Prof. Dr. Sylvia Mayer (Universität Bayreuth): "Ecocriticism, Risk, and Climate Change Fiction"

20.06.2012, 16:15 Uhr, MS12/00.09

Since the 1980s, one of the most productively employed categories of social, political, and cultural anthropological analysis has been the category of “risk.” Only fairly recently, however, has risk become a theoretical lens and analytical tool in the fields of literary and cultural studies – most significantly in the field of environmentally oriented literary and cultural studies, i.e. in the rapidly developing field of ecocriticism. Using the example of the emerging genre of “climate change fiction” – a genre that addresses the role and potential future effects of global warming – the presentation will outline how specific environmental risk scenarios are articulated in literary texts, thereby participating in the discourses of environmental risk communication. It will show how specific narrative and metaphoric patterns employed in climate change novels such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital trilogy, Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, or Ian McEwan’s Solar contribute to and give valuable insight into the shaping of contemporary environmental “risk cultures.”

Sylvia Mayer is professor of American Studies and Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at the University of Bayreuth. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Heidelberg and finished her “Habilitation” at the University of Münster. Her major areas of research are ecocriticism, environmentally oriented literary and cultural studies, and African American Studies.

Her publications include monographs on Toni Morrison’s novels and on the environmental ethical dimension of New England Regionalist Writing, 1865 –1918. She has edited and co-edited several volumes in the field of ecocriticism. Her latest publications are the collections of essays. Beyond Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe (2011, co-edited with Monika Müller), and American Environments: Climate – Cultures – Catastrophe (2012, co-edited with Christof Mauch).