Rewilding the Unconscious

Environmental Writing

May 6-8, 2022 – THIS WEEKEND WILL BE HELD IN PERSON AT A FACILITY IN THE                                               WASHINGTON, DC, AREA.

Wilderness is an antidote to the war within ourselves.
-Terry Tempest Williams

Environmental writing is a vast and varied literary genre. In earlier times “nature writing” treated landscape as a romantic backdrop or a source of inspiration for our human contemplations, adventures, and exploration. Today environmental writing is an evolving, diverse, and psychologically complex genre that reflects our concerns with conservation and preservation and asks how, in this time of turmoil, should we live fully and ethically in the world so enormously impacted by our human needs and desires.

How do we find our voice without losing heart when writing about the natural world under siege? Perceiving humans as separate and sovereign over “nature,” and the natural world as a mere commodity
for our exploitation, is a major contributing force behind the environmental crises we are facing. As writers and psychoanalytic thinkers, we are in a position to help individuals reconnect to the natural world and become aware of our intrinsic interdependence with the totality of our environment. As we harness this awareness, we are in a position to re-engage with the wildness in ourselves and our imaginations. Rewilding requires seeing ourselves as intrinsically connected to, and effected by, every other aspect of our ecosystems.  It is an idea fundamentally consistent with relational psychoanalytic
thought. 

Throughout this weekend we will explore the psychological defenses that contribute to the dualistic, and ultimately self-destructive way we have historically related to the environment, and the impact such thinking has on the world. We will consider how writing and psychoanalytic ideas might help us address these defenses and other human qualities that have contributed to the erosion of our earth’s ecosystems. Furthermore, we will explore what it would mean to rewild our minds, our lives, and our world, and to expand a sense of self to include the totality of our experience on this fragile and beautiful planet.

Coordinators: Delia Kostner, Ph.D, and Rachel Jadkowski, Psy.D 

Megan Mayhew Bergman, MFA is the Director of Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference. She also teaches literature and environmental writing at Middlebury College. She is a journalist, essayist, and critic. She has written columns on climate change and the natural world for The Guardian and The Paris Review.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Tin House, Ploughshares, Oxford American, Orion, and elsewhere.  Her short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2011 and 2015, and on NPR’s Selected Shorts.  She was awarded the Phil Reed Environmental Writing Award for Journalism in 2020. Megan is the author of two short story collections, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, andAlmost Famous Women. Her novel, Indigo Run, is forthcoming with Scribner.; She received her MFA from Bennington College, where she has also served as the Associate Director of the MFA program and Director of the Robert Frost Stone House Museum.  Her work has been optioned for film and translated into several languages. She’s collaborated with choreographer Annie Wang, traveled to Northern Kenya’s conflict zone with The BOMA Project, and can often be found on the coast of Georgia supporting her friends at conservation non-profit One Hundred Miles. Her photography has appeared in The Guardian and Wall Street Journal. Megan is currently a Senior Fellow at the Conservation Law Foundation

Susan Bodnar, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with training in psychoanalysis and medical psychology. Her bio-psycho-social orientation has led her to pay close attention to the role of ecosystems as well as familial, peer and cultural systems in the development of the person.  She has worked in hospital, community and private practice settings with the goal of building a better world one person at a time. Within that frame she has published a number of academic and lay publications.  She is an associate editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues, on the editorial board of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and a reader  for Ecopsychology. Susan teaches graduate clinical psychology students at Teacher’s College, Columbia University and at the City College Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.  As a gardener, and a fan of rural mountainous spaces, she is always aware of the greater natural frames in which our social milieus are embedded. 

Ira Brenner, MD is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and Training and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, where he is Director Emeritus of the Adult Psychotherapy Training Program. He has a special interest in the area of psychological trauma and chairs the Holocaust Discussion Group and co-chairs the Dissociative Disorders Discussion Group at the meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association. He has authored over 100 publications, co-edited three special issues of The International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, and has published six books: the latest of which include Injured Men-Trauma, Healing, and the Masculine Self (2009), Dark Matters- Exploring the Realm of Psychic Devastation (2014), and The Handbook of Psychoanalytic Holocaust Studies- International Perspectives(2020). Dr. Brenner has received a numerous awards, including the Gratz Research Prize for his work on the Holocaust, the Piaget Writing Award, the Gradiva Award, the Bruno Lima Award for his work in Disaster Psychiatry (2002), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (2019), and the Hayman Award for Holocaust Studies from the IPA (2017). He also serves as Behavioral Consultant to the San Diego Zoo. He has a private practice of adult and child analysis, in the greater Philadelphia area.

J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D is an Alumni Distinguished Professor and Master Teacher of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University. He is a cultural and conservation ornithologist whose work addresses the confluence of race, place and nature. Drew is the Poet Laureate of Edgefield County, SC and the author of Sparrow Envy – Poems (Holocene 2016, Hub City 2018), Sparrow Envy – A Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts (Hub City 2021) and The Home Place – Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Milkweed 2016/Tantor Audio 2018), winner of the Reed Environmental Writing Award (Southern Environmental Law Center), the Southern Book Prize and a 2017 finalist for the Burroughs Medal. The Home Place was most recently named memoir and scholary book of the decade (Lithub and Chronicle of Higher Education, respectively). Drew’s creative work and opinion appears in Orion, Vanity Fair, Oxford American, High Country News, Bitter Southerner, Terrain, Places Journal, Literary Hub, Newsweek,Slate, NPR, Story Corps, Threshold Podcast, Audubon, Sierra Magazine,This isLove Podcast and The New York Times, among others. He is a Contributing Editor for Orion Magazine, a lifelong bird watcher and hunter – conservationist living in Seneca, SC.