Imagining Climate Change: Fiction, Memory, and the Anthropocene
This FWO-funded research project (2016-2020) explores how imaginative literature has responded to the representational and existential challenges thrown up by climate change. It combines theoretical argument with case studies of Anglophone literary texts exemplifying major trends in climate fiction or “cli-fi,” particularly to do with issues of memory. It consists of three interrelated strands. Focusing on the popular device of a historian, geologist, or archivist looking back from a climate-changed future world, the first strand examines how, why, and to what effect cli-fi remembers the reader’s present from the perspective of the future. The second strand historicizes cli-fi – which is typically discussed in isolation, as if it were a wholly new and unprecedented kind of literature – by connecting it to literary responses to earlier crises that radically altered humanity’s relationship to the past, present, and future: the discovery of geological time in the early nineteenth century and the Cold War threat of nuclear annihilation. The third strand investigates to what extent cli-fi remembers different degrees of responsibility for climate change and its differential impacts on richer and poorer countries, which the developing Anthropocene narrative risks forgetting. The project’s overall aim is to contribute to the humanistic endeavour to help incorporate the far-reaching consequences of climate change into human experience and thereby to assist us in confronting them more effectively.
Transcultural Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Literature
This FWO-funded postdoctoral research project (2009-2012) examines how, why, and to what effect the memory of the Holocaust is invoked, mobilized, and represented in literary texts that connect the Nazi genocide of the European Jews with other exceptionally destructive, criminal, and catastrophic histories, such as slavery, colonial oppression, and other genocides.
Trauma, Testimony, and Community in Postcolonial Literature in English
This FWO-funded postdoctoral research project (2006-2009) examines how trauma theory can break with Eurocentrism and thus realize its self-declared ethical potential. It consists of a theoretical part in which the possibility and point of “postcolonializing” trauma theory are investigated, and a practical part made up of three case studies of postcolonial literary oeuvres that bear witness to the suffering engendered by colonial oppression (J. M. Coetzee, Caryl Phillips, and Eavan Boland).
Trauma and Ethics in the Novels of Graham Swift
This FWO-funded PhD research project (1999-2003) analyses the novels of the contemporary British writer Graham Swift against the background of the “ethical turn” in literary studies and the emergence of trauma theory. It charts the entire trajectory of Swift’s engagement with the perils, pitfalls, and possibilities of navigating a post-traumatic condition, proceeding from an emphasis on denial in his early work, through an intense preoccupation with the demands of trauma in the “middle-period” novels (including Waterland), to a seemingly liberating insistence on regeneration and renewal in Last Orders and The Light of Day.