Project Details


The critic Timothy Morton questions whether ‘Nature’ was ever really there as more than a flickering ghost. Rather than facilitating a deeper understanding of the natural world, for Morton ‘Nature’ represents the human tendency to project itself onto its environment, a tendency which both underwrites the destructive impact of humans on the natural world and facilitates widespread human disengagement from this impact. Morton’s claims – and his resultant suggestion that we re-examine ‘Nature’ – are striking and persuasive, especially given that environmental devastation has reached an unprecedented high.

How can we, as a collective body of diverse research academics and creative practitioners, begin to explore the spectres that pass for the representation of the natural world in our increasingly urbanised and polluted environment? What is the matter with our representations of nature? How can we explore its matter in a way that might create a productive creative and critical dialogue across the limits of our shared expertise? How can we begin to articulate and respond to the materiality of the natural world?

This project will explore both theoretical and aesthetic responses to such questions. We will examine a range of examples from: film, poetry, sound and the visual arts and consider how these specific examples of practice have common features or approaches. We will not only consider the question of language and form in relation to the representation of nature but also through the prisms of ecological, biopolitical theory and ecophilosophy. We will address both the ways in which aesthetic responses can supplement, or even supplant, theoretical ones; and the importance of establishing a theoretical approach which guards against the recuperation of political and aesthetic norms under the guise of ecological thinking.

We will raise questions as to whether, for example, the use of found materials can be allied with an emerging politics of waste that might offer a potent medium of resistance to the creeping nostalgic and Romantic visionings of environmental aesthetics and the dominant codes of Nature Writing and its visual equivalents. We will investigate the possibility that experimentation with aesthetic form can liberate modes of thinking which are not constrained by the specular and spectral logics which Morton identifies, these being complicit with the environmental devastation which we currently witness. We are also interested in how these theoretical and practical engagements with questions of form and matter might generate new modes of thinking and writing our own academic and creative practice.

Layman's description

11.11. 16 – SEMINAR - Where the Posthuman Meets the Postcolonial. Dr Danielle Sands and Prof James Williams (Bedford Square). (audience 15-20)

15.03.17 – SEMINAR - The Ecology and Aesthetics of Somali Piracy Dr Fabrizio De Donno (SMLLC) (Boiler House, Egham) (film showing and seminar paper). (audience 15-20)

26.04. 16 – Opening the Field: Dr. Will Montgomery and Prof. Redell Olsen. (Film screening (OLSEN), sound installation (MONTGOMERY) and seminar papers (OLSEN / MONTGOMERY).
(audience 15-20)

Summer Term Postgraduate Reading Group (Department of English): led by Redell Olsen on Minimal Aesthetics for the Anthropocene by Joanna Zylinska and contemporary poetry (David Herd, Carol Watts and Andrea Brady) (5-6 students).

23.6.17 – Poetry Reading and Film Showing (in collaboration with the Poetics Research Centre Royal Holloway) Allen Fisher, David Herd and Carol Watts. (35-40 audience)

24.6.17 – Day Symposium (11-6 pm Senate House). Keynote: Prof. Joanna Zylinska (keynote) and respondent Prof Kate Rigby (Bath Spa). Invited attendees from University of Roehampton, University of Bath Spa, University of Cambridge, University of Turku (Finland) and Royal Holloway. (Audience 24).
Effective start/end date11/11/1624/06/17


  • nature
  • ecology
  • ecocriticism
  • theory
  • poetics
  • film