Disrupted narratives: Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army as climate crisis flood novel

In May 2018 I attended an international symposium on the work of Sarah Hall in Leuven. The paper I presented is part of my new project on flood fictions. As I wrote before, by flood fictions I refer to twenty-first-century works in which flood is imagined as one of the key effects of climate crisis. Floods also have symbolic value in these works, referring often to the socio-economic collapses that have taken place in the future. At the same time, floods seep into the novels, breaking up the narrative and leading to fragmentation and language erosion.

the carhullan armyIn the paper, I defined the genre in a bit more detail, placing it in wider cultural context in which flood is a recurring feature in environmental discourse and disaster films. I discussed how floods are depicted in The Carhullan Army and how this relates to the societal and political collapse that has taken place. I also talked about the importance of books to the novel’s main character, Sister, and how this is echoed in other flood fictions. Books provide a link between the novels’ first readers and their characters, but also suggest that stories, storytelling and the novel as genre are somehow particularly important in a time of climate crisis.

In the final part of the paper, I focus on the fragmented nature of The Carhullan Army, which consists of a series of records, becoming increasingly incomplete towards the end. I place this fragmentation in the context of other flood novels – especially Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From.

The full text of the paper, including the sources I used, is available here.

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