Special Issue "Environment, Ecology, Climate and ‘Nature’ in 21st Century Scottish Literature"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2018).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Carla Sassi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Verona University,Lungadige Porta Vittoria 41, 37129 Verona, Italy
Interests: Modern and Contemporary Scottish Literature; nationalism and literature; postcolonial theory; ecocriticism
Dr. Graeme Macdonald
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Associate Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick, Warwickshire, Coventry, England, UK, CV4 7AL
Interests: world literature; energy humanities; petrofiction and petroculture; modern and contemporary Scottish and British Literature; environmental humanities

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue invites interested scholars to explore expressions and registrations of environmental culture and the eco-critical imagination in 21st century Scottish literature and culture. A broad and distinctive environmental consciousness can be traced in the field since at least the 19th century. Yet, despite some notable exceptions, critical academic engagements remain somewhat sporadic.[1] The development of modern environmentalism since the 1970s and the consequent greening of the Humanities in the subsequent decades have opened significant new critical and theoretical fronts, with prolific attention to environmental perspectives and reading strategies across the discipline of literary studies. These continue to develop in response to a number of emergent environmental concerns, such as the ongoing climate crisis and the recently declared shift into the Anthropocene epoch.

The wider context of contemporary Scottish environmentalism appears vibrant. NGOs, cultural and civic institutions, academic networks, political initiatives and policy mechanisms have sought to respond with ambition and purpose to a spectrum of environmental challenges. In places (as for example in the growing commitment to renewable energy research and development and to emissions targeting) there is a case for seeing Scotland as a radical and leading responder to climate change and to a range of other sustainability issues. There is, however, also evidence that Scotland is mired in environmentally problematic entanglements. Despite being arguably more conscious of the finitude of fossil-fuelled life than other petrocultural regions, for example, contemporary Scottish society remains very much reliant on high-carbon production processes, while a range of environmental issues, from waste disposal to fracking and land management, continue to pose questions.

How do these and other related environmental and ecological issues feature in contemporary Scottish literature and culture? Eco-spatial co-ordinates demand a range of territories, perspectives and scales: local/national/(bio)regional/‘global’/‘planetary’. They may also imply a critical repurposing; a transgressing and transcending of conventional ‘Scottish’ boundaries, temporalities, places and objects of focus—e.g. ‘nation’; ‘landscape’; ‘community’; ‘resource’—for a more environmentally and ecologically bound perspective. A host of potential examples lie across the various genres and constituencies of 21st century Scottish literature, broadly conceived (i.e. not necessarily produced by Scottish-born or Scottish-identified writers).

We invite contributions that engage with texts representing or addressing a spectrum of environmental concerns. These might range from nature writing to ecofeminism, from environmental justice to expressions of deep time and geological aesthetics, from narratives of climate apocalypse to the poetics of weather, from oceanic, ‘Blue Humanities’ readings to registrations of Scottish petroculture, from representations of landscape/plant/animal life to environmental media, from cultures of urban ecology to contemporary interpretations of wilderness, from representing waste and restoration to theorizations of contemporary consumption and resource use.

We seek articles (of around 6-8000 words) that address such themes and issues as outlined above, or in any other related areas.

[1] See for example Louisa Gairn’s Ecology and Modern Scottish Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008) and the special issue on “The Lie of the Land: Ecology and Scottish Writing” of The Bottle Imp, Issue 17, June 2015 (http://asls.arts.gla.ac.uk/SWE/TBI/TBIIssue17/Editorial17.html). See also the Envirohum project: https://simplebooklet.com/envirohum1

Prof. Carla Sassi
Dr. Graeme Macdonald
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Ecocriticism
  • Anthropocene
  • Contemporary Scottish literature
  • Local/global transition
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Climate Change / Global Warming
  • Energy production and use
  • Sustainability

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Environment, Ecology, Climate and ‘Nature’ in 21st Century Scottish Literature
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010034 - 23 Feb 2021
Viewed by 467
Abstract
A pivotal scene in the 2019 reinvention of Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film Local Hero into musical theatre involves a hangover[...] Full article

Research

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Article
Something Super-Wicked This Way Comes: Genre, Emergency, Expectation, and Learning to Die in Climate-Change Scotland
Humanities 2020, 9(1), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9010017 - 07 Feb 2020
Viewed by 1406
Abstract
This article approaches the issue of climate change and the response to it in Scotland from the perspective of genres of expectation and normality, focusing in particular on the relationship between genre, the political imagination, and calls for ‘climate realism’. Functioning partly as [...] Read more.
This article approaches the issue of climate change and the response to it in Scotland from the perspective of genres of expectation and normality, focusing in particular on the relationship between genre, the political imagination, and calls for ‘climate realism’. Functioning partly as provocation and partly as a piece of critical theory on the problematic aspects of contemporary genres of expectation in Scotland, it discusses the push for normality as a driving force in the construction of imagined futures in the context of climate change, problematising how this fits with established expectations of the Scottish political imaginary and its futurity. Using the work of the scholar of genre and affect Lauren Berlant and her identification of genre as a means of ‘moving on’, it considers the idea of materially contingent narratives as an exit strategy from the present moment. To illustrate this, it briefly discusses Jenni Fagan’s contemporary climate change novel The Sunlight Pilgrims as an example of ‘irrealist’ confrontation of climate change and how this relates to the concept of the Anthropocene as an everyday experience. Ultimately, it concludes that contemporary attempts at climate realism require engagement with the irreal material circumstances of climate change and the fundamentally ‘super-wicked’ nature of climate processes in order to escape the constraints of progress, restoration, and normalisation as genre structures in discussion of climate futures. Full article
Article
Orkney Ecologies
Humanities 2020, 9(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9010005 - 24 Dec 2019
Viewed by 915
Abstract
Inspired by Felix Guattari’s Three Ecologies ([1989] 2000), this article explores recent Orkney literature with an environmental focus (Working the Map—ed. J & F Cumming and M. MacInnes; Ebban an’ Flowan—Finlay, A., Watts, L. and Peebles, A.; The Outrun—A. [...] Read more.
Inspired by Felix Guattari’s Three Ecologies ([1989] 2000), this article explores recent Orkney literature with an environmental focus (Working the Map—ed. J & F Cumming and M. MacInnes; Ebban an’ Flowan—Finlay, A., Watts, L. and Peebles, A.; The Outrun—A. Liptrot; Swimming With Seals—V. Whitworth) in terms of Orkney ecologieswhich are always personal, environmental and cultural. Informed by fieldwork carried out in Orkney, looking at discourse around the development of marine renewable energy in the islands, it argues for the use of ecological dialogism, an approach to language and communication which recognises meaning-making as embodied and emergent within a meshwork (Ingold 2011) of lived experience. It explores the texts as part of an ecology of meaning-making within the naturalcultural (Haraway 2007) world, in which environment, social relations and human subjectivity are inextricably entangled. In this view, literary texts can be approached, not as isolated examples of individual creative expression, but as moments of emergent meaning-making in the dialogue between individual, cultural and environmental ecologies, reaching beyond the page into a living meshwork, where we can think in terms of ‘Ecology as Text, Text as Ecology’ (Morton 2010). These Orkney ecologies entangle the natural, personal, cultural and technological, through and as, stories, emphasising interdependence and care for both human and more-than-human relationships. Such moments of connection offer hope of new narrative possibilities with which to face the uncertainty of an Anthropocene future. Full article
Article
Nuclear Deficit: Why Nuclear Weapons Are Natural, but Scotland Doesn’t Need Nature
Humanities 2019, 8(3), 147; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030147 - 02 Sep 2019
Viewed by 965
Abstract
This article argues that millennial Scottish culture has been animated in large part by a push to overcome a historiographical compulsion built into the modern British state’s understanding of nature. This understanding of nature became the foundational principle of government during the Financial [...] Read more.
This article argues that millennial Scottish culture has been animated in large part by a push to overcome a historiographical compulsion built into the modern British state’s understanding of nature. This understanding of nature became the foundational principle of government during the Financial Revolution and British unification in the 1690s–1710, then was made the subject of a universal history by the Scottish Enlightenment of the later eighteenth century, and has remained in place to be extended by neoliberalism. The article argues more specifically that the British association of progress with dominion over the world as nature demands a temporal abstraction, or automation, reducing the determinability of the present, and that correspondingly this idea of nature ‘softens’ conflict in a way that points to weapons carrying perfectly abstracted violence. Nuclear weapons become an inevitable corollary of the nature of British authority. Against this, twenty-first century Scottish cultures, particularly a growing mainstream surrounding independence or stressing national specificity, have noticeably turned against both nuclear weapons and the understanding of nature these weapons protect. These cultures draw from a 1980s moment in which anti-nuclear action came both to be understood as ‘national’, and to stand in relief to the British liberal firmament. These cultures are ‘activist’ in the literal sense that they tend to interrupt an assumption of the eternal that stands behind both nuclear terror and its capture of nature as dominion over the world. A dual interruption, nuclear and counter-natural, can be read in pro-independence cultural projects including online projects like Bella Caledonia and National Collective, which might be described as undertaking a thorough ‘denaturing’. But if the question of nature as resources for dominion has been a topic for debate in the environmental humanities, little attention has been paid to this specifically British ‘worlding’ of nature, or to how later constitutional pressures on the UK also mean pressures on this worlding. Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital (2016), for example, a powerful account of the automation of production in the British industrial revolution, might be related to the automation of ideas of progress pressed during the Scottish Enlightenment, and entrenching a dualism of owning subject and nature as object-world that would drive extraction in empire. Finally, this article suggests that this dualism, and the nature holding it in place, have also been a major target of the ‘wilderness encounters’ that form a large sub-genre in twenty-first century Scottish writing. Such ‘denaturing’ encounters can be read in writers like Alec Finlay, Linda Cracknell, Thomas A. Clark, and Gerry Loose, often disrupting the subject standing over nature, and sometimes explicitly linking this to a disruption of nuclear realism. Full article
Article
Ben Dorain: An Ecopoetic Translation
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020113 - 14 Jun 2019
Viewed by 1304
Abstract
In this article, I reflect on my own practice in translating Duncan Bàn Macintyre’s eighteenth-century Gaelic poem, Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain, into a twenty-first century ‘ecopoem’. Macintyre’s Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain has been praised for its naturalism. My translation of this long poem emphasises [...] Read more.
In this article, I reflect on my own practice in translating Duncan Bàn Macintyre’s eighteenth-century Gaelic poem, Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain, into a twenty-first century ‘ecopoem’. Macintyre’s Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain has been praised for its naturalism. My translation of this long poem emphasises the immediacy and biological specificity of Macintyre’s descriptions. I explore how the act of translation might intersect with contemporary ecological concerns. My poem is not simply a translation, but incorporates Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain into a new work which juxtaposes a free English version of Macintyre’s work with original material concerned with contemporary research into deer behaviour and ideas of ecological interconnectedness, including biosemiotics and Timothy Morton’s ‘dark ecology’. This article is a reflection on my production of a twenty-first century excavation and reimagining of Macintyre’s Moladh Beinn Dóbhrain. I consider how the difficulties of translation might be turned into imaginative opportunities, and explore how translation has the potential to function as exposition and expansion of an original text, in order to create a poem which is itself an ecosystem, comprising of multiple ecological, cultural and political interactions. Full article
Article
Social Reproduction at the End of Times: Jenni Fagan’s and John Burnside’s Degrowth Imaginaries
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020104 - 28 May 2019
Viewed by 1161
Abstract
This article will explore how degrowth imaginaries inform the representation of social reproduction and environmental collapse in Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims (2016) and John Burnside’s Havergey (2017). It will argue that the two novels deploy the trope of the end of times [...] Read more.
This article will explore how degrowth imaginaries inform the representation of social reproduction and environmental collapse in Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims (2016) and John Burnside’s Havergey (2017). It will argue that the two novels deploy the trope of the end of times to frame the unravelling of the world-ecology that binds capital and nature together in the Capitalocene, according to Jason Moore. They suggest that this is what makes possible, and necessary, a re-organisation of social reproduction and of the patterns of energy consumption or generation with which this is entangled. The first part of this article will examine the metabolic rift with which The Sunlight Pilgrims and Havergey are concerned, while the second part will delineate the ways in which degrowth imaginaries frame the representation of reorganised forms of social (re-)production. Drawing on disability studies and situating The Sunlight Pilgrims and Havergey within the disciplinary framework of Scottish literature, I will continue to consider how Burnside’s and Fagan’s novels feature narratives of disability and the nation. These may come across as marginal to the plot but function as the foci through which the politics of the degrowth communities represented come to the fore. Full article
Article
Regulating Desire: The Nature of Exhaustion in Ali Smith’s Hotel World and Ewan Morrison’s Tales from the Mall
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010051 - 08 Mar 2019
Viewed by 1520
Abstract
This article offers an ecocritical analysis of Ali Smith’s Hotel World (2001) and Ewan Morrison’s Tales from the Mall (2012). Through a combination of the world-ecology paradigm, feminist approaches, and queer theory, I argue that these texts connect normative desires to capitalism’s “organization [...] Read more.
This article offers an ecocritical analysis of Ali Smith’s Hotel World (2001) and Ewan Morrison’s Tales from the Mall (2012). Through a combination of the world-ecology paradigm, feminist approaches, and queer theory, I argue that these texts connect normative desires to capitalism’s “organization of nature.” The opening section of the article links Nancy Fraser’s work on social reproduction to Jason Moore’s argument that nature, in world-ecological terms, provides the “free gifts” (of work, energy, and even care) necessary for capitalist productivity. Morrison’s and Smith’s texts register this dynamic, positioning hierarchy, sexism, and the uneven experience of neoliberal violence in relation to enclosure, attacks on women, and environmental destruction. I detail how Hotel World binds suburban ecology to normative regulation, while Tales from the Mall connects land clearance to the geographical organization of class inequality. I then contend that the psychological and physical exhaustion of women in both works can be understood in relation to capitalism’s reduction of nature to an appropriable resource that provides comfort and pleasure for wealthy consumers. The article ends with an examination of how the texts reject liberal fantasies of benevolent capitalist globalization in the context of Scotland specifically, indicating the need for new narratives that challenge capitalism’s ecological regime. Full article
Article
Extractive Poetics: Marine Energies in Scottish Literature
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010016 - 18 Jan 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1519
Abstract
Following the recent call to ‘put the ocean’s agitation and historicity back onto our mental maps and into the study of literature’ (Yaeger 2010), this article addresses the histories and cultures of marine energy extraction in modern Scottish literature. The burgeoning discipline of [...] Read more.
Following the recent call to ‘put the ocean’s agitation and historicity back onto our mental maps and into the study of literature’ (Yaeger 2010), this article addresses the histories and cultures of marine energy extraction in modern Scottish literature. The burgeoning discipline of the Energy Humanities has recently turned its attentions towards Scottish literature as a valuable area of study when contemplating the relationships between energy and cultural production. Most recently, scholars have focused their analysis on the histories of North Sea oil and gas production and have worked to juxtapose the long histories of land clearance in the Highlands and islands alongside contemporary narratives of exile and exploitation experienced by Scotland’s coastal oil communities. The forms of spatial injustice incurred through the recent histories of what Derek Gladwin terms ‘Oil Clearance’ (Gladwin 2017) or Graeme Macdonald identifies as ‘petro-marginalisation’ (Macdonald 2015), is often solely registered through terrestrial environments. This article urges the adoption of an oceanic perspective, one which registers how the extractive politics of modern petroculture in Scotland not only presents major challenges for terrestrial environments and communities, but holds specific ramifications for the ways in which we currently imagine and interact with oceanic space. Indeed, as Macdonald has noted, the North Sea is in many ways ‘wholly regarded as a productive environment of marine capitalism synonymous with oil’ (2015). What does it mean to read the ocean through oil? By adopting an oceanic perspective, this article considers the ways in which the exploitative dynamics of offshore petroculture in the 1970s coincides with an incredibly damaging and problematic cultural construction of the ocean. But as Scotland moves towards a new era of low-carbon energy production, how might this construction of the ocean change? The closing half of this article considers the ways in which the extractivist histories and spatial injustices of petroculture are resisted through contemporary poetic engagements with new marine-based energy technologies, namely, wave and tidal power. In examining a range of work from artists and poets such as Alec Finlay, Laura Watts, Lila Matsumoto and Hannah Imlach, this article further argues that the recent turn towards marine renewables not only signals a new future for a low-carbon Scotland, but that the advent of renewable technologies provides contemporary poets with new materials through which to imagine alternative models of community, power, and relation in an era of environmental change. Full article
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Article
Perpetual Vanishing: Animal Lives in Contemporary Scottish Fiction
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010012 - 14 Jan 2019
Viewed by 1404
Abstract
Animals, writes Akira Mizuta Lippit, ‘exist in a state of perpetual vanishing’: they haunt human concerns, but rarely appear as themselves. This is especially notable in contemporary Scottish fiction. While other national literatures often reflect the ‘animal turn’ in contemporary theory, the number [...] Read more.
Animals, writes Akira Mizuta Lippit, ‘exist in a state of perpetual vanishing’: they haunt human concerns, but rarely appear as themselves. This is especially notable in contemporary Scottish fiction. While other national literatures often reflect the ‘animal turn’ in contemporary theory, the number of twenty-first-century Scottish novels concerned with human–animal relations remains disproportionately small. Looking at a broad cross-section of recent and understudied novels, including Mandy Haggith’s Bear Witness (2013), Ian Stephen’s A Book of Death and Fish (2014), Andrew O’Hagan’s The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe (2010), Malachy Tallack’s The Valley at the Centre of the World (2018), James Robertson’s To Be Continued (2016), and Sarah Hall’s The Wolf Border (2015) highlights the marginalisation of both nonhuman animals and texts centred on them. The relative absence of engagement with animal studies in Scottish fiction and criticism suggests new opportunities for reevaluating the formulation of environmental concerns in a Scottish context. By moving away from the unified concepts of ‘the land’ to a perspective that includes the precarious relations between humans, nonhuman animals, and their environment, these texts highlight the need for greater, and more nuanced, engagement with fictional representations of nonhuman animals. Full article
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