The Landscape Space Place Research Group

The Ecocidal Imagination: Confronting Climate Change in Speculative Fiction

Trent A35
Thursday 27th April 2017 (15:00-16:00)

This week's session will be led by Hollie Johnson, who will be talking to us about: ‘The Ecocidal Imagination: Confronting Climate Change in Speculative Fiction’. Hollie has kindly provided two texts as well as a short introduction with some questions to prompt your thoughts ahead of the session:

Although my thesis research focuses more specifically on dystopian fiction, this session stems from a more general discussion around the challenges that issues like global warming and the concept of the Anthropocene pose to the representational capacity of fictional literature. Overflowing the boundaries of normal human perception, global warming’s dispersal across time and space challenges humanity’s capacity to measure and understand it. ‘Like the image in a Magic Eye picture, global warming is real’, argues Timothy Morton, ‘but it involves a massive, counterintuitive perspective shift to see it’. Indeed, within literary ecocriticism, scholars have argued that the material crisis of climate upheaval has in turn provoked a crisis of representation. Like the Magic Eye picture, climate change challenges the author to look differently, to find new strategies that challenge the traditional forms, style, and capacity of the novel. Consequently the question of literature’s ability to represent, mediate, and challenge climate change has become a much-debated topic.

  • Timothy Morton, 'A Quake in Being: An Introduction to Hyperobjects', in Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (2013), pp. 1-24
  • Adam Trexler, 'Place: Deluge, Floods, and Absence', in Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change (2015), pp. 75-118

The two texts I have shared with the group serve as an introduction to these issues, but stem from two different areas. The first is a chapter from ‘Anthropocene Fictions’ by Adam Trexler, appropriately titled ‘Place’. It looks at how authors have attempted to represent global warming through specific and localised disaster scenarios, exploring the relationships between people and place in the context of climate change. The second is the introduction from Timothy Morton’s ‘Hyperobjects’. Morton introduces the concept of global warming as a ‘hyperobject’ and explores the ways in which it manifests itself across time and space. Morton’s exploration of the ways in which humanity experiences and communicates global warming complicates and challenges the representations which Trexler introduces in his chapter. Consequently, questions that we could discuss include:

  • How can we represent climate change in narrative?
  • What are the advantages and limitations of using disaster and apocalyptic scenarios to represent climate change?
  • How does climate change manifest itself in the physical landscape? How do we experience climate change?
  • What is the importance of place in climate change fiction?
  • What difficulties might be encountered in perceiving and communicating the reality of climate change?

We look forward to seeing many of you there next week!

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