A defence of storytelling: John Burnside’s Ashland & Vine and the visual arts

There are often references to the visual arts in John Burnside’s novels. In The Locust Room (2001) the photography of Raymond Moore stands for the kind of vision that the main character tries to achieve. In A Summer of Drowning (2011), the focus shifts to painting. The main character’s mother is a famous painter andContinue reading “A defence of storytelling: John Burnside’s Ashland & Vine and the visual arts”

Talk on climate crisis narratives (OSL Ravenstein seminar on ecocriticism)

In January 2017 I gave a talk for the OSL Ravenstein Seminar on ecocriticism. It was based on a chapter in my forthcoming book, Climate Crisis and the Twenty-First-Century British Novel, about climate crisis narratives. I talked about the ways in which a sense of immediacy is created in Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell) and TheContinue reading “Talk on climate crisis narratives (OSL Ravenstein seminar on ecocriticism)”

On the absence of climate fiction in Dutch literature

For a long time I barely read Dutch literature. As a scholar of British literature, I read plenty of British novels, a bunch of American ones and books from other countries written in English. Occasionally I also read books in German. I started to see parallels between American and British climate fiction on the oneContinue reading “On the absence of climate fiction in Dutch literature”

Narrating crisis: the stories we tell about floods

I have recently become fascinated by flood narratives. Part of that, perhaps, has to do with growing up on a (former) island on which the memory of the 1953 North Sea flood is still very much alive. It also has to do with contemporary circumstances, especially how floods are presented as a consequence of environmentalContinue reading “Narrating crisis: the stories we tell about floods”

The books I read in 2015

I read a lot. I can relate to what Zadie Smith says in her piece on being addicted to reading: Can I really not manage a brief subway ride without textual support? Is that normal? Are there other people who, when watching a documentary set in a prison, secretly think, as I have, Wish IContinue reading “The books I read in 2015”

“Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain” – Christmas songs in the Anthropocene

Listening to yet another Christmas song last week, I wondered about the mismatch between the weather we sing about – snow – and that which we experience: unusually warm temperatures and rain, at least this year. I assumed that the songs had fit in better at one time with Christmas weather. “Jingle Bells” was writtenContinue reading ““Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain” – Christmas songs in the Anthropocene”

Announcing Climate Crisis and the 21st-century British Novel

I’m fascinated by how we talk about nature and how we imagine it. Contemporary stories about nature are the topic of my new book, Climate Crisis and the 21st-century British Novel. The way we think about nature goes beyond new nature writing or documentaries of the kind that became popular after Al Gore’s An InconvenientContinue reading “Announcing Climate Crisis and the 21st-century British Novel”

Seeing the Human in Nature in New British Nature Writing

In my previous post, I wrote about form as an important part of new nature writing. I discussed how authors use experimental form to redefine nature – what I think is a defining feature of the genre. At the end of the post, I started to look at Olivia Laing’s To the River and CharlesContinue reading “Seeing the Human in Nature in New British Nature Writing”

Finding a Shape to Write About Nature

New nature writing is surprisingly hotly debated. In the New Statesman recently, Mark Cocker and Robert Macfarlane debated the genre, and especially Cocker’s claim that it was too “tame”. This kind of debate is interesting to me, because it says a lot about how people whom we call new nature writers define the genre. I’llContinue reading “Finding a Shape to Write About Nature”

Paper: Knowing Genre, Knowing Nature. Econarratology, Genre and Climate Fiction

In September 2015 I presented a paper on ecocriticism and narratology at the ASLE-UKI Conference (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment – UK and Ireland) in Cambridge. Genre is key to the stories we tell about nature – it shapes the form these stories takes and how we interpret them. The paper providesContinue reading “Paper: Knowing Genre, Knowing Nature. Econarratology, Genre and Climate Fiction”