Of Ruin and Regeneration: Narratives of Hope and Despair

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Call for Papers
September 15, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Film and Film History, Humanities, Literature, Political Science, Social Sciences

Call for Chapters:  Of Ruin and Regeneration: Narratives of Hope and Despair

Type: Book collection

Subject Fields: Literature, film, social sciences, political sciences, visual media, rhetoric

In times of social upheaval, stories that devastate or revive, that stir inspiration or despondency are looked toward to express this turmoil. Indeed, “[w]herever there are humans there appear to be narratives” (2) states Paul Cobley in Narrative (2014). But stories are not just stories, he observes: “even the most ‘simple’ of stories is embedded in a network of relations that is sometimes astounding in its complexity” (2). In this collection, we take on this complexity. We consider the interplay between hope and despair in narratives about the self, society, and the environment. We are looking for chapters that examine the ways in which literature and other narrative mediums negotiate, examine, or explore the stories, emotions, entanglements, intricacies, and consequences of hope and despair, ruin and regeneration in relation to these three themes:

  • Experiences of the Body, Experiences of the Mind
  • Dystopian and Utopian Realms
  • Ecosystems and the Environment

We begin this collection by considering the ways in which human experiences of hope and/or despair, ruin and/or regeneration affect the human form and psyche.  Teresa Brennan’s groundbreaking The Transmission of Affect (2004), Sianne Ngai’s Ugly Feelings (2005), Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness (2010), and Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism (2011), for example, can be jumping off points to explore not only how to theorize affect itself, but how we make sense of the positive and negative emotions evoked from affective experience.

The second section widens the frame to consider hope and/or despair, ruin and/or regeneration in the form of humanity and its socio-political psyche. Studies of dystopia have been gaining traction for years (see Claerys 2016, Baccolini & Moylan 2003, Viera 2013, Marks, Wagner-Lawlor, & Vieira 2022). The idyllic utopia indicts the present, while its dysfunction, dystopia, foretells the disturbing future. Utopian narratives attempt to imagine a perfect world, but at what cost? Dystopian narratives envisage the terrifying consequences of the kind of imperfect worlds fostered by totalitarian governments, nuclear warfare, or, more recently, climate change.  

We close the collection with a focused interest in examining the intersections of hope and/or despair, ruin and/or regeneration on narratives related to the environment, climate change, and the Anthropocene. Matthew Schnieder Mayerson (2018) suggests that climate fiction causes readers to associate negative emotions with climate change, which may have a counterproductive affect in regards to environmental engagement. However, extinction studies proposes the concepts of “care” and “witnessing” as alternatives to despair in the face of mass extinction (Rose, 2021; van Dooren and Chrelew, 2022). In Staying with the Trouble (2016), Donna Haraway’s Chthlulucene is envisaged as a collaborative alternative to the bleak implications of the Anthropocene, likewise, in Plants in Contemporary Poetry (2018), John Charles Ryan discusses the idea of “vegetal hope.” Both texts generally suggest that the ruin of the old world provides space for the regeneration of the new.

Contributors may wish to draw on or consider:

  • Narratives of hope / Narratives of despair
  • Affect theory
  • Narratives of grief and sickness
  • Dystopian or utopian narratives
  • Misanthropy, philanthropy, and Schadenfreude
  • Narratives of control and resistance


  • Speculative fiction
  • Indigenous futurism
  • Afrofuturism
  • Non-human hope and/or despair
  • Narratives of psychological disintegration and/or repair
  • Climate change and extinction narratives

We aim to publish this collection with a major international publisher. Send abstracts of up to 250 words, together with a short biographical statement to: johanna.m.wagner@hiof.no, melanie.duckworth@hiof.no, and dbenjami@wustl.edu by 15 September 2022. Final chapters will be due 31 March 2023.

Contact Info: 

Professor J.M. Wagner

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