"Literature and Environment" / Nube. Nuova biblioteca europea. Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the University of Verona
Literature has always dealt with representations of the environment and of landscapes. But when it comes to climate change, what is the role literary studies can play nowadays, in a debate dominated by natural sciences? In the literary productions of recent decades this topic has been repeatedly proposed by re-interpreting the natural images, figures and symbols that were already part of the European scenario along new lines. Classical mythologies are re-visited or recovered according to contemporary taste, resulting into the creation of new Eden-like and/or holistic myths, new shapes and metamorphoses. The relationship between the human and animal/plant life, be it self-aware or not, is questioned, and the same goes for the new hybridisations generated by interspecies and multispecies co-existence and co-presence and by any kind of relationship with the non-human.
On the one hand, forms of representation recover realism in their description of the landscape; on the other, one can notice a rediscovery of the utopian/dystopian vein directly related to nature. The concept of space is re-signified: rural and urban dimensions, countryside, wild places, virgin and anthropised nature, abandoned and wasted places, non-places, alienated and alien landscapes etc. All these spatial varieties characterise a considerable part of contemporary literature. Visions of time, be they far-away futures or parallel present dimensions, are turned into themes for the environmental crisis and climate change. Literature champions ecological conscience and makes explicit some of the issues that society is reflecting upon, from eco-anxiety to solastalgia, from eco-political transformations to the management of surplus, from the colonial roots of environmental deterioration to environmental migrations and dislocations.
The diversity of literary genres which have been approaching eco-literature and eco-criticism is evidence of the suppleness of this subject: the environment is narrated by novels and short stories, staged by theatre plays, meditated on in the language of poetry, drawn by graphic texts. Further originality is added by the cross-cutting nature of this theme, that is present also in children and young adult literature.
If, as stated by Amitav Ghosh in his The Great Derangement (2016), the environmental crisis is a crisis of our culture and of our imagination, can we figure out alternatives to our fossil world? Is literature still capable of looking for solutions and overcome our crisis? The monographic section of issue no. 4 of NuBE (to be published in December 2023) aims at answering these questions by mapping the European literary productions that have recently faced environmental matters. The climate change the Old Continent is living through is causing transformations that affect also ways of representing, narrating and describing nature in all literary genres: recording these changes with the tools of literary criticism may help comprehend literary and extra-literary phenomena concerning our world.
While proposing this frame for studying the environment in contemporary European literatures, we suggest the following starting points for reflection:
- Representations of environment and landscape
- Myths, mythologies and utopias of nature
- Animal and plant otherness
- Environmental crisis and climate change
- Ecocriticism in children and young adult literature.
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Redaktion: Constanze Baum – Lukas Büsse – Mark-Georg Dehrmann – Nils Gelker – Markus Malo – Alexander Nebrig – Johannes Schmidt
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