examines large-scale ecological issues, like pollution or endangered species, through the lens of literature. By utilizing this interdisciplinary approach, the barriers between the humanities and hard sciences are blurred, allowing for more shared discussion.
In addition to planting green ideas into his writing, Rozelle also holds a large influence on the University’s expanding environmental studies program. He, along with Associate Professor of Biology Jill Wicknick, helped organize numerous University environmental projects into a minor. Through their work, the University now offers a full degree program in the subject under the leadership of Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Susan Caplow.
According to Rozelle, this natural interest in eco-friendly studies is deeply rooted in the culture of UM, which makes approaching topics like ecocriticism simpler. “I think it’s easier for a Montevallo student to see the connections than a curriculum that’s more stodgy about how disciplines work,” said Rozelle. “Environmental studies and environmentalism is a natural expression of the University of Montevallo campus.”
For Rozelle, an interdisciplinary education in environmental thought can help someone become a better critical thinker and a more informed individual.
“People need to have basic information before they can make decisions about environmental issues. If you get your environmental education from soundbites and news broadcasts, then you’re off half-cocked whether you’re wearing tie-dye or saying climate science is a hoax,” said Rozelle. “At least obtain basic knowledge on these issues, and then decide whether they’re important or not. We want to give them the opportunity to do that.”
The American Zombiescape discussion will begin in Carmichael Library’s J.A. Brown Room at 3:30 p.m. with refreshments provided by Eclipse Coffee and Books.