COP26 Forum – Reading, writing and researching in times of climate emergency

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In this session, Ruth Livesey, Katie McGettigan and Matt Thorne, from the Department of English and Creative Writing, will reflect on how their research and writing is being reshaped as a result of an increased awareness of our changing climate.

Our panellists will offer a range of approaches to this question from their own areas of expertise, including a consideration of how climate and the environment and the extractive economy has changed thinking about nineteenth-century visual and literary cultures, how American Studies’ attitudes towards social justice have become more conscious to incorporate issues of environmentalism and sustainability, and how environmental concerns can shape the type of stories we tell.

About the panellists

Ruth Livesey is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Thought and Head of the Department of English at Royal Holloway. Her research explores the politics and culture of the nineteenth century, with a current interest in questions of infrastructure, technology and the transition from rural to urban existence in nineteenth-century fiction. Her last book, Writing the Stage-Coach Nation: Locality on the Move in Nineteenth-Century British Literature (2016), explored the dramatic effects of the coming of the railways and the imaginative production of alternative mobilities. More recent work has explored the idea of ‘arboreal thinking’ and vital materialism in the work of George Eliot.

Katie McGettigan is Senior Lecturer in American Literature. Her first book, Herman Melville: Modernity and the Material Text, was published in 2017, and she is finishing her second book, which examines the publication of American literature in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century. Her essays have appeared in American Literature, Journal of American Studies, and Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies.

Matt Thorne is the author of six novels, including Eight Minutes Idle, which won an Encore Award and which he adapted for screen for BBC Films. He has also written a bestselling critical study of the pop star Prince. He took part in the first XR Writers Rebel event in Trafalgar Square. The books he has authored that most directly reference environmental issues are the ‘39 Castles’ trilogy for younger readers, published by Faber.


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