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Covert Plants: Vegetal Consciousness and Agency in an Anthropocentric World

eds. Prudence Gibson and Baylee Brits

Published onNov 08, 2021
Covert Plants: Vegetal Consciousness and Agency in an Anthropocentric World

Covert Plants: Vegetal Consciousness and Agency in an Anthropocentric World

Edited by Prudence Gibson and Baylee Brits

Imprint: Brainstorm Books

  • ISBN: 978-1-947447-69-1

  • Paperback, 5×8 in., B/W, 266pp.

  • Publication date: September 11, 2018

  • Price: $22

  • BISAC: NAT026000, NAT045000

  • Thema: PST, RNA

  • Categories: Environmental Studies, Plant Studies

Covert Plants contributes to newly emerging discourses on the implications of vegetal life for the arts and culture. This stretches to changes in our perception of ‘nature’ and to the adapting roles of botany, evolutionary ecology, and environmental aesthetics in the humanities. Its editors and contributors seek various expressions of vegetal life rather than the mere representation of such, and they proceed from the conviction that a rigorous approach to thinking with and through vegetal life must be interdisciplinary. At a time when urgent calls for restorative care and reparative action have been sounded for the environment, this essay volume presents a range of academic and creative perspectives, from evolutionary biology to literary theory, philosophy to poetry, which respond to the perplexing problems and paradoxes of vegetal thinking.

Representations of vegetal life often include plant analogies and plant imagery. These representations have at times obscured the diversity of plant behavior and experience. Covert Plants probes the implications of vegetal life for thought and how new plant science is changing our perception of the vegetal — around us and in us. How can we think, speak, and write about plant life without falling into human–nature dyads, or without tumbling into reductive theoretical notions about the always complex relations between cognition and action, identity and value, subject and object?

A full view of this shifting perspective requires a ‘stereoscopic’ lens through which to view plants, but also simultaneously to alter our human-centered viewpoint. Plants are no longer the passive object of contemplation, but are increasingly resembling ‘subjects,’ ‘stakeholders,’ or ‘actors.’ As such, the plant now makes unprecedented demands upon the nature of contemplation itself. Moreover, the aesthetic, political, and legal implications of new knowledge regarding plants’ ability to communicate, sense, and learn require intensive, cross-disciplinary investigation. By doing this, we can intervene into current attitudes to climate change and sustainability, and hopefully revise, for the better, human philosophies, ethics, and aesthetics that touch upon plant life.

Prudence Gibson is Post-Doctoral Fellow at University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. She is author of The Rapture of Death (Boccalatte, 2010), and has published over 300 essays. Her 2015 monograph Janet Laurence: The Pharmacy of Plants was published by New South Publishing. She co-edited Aesthetics After Finitude (, 2016). Her monograph The Plant Contract, which addresses plant studies and art, will be published in January 2018 with Brill Rodopi.

Baylee Brits is adjunct researcher at University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. She was co-editor, with Gibson, of the anthology Aesthetics After Finitude (, 2016). Her monograph, Literary Infinities: Number and Narrative in Modern Fiction, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic. Her research investigates the reciprocal influences between scientific and artistic experimentation, focusing on literary modernism and the mathematical concept of the transfinite. She has published in Textual Practice, Reconstruction, The Parish Review, Parrhesia, and in several book anthologies.

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