Cosetta Veronese:  ARE ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANISTS ALL TOO HUMAN?

Cosetta Veronese: ARE ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANISTS ALL TOO HUMAN?

Cosetta Veronese, July 2017 As a researcher in English and Italian literature, who, for many years, has delved into the work and reception of Giacomo Leopardi, one of Italy’s greatest poets and thinkers, I am a newcomer to environmental issues. As a matter of fact, it was Leopardi’s relentless critique of anthropocentrism along with his relativistic and sceptical stance, which first elicited my interest in enviromental issues, and brought me closer to that area of the Environmental Humanities, which is known as “Animal Studies”. I believe it happened because, since my years as an undergraduate and an avid reader of poetry, I have always been haunted by one question: where does the power of language end? Because it does have an end. An end which swallows logic, grammar and linear semantics. There is a space, that of emotions and feelings, far greater than language. To me this is the paradox of poetry: poetry works by eventually abdicating its power, it accompanies you to the threshold of inexpressibility: as you take the final step, words become powerless, and communication begins to mean something other than words. The same happens with animals. A recent project has prompted me to research into the meaning and possibility of accessing non-human – i.e. animal – cognition and language. Some of the relevant questions I have asked myself include the following: can humans presume to know how non-human animals think and feel? How does communication between human- and non-human animals occur? Is it possible for humans to conceive forms of linguistic communication, which are non-linear and non-logic, in the same way as they have conceived...