Presenter: Carolyn Shapiro

Title: Nature as Neighbour: Landscape’s Relation to the Human in Studio Ghibli Films

Abstract:  As a counterpoint to the Western notion of the Sublime, which represents Nature as a force that we, as humans, face only to be overwhelmed by its encompassing Oneness, the films produced by Studio Ghibli signify nature as a friendly neighbor. This Japanese relationality between nature and the human is illustrated lushly and with virtuosity in films such as *My Neighbor Totoro*, tapping into a rich and long-established system of aesthetics regarding landscape that is decidedly different from that put forth by Western metaphysical philosophy. Thematizing the interactive relation between nature and human beings can also be comprehended on a semiotic level in the sense that meaning takes place in the relationality itself between signifiers within any given system. This paper will explore the proposition that Studio Ghibli films foreground, through narrative techniques, a larger, more abstract philosophical investigation into relationality itself, whereas the Western Sublime seems to actively resist signification. The relationality put forth by Studio Ghibli films, characterized as “neighborliness,” offers an alternative model of human existence in relation to nature to that of Western philosophical assumptions.