Thursday, Oct 1 | 1:10-2:15 pm


The Music of the Spheres Trees: How Nature Inspires Music

Ariana Hurt

How does art relate to the environment? One particular and obvious relationship between these two aspects of life is works which hold themes of nature as their subject matter. Programmatic symphonies and tone poems, for instance. This supports the rather plain conclusion that nature is a force which inspires art. Moreover, nature can inspire art in a rather obvious way, as in Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux, where the whole work is clearly about an aspect of nature; or in a very subtle way, as in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, where the influence is present simply as pastoral connotations. What is suggested by this difference? Does it imply that the inspiration came to these composers on a different level, or did they connect with nature to the same degree and simply use the inspiration in different ways to fuel their creativity? 

This paper seeks to uncover the process of inspiration from nature to music. What is it in the essence of nature that fits so well with this most abstract art form? Is there a certain way in which Beauty filters from nature to music? Were Messiaen and Beethoven inspired in different ways? Is the process of inspiration different for composers and performers? The beginnings of the answers to these questions lie in a survey of how Beauty subsists in both music and nature, and how both incidents of Beauty filter through the human soul.


Ariana Hurt is a student at Trinity Western University, currently in her final year of the Bachelor of Arts in Music program, in the piano performance stream. In addition to a love of performance, Ariana is also deeply interested in musical thought. She is particularly curious as to how music works on a philosophical and theological level.

Back to Schedule

An Aesthetic of Indulgence: Environmental Illness and Politics of Consumption in Infinite Jest

Aveline Bouwman

In his encyclopedic novel Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace explores the social, political, and environmental realities of a near-future dystopic North-America. Published in 1996, the novel paints a grim picture of a future poisoned by rampant environmental pollution, epidemic drug abuse, and enslaving television entertainment. Its central characters are psychologically, physically, and morally embattled by a climate of hyper-consumption, ecological toxicity, and alienation from self and others. This essay evaluates Infinite Jest from an ecocritical perspective, and will contend that Wallace through the fictional medium establishes a relation between environmental manipulation and contamination, and toxic self-indulgence. Wallace situates Infinite Jest in the ecocritical discourse by employing an aesthetic of indulgence in the alienated psyches of his characters, and stylistic extravagance. Almost all members of the novel’s extensive cast experience a deep sense of alienation to self and detachment to others, and indulge in stimulants in the form of recreational drugs or visual entertainment as a means to further retreat into themselves. Assaulted by environmental illness and a consumer-corporate state, Infinite Jest’s solipsistic characters are detached from the self and desensitized to the other. Wallace’s depiction of the psychological climate offers a critique of the universal self-absorption, self-involvement, and self-indulgence characteristic of the ecopolitical situation of the novel.  I also intend to argue that through its multi-vocal narration, atypical syntax, grammatical metafiction, non-linear diegesis, and extensive endnotes, Wallace’s novel manifests a multi-layered “anti-narrative flow” that draws the reader into an intense immersion with the novel. Infinite Jest’s central artifact is an art film by the same title that was created by the filmmaker with the intention of drawing his son out of his detachment. This is a symbol for Wallace’s project: Infinite Jest must draw the reader out of his detached treatment of the novel as artifact and into relation with the aesthetic of indulgence. 


Aveline Hilda Bouwman is a philosophy major at Trinity Western University. Her goals for the future include obtaining her B.A. (Hons.) in philosophy, to afterwards pursue further studies in philosophy. Within her field, she harbours a special interest for pre-Socratic aesthetic principles and twentieth century ecocritical theory. Aveline Hilda has formerly presented conference papers at the Trinity Western English Student Society symposium and Rice University English graduate conference, and has been published in [spaces] literary journal. She enjoys postmodern literature, creative writing, and taking walks in the sunshine. 

Back to Schedule