During the 2019 ASLE Biennial Conference in June, ASLE recognized four leading scholars in the environmental humanities by awarding them with honorary membership status in our association. Recipients were chosen for this honor because of their contributions to ASLE and/or literature and environmental studies. They have significantly enriched those familiar with their work, and their lifetime memberships are a small but sincere token of ASLE’s gratitude to them. The recipients are Michael Branch, Camille Dungy, Ursula Heise and Mark Long.
Mike Branch is Professor of Literature and Environment and University Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and co-founder and past president of ASLE. He also served for sixteen years as the Book Review Editor of our journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, and is a co-founder and series co-editor of the University of Virginia Press book series Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism. He is the recipient of Ellen Meloy Desert Writers Award, the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Silver Pen Award, the Western Literature Association Frederick Manfred Award for Creative Writing, and the Willa Pilla Award for Humor Writing. Most of his more recent writing has been focused on using humor to convey environmental themes. He has four recent books: Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness (2016), Rants from the Hill: On Packrats, Bobcats, Wildfires, Curmudgeons, a Drunken Mary Kay Lady, and Other Encounters with the Wild in the High Desert (2017), and ‘The Best Read Naturalist’: Nature Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (co-edited with Clinton Mohs, 2017), and How to Cuss in Western (2018).
Camille T. Dungy is a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University, and the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade (2017). Her debut collection of personal essays is Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys Into Race, Motherhood, and History (2017). Dungy edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009), and co-edited the From the Fishouse poetry anthology (2009). This year she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship; other honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, a California Book Award silver medal, two NAACP Image Award nominations, fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in both prose and poetry.
Ursula Heise is the Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies at the Department of English and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and former President of ASLE. Her research and teaching focus on contemporary literature and the environmental humanities; environmental literature, arts, and cultures in the Americas, Western Europe, and Japan; literature and science; science fiction; and narrative theory. Her books include Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative, and Postmodernism (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (University of Chicago Press, 2016), which won the 2017 book prize of the British Society for Literature and Science. She is editor of the series Natures, Cultures, and the Environment with Palgrave, and co-editor of the series Literature and Contemporary Thought with Routledge. She is co-editor of the Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities (Routledge, 2017) and Managing Editor of Futures of Comparative Literature: The ACLA Report on the State of the Discipline (Routledge, 2017). She is also a co-founder of UCLA’s Lab for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) and producer and writer of the documentary Urban Ark Los Angeles.
Mark C. Long is Professor of English at Keene State College, where he teaches courses in American literary and cultural studies, poetry and poetics, the environmental humanities, writing and the teaching of writing, and literary criticism and theory. He has edited the MLA volumes Teaching North American Environmental Literature (2008) and Approaches to Teaching the Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, (2018). Mark helped to found the Environmental Literature Institute for secondary teachers, which has run for the past four summers at Phillips Exeter Academy, and has served ASLE in many capacities (see below) since 2002. He has dedicated himself to pedagogy and mentoring in his career and in his service to ASLE; read more about current and past projects at his website, The Far Field.
Members of the current ASLE leadership gave tribute to the honorees in a short ceremony on stage prior to Ursula Heise’s plenary talk at the conference.
Lauren LaFauci (International Co-liaison) shared these thoughts about Mike Branch:
Many of you know Michael Branch and so you know how difficult it is to confine him to the space of any introduction—let alone an introduction to granting him an honorary membership in the organization he co-founded and a field he helped define. His intellect is formidable, and his talents enviably numerous. I could list his accomplishments; they are many, including nine books and many, many awards. (You can read about these on his website http://michaelbranchwriter.com/.) Instead, I’ll note that if you’ve ever felt welcomed at ASLE—if you’ve felt like your ideas mattered, your voice mattered, and your contributions to this community mattered, Mike created that. Mike is funny, whipsmart, and kind. He’s a generous mentor, a fierce ally, and a dedicated activist. A heartbreaking and hilarious writer of creative nonfiction, a beautiful and rigorous scholar of early America, a gifted editor and anthologist. A desert rat, a Virginia squire, a dog companion, a San Francisco Giants fan, a whisky aficionado, and a mean blues harp player with the Mongrel Dogs Who Teach. Thank you, Mike, for co-creating ASLE and continuing to co-create this field and community, and for being a friend and teacher to so many of us.
Elizabeth Dodd (Mentoring Co-coordinator) shared these thoughts about Camille Dungy:
“It’s all personal if you’re alive and trying to walk out into the world. It’s also political.” In these two sentences from a recent interview, Camille Dungy sums up the ethos of her literary projects—her poems, essays, and editing work. Throughout the last fifteen years, Dungy has enriched American literature through her broad cultural, historical, cultural, and environmental knowledge; her lyric precision; her unflinching attention to racial and gendered injustices; and her great, generous spirit. Author of four wise and beautiful collections of poetry, editor of two essential anthologies, and most recently author of a searching and insightful essay collection, Guidebook to Relative Strangers, Dungy is the recipient of numerous accolades and awards. These include: The American Book Award, Fellowships from the NEA and the Sustainable Arts Foundation; and just this year a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation; and many, many more. Dungy—Camille—is a beloved in the ASLE community for her invaluable work.
Heather Sullivan (Professional Liaison Coordinator) honored Ursula Heise with these words:
It is my great pleasure to introduce Ursula Heise as one of our new ASLE honorary members. How can one summarize the impact of Ursula’s work on ecocriticism broadly and on so many of us scholars individually in that her contributions are all, in short, game-changers? I especially want to note Ursula’s leadership as former President of ASLE, her extensive editorial work, her books that each reset the entire range of theoretical options for ecocriticism, and her fabulous talks on, well, extinction that were actually quite funny—who else could give such steady, grounded, and even occasionally humorous readings of red lists of endangered species? Her 2016 Imagining Extinction offers us the focus on “multi-species justice” instead of despair, and her equally groundbreaking 2008 Sense of Place, Sense of Planet provides a much-needed model for a planetary perspective that is NOT globalization. Her writing is a breath of responsible reason in an age of so much irresponsible un-reason. But in addition to Ursula’s repeated transformations and expansions of the environmental humanities, I’d also like to note her seemingly boundless support of so many people individually. I have met few other scholars of her international renown who dedicate so much time and energy to encouraging and cultivating other scholars. On a personal note, it was through meeting Ursula that I myself discovered ecocriticism, which is a funny story for another time that includes bird conversations and Andy Warhol. I know I am speaking for so many of us when I say thank you, Ursula, for all of your contributions.
Erin James (Mentoring Co-coordinator) had this to say about Mark Long:
Some of us are familiar with Mark Long as a formidable scholar of environmental pedagogy via such volumes as Teaching North American Environmental Literature and Approaches to Teaching the Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and his work with the Environmental Learning Institute. And some of us know Mark via the many roles he has served within ASLE, including Executive Council member in 2002-2004; Vice-President, President, and Immediate Past President in 2013-2015; and current member of the Digital Strategies Committee and Open Educational Resources subcommittee. Today we especially honor Mark’s commitment to mentorship and educational outreach. He served as the Mentoring Program Coordinator from 2001-2015, during which he matched graduate students and junior scholars with more senior ASLE members for mentoring in teaching, scholarship, and the job market, among other topics. Mark also continues to organize support for more seasoned members of ASLE via the “Staying Alive” project.