English Seminar: Species extinction, vanishing limbs, Instagram, and Bushfires: an ecocritical reading of existentialism in the Anthropocene in Richard Flanagan’s The Living Sea of Waking Dreams / The Body and the Page: The Challenge of Adaptation
Paper 1. Freya MacDonald, ‘Species extinction, vanishing limbs, Instagram, and Bushfires: an ecocritical reading of existentialism in the Anthropocene in Richard Flanagan’s The Living Sea of Waking Dreams.’
In the twenty first century, Australia, and the world, have witnessed an alarming number of catastrophic “natural” disasters. These catastrophic disasters, that have emerged as a direct result of anthropogenic climate change, are frequently, and pervasively rationalised as harbingers of a crisis that is yet to come. The 2019-2020 catastrophic Australian Bushfires broke this dominant pattern in human cognition; the crisis is, in fact, already here. Cli-fi novels have come to play a central role in turning our attention to the environmental crisis that is all around us. Richard Flanagan’s 2020 novel The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, set in the horror summer of 2019 -2020, exemplifies how cli-fi novels frame and attempt to make sense of the environmental crisis that is here right now, and how the reality of this crisis impacts us existentially. This presentation focuses on mapping the literary response to the 2019/2020 bushfires, and seeks to elucidate, through an analysis of The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, the power and function of cli-fi novels that draw speculative futures out of our current reality. Flanagan holds a mirror up to our present reality, observing the collision of the technological crisis and the environmental crisis, he illuminates how reality itself has become absurd. His novel is of particular interest because it is distinct in the way that it engages existentialism and the age of individualism. It is a meditation upon how these social and cultural shifts impact how we make sense of and respond to the environmental crisis. The broader theoretical focus of this presentation is to investigate the emergence of the cli-fi genre in Australia and to elucidate how works of climate fiction interact with the largely Eurocentric metanarrative of the Anthropocene. In exploring this broader theoretical foundation, this presentation seeks to find balance between the desire, within ecocriticism, for progress, and radical action, with sustained historical reckoning and reflection.
I am a PhD candidate in the English Department at The University of Sydney and a member of the Sydney Environment Institute. My research analyses work of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous contemporary literary climate fiction written during and in the wake of the catastrophic 2019/2020 bushfires in Australia. The focus of my research is to map the emergence of the cli-fi genre in 21st century Australia and to investigate the Eurocentric nature of the Anthropocene meta narrative, by observing its representation and presence in works of literary climate fiction.
Paper 2. Kira Legaan, ‘The Body and the Page: The Challenge of Adaptation.’
When the writer produces an autobiographical work, it brings forth questions of narrative coherence and verisimilitude. After creating and performing a theatrical play based on my own traumatic history, my challenge was to adapt this into a text of creative non-fiction, utilising it to interrogate ideas around textual enunciation and physical embodiment. As one medium relies on the power of the spoken word and corporeal presence, the other demands written articulation for that same experience. Employing Julia Kristeva’s work on the unspeakability of trauma’s expression, and Bessel van der Kolk’s scholarship on the neuroscience of profound traumatic experience, I wish to examine the tension that exists in the relationship between drama and the written word, the body and the page, and consider notions of testimony and authority this interaction may present. Acknowledging truth and seeking its linguistic expression, entails a brutal recognition of the fallibility of the human psyche and the problematic nature of the medium through which memory and the body are represented. This paper will look to Quinn Eades identification of ecriture matiere and the power of fragmentation to navigate this process of adaptation and engagement. As contemporary writers and scholars we must pay attention when, ‘this body, speaking, asks you to read. And as you read, it will require you to both fly and fall’ (Eades 2017: 27).
Kira Legaan is about to complete her Doctorate of Arts at the University of Sydney. She also has an Advanced Associate Diploma in Theatre and Performance (NIDA 2001), and was a professional dancer for the Qld. Ballet Company (1986-1998). She has been published in Philament, the 20th AAWP Conference and Paper (Swinburne University), The University of Sydney Anthology and Hodder and Stoughton’s Breaking The Silence.
This event will be held online via Zoom and Woolley Common Room (John Woolley Building, A20, Camperdown).
Note: The presentations this semester are either ‘Zoom only’ (with no meeting in the Woolley Building) or ‘Woolley Common Room and Zoom’ (which is a live presentation in Woolley that is simultaneously available on Zoom). When we are in Woolley we do encourage you to join us in person if you are well and feel safe to do so. Do bring a mask. If you’d prefer not to be there physically, please attend via Zoom.
Contact: Liam Semler (firstname.lastname@example.org).
English Research Seminars in Semester 1
|Claire Hansen (ANU) and Bríd Phillips (ECU), ‘“Wilt break my heart?” Manifestations of Broken Heart Syndrome in Shakespeare and Early Modern England.’|
SPECIAL TIME 6-7.30pm
|Tom Sykes (University of Portsmouth, UK), ‘Pearl of the Orientalists: Western Writers and Reporters on Manila from the Spanish Colonial Era to the Contemporary “Drug War.”’
Co-hosted by Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and the English Department.
Woolley Common Room and Zoom
|Julia Cooper Clark, ‘Porous Bodies and Fluid Subjectivity in the Poetry of Mei-mei Berssenbrugge and Natalie Diaz.’|
Woolley Common Room and Zoom
|Marc Mierowsky, ‘Daniel Defoe on Naturalization’|
Woolley Common Room and Zoom
|Freya MacDonald, ‘Species extinction, vanishing limbs, Instagram, and Bushfires: an ecocritical reading of existentialism in the Anthropocene in Richard Flanagan’s The Living Sea of Waking Dreams.’
Kira Legaan, ‘The Body and the Page: The Challenge of Adaptation.’