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Fall 2014 Interdisciplinary Conference

Nature, according to  the critic Raymond Williams, is quite possibly “the most difficult word in the English language.” The genealogy of nature’s complexities—semantic, philological, epistemological, ontological—are the subject of this two-day conference that seeks to bring into dialogue historians of science, philosophy, art, and literature. How did early writers and artists and other thinkers know and encounter nature? What practices made nature legible? What ethics were thought to arise out of the environment? By what metaphors and strategies did pre-modern people represent the sensible world of matter? This event considers a wide variety of cultural productions in the medieval and early modern periods, seeking to rethink the relation between fields of knowledge and to bridge the widening gap between the humanities and the sciences in our own universities.

Featuring Stephen Campbell (Johns Hopkins University), Jeffrey Cohen (George Washington University), Drew Daniel (Johns Hopkins University), Alan Mikhail (Yale University), David Norbrook (Merton College, Oxford), Joanna Picciotto (UC, Berkeley), Michael Sappol (National Library of Medicine), David Carroll Simon (University of Chicago), Michael Witmore (Folger Shakespeare Library), and Jessica Wolfe (UNC, Chapel Hill).



We gratefully acknowledge our University of Maryland sponsors: the Graduate School, the College of Arts & Humanities Center for Synergy, the English Department's Center for Literary and Comparative Studies, the History Department's Miller Center for History Studies, the Graduate Student Government, the Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Studies, the Center for Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Council on the Environment, MITH, the Department of Philosophy, and the Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture. We would also like to recognize the support of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

The conference organizers are Kellie Robertson, Gerard Passannante, Chris Maffuccio, Rob Wakeman, Jeffrey Griswold, Jonathan P. Allen, and Maggie Ellen Ray.


Knowing Nature is free and open to the public. Please REGISTER so that we may establish temporary access to wireless networks for campus guests, make accurate catering arrangements, and set up facilities to accommodate the group.

Thanks for your interest, and please send inquiries to


Directions to Tawes Hall, University of Maryland, College Park:


On Friday from 8:00am until 4:00pm, please park in metered spaces available in the Union Lane Garage adjacent to the Stamp Student Union, in the Stadium Drive Garage adjacent to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, or in the Mowatt Lane Garage. All have digital pay stations in place.

On Friday after 4:00pm and all day on Saturday, free parking is available in the surface lot behind the building in Lots 1, JJ, and Z.

Information about parking on campus is available here, and a parking map is available here.