CfP: Between fact and fiction: climate change fiction Fiction Meets Science Workshop (Dec.15.2015)

CfP: Between fact and fiction: climate change fiction Fiction Meets Science Workshop

Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg, Delmenhorst, Germany 22 – 23 April

[…] Novels and short stories that depict research on climate change and/or its ecological and social ramifications have been gaining in prominence. Examples are Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, Ian McEwan’s Solar, Jeannette Winterson’s The Stone Goods, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital Trilogy, as well as the short story anthology I’m with the Bears. In the U.S. in recent years, fiction that deals with climate change is being discussed in the media under the label “clifi” (climate fiction) and billed as a genre somewhere between the new lab-lit genre and science fiction. Cli-fi is moving into university curriculums and generating controversial debates about the function of literature and art in the societal reaction to climate change challenges.

From a sociological perspective, we are interested not so much in the question of literary classification as in the (self-)positioning of cli-fi as a boundary genre that picks up literary, scientific, political, and general societal discourses and articulates them in a new way. The selfrepresentations of authors as well as the comments by reviewers in scientific and literary media reveal a literature that actually aims to elucidate scientific knowledge and even attempts to inspire readers to political action. Thus cli-fi serves as a cultural focal point for re-imagining the future socio-ecological consequences of global warming.

On the one hand, cli-fi exhibits patterns typical of any socially engaged fiction, taking socially significant topics and translating them into individualized, emotionally affecting stories in order to evoke such feelings as compassion or indignation. But cli-fi also dramatizes scientific insights that would otherwise remain within the specialized discourses of scientific disciplines or would become accessible to a wider audience only via classical forms of science communication (i.e. science journalism or popular non-fiction). Can these aspects of clif-fi play a role in mediation processes regarding scientific knowledge, and if so how? This question has, to date, received little scholarly attention.


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