Sea Monsters: Things from the Sea, Volume 2

Beaches are places that give and take, bringing unexpected surprises to society, and pulling essentials away from it. Through monsters, we confront our tiny time between catastrophes and develop a recognition of Otherness by which an ethical understanding of difference becomes possible. Learning to read the monster’s environmental signs often helps humans determine the scope of the monster’s place in the eco/cosmic timeline and defeat it—until the epic cycle inevitably repeats; monsters live and live and live. Even so; when humans identify and confront monsters we do so at the risk of exposing our own monstrosity. When a massive creature is pushed into human proximity by the ocean’s wide shoulders, the waves deposit and erode human assumptions about itself and its environment; words, sounds, breath, water, wind, flesh, blood, and bones wash in and out. Chance encounters reveal us to ourselves anew. When we look into the inky backs of whales, or deep into vortices, what do we see?

In October 2014, the BABEL Working Group headed to the beach. The 3rd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group was held at The University of California, Santa Barbara, where the Pacific Ocean laid her face against the sand and experienced the conference panels exploring, examining, and exalting the margins of sea and shore, of earth and water. This volume of essays represents MEARCSTAPA’s panel, entitled, “The Nature of the Beast/Beasts of Nature: Monstrous Environments.” These essays explore what the environment reveals via monster theory, what monsters—here, whales and whirlpools—make visible or accessible to humanity and what they draw away from it.

Things from the Sea is a queer companion to Walk on the Beach, which emerged from another session at the same conference.

TABLE OF CONTENTS //

Introduction: Lines in the Sand
Thea Tomaini

Ocean is the New East
Alan Montroso

Interlude I: Great Fishes and Monstrous Men (Shoreline)
Megan E. Palmer

On the Backs of Whales
Haylie Swenson

Interlude II: Great Fishes and Monstrous Men (Undertow)
Megan E. Palmer

Quickening Sands
Erin Vander Wall

Interlude III: Great Fishes and Monstrous Men (Tide Line)
Megan E. Palmer

Conclusion: Sink or Plunge?
Asa Simon Mittman

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