Call for Papers: Singin’ in the Rain: Musical Theatre and the Environmental Humanities

Green Letters invites papers of up to 6000 words in length for a special issue, guest-edited by Dr Evelyn O’Malley (University of Exeter) on musical theatre and the environmental humanities.

Gene Kelly’s iconic and rain-soaked performance in the rain appeared in 1952 – the commencement of what environmental scientists now call The Great Acceleration – evermore inflecting cultural responses to the weather in ways that stretch far beyond the original context and medium. His songburst in a cloudburst is now a widely shared referent for musical theatre as an interdisciplinary form, and a cultural trope for the human capacity to embrace inclement weather (given access to shelter, romance and a creative outlet, in Don Lockwood’s – Kelly’s fictitious counterpart’s – case).

While evidence amasses to suggest that culturally mainstream performance forms can illuminate affective understandings of nature, this issue will seek to stimulate a lively conversation about how musical theatre – a cultural form closely associated with intense emotional affect – presents possibilities for conceptualising and staging the environment and human relationships to it, in addition to generating significant affective responses.

Glimmers of environmental thinking about past musicals offer some arresting points of departure for historical scholarship. Jennifer Hamilton, for instance, uses Grease as a vivid case study for explaining environmental humanities’ scholarship to a generalist audience, rereading the teenage romance as a ‘representation of post-war America’s romance with petroleum’ in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy (2014). Theresa J. May unpacks of the frontier narratives of settlement and exclusion that are consolidated in Oklahoma! to uncover its latent environmental messaging as part of her ecodramaturgical history of American theatre (2021: 124).

Beyond the hefty work of revisiting historical works for their (latent and overt) environmental messaging, we might also observe a burgeoning interest in the topic amongst musical theatre-makers in recent years. A noteworthy turn towards the environment in practice now includes revivals (such as The Watermill, Newbury’s The Lord of the Rings, 2023, which emphasised ecological restoration in its staging of Tolkien’s source material), and retellings of Greek mythology that foreground a changing climate as the conditions for life (Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown, for instance, running on Broadway and returning to London’s West End in 2024). New writing premised on original stories (Amy Draper’s Islander, 2023, explores conservation conflicts on a remote Scottish island) and explicitly eco-activist adaptations of canonical works are also beginning to thrive (Metta Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and the Poisonwood, 2024, explores m/otherhood and diet as environmental concerns through the well-known mystery genre). We might also consider works that are not ‘about’ the environment at all, but that nevertheless disclose something important about it (The Old Vic’s Groundhog Day, 2023, for example, where the eternal recurrence of a grey February day structures the familiar story of personal transformation).

Contributions to the Special Issue could consider, but are not limited to, the following questions and topics:

1) How has the environment been expressed and (re)presented in historical and contemporary musical theatre?

2) What can an ‘ecodramaturgical’ analysis of musicals suggest about the aesthetics, ethics, and politics of anthropogenic climate change (May 2021, Woynarski 2020)?

3) What is the artistic and cultural significance of musical theatre practice that explicitly addresses climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation?

  • Ecodramaturgical histories of musical theatre works
  • Close analyses of individual songs or musical numbers
  • Comparative analyses of productions and revivals
  • Ecologies of vocality and breath in song
  • Choreography, bodies, space and environment
  • Music in/as aerial environment and weather
  • Broadway, the West End, resource use and the Global North
  • Representations of ‘slow violence’ (Nixon 2011) in musicals
  • New materialist and posthuman approaches
  • Ecologies of collaboration and interdisciplinarity in musical theatre
  • New writing for the Anthropocene
  • Fictitious and imaginary geographies of song
  • Energy and musical theatre
  • Performances of weathering
  • Eco-whimsy, preposterousness and ‘bad environmentalism’ (Seymour 2018)
  • Site-specific, open-air, immersive, and digital-interactive stagings
  • Screen musicals and the environment
  • Environmental approaches in applied, community and socially engaged contexts
  • Ecoscenography (Beer 2021) and design

Green Letters is the journal of ASLE-UKI (the UK-Ireland branch of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment). A peer-reviewed journal published by Taylor & Francis, Green Letters explores the relationship between literary, artistic and popular culture and the various conceptions of the environment articulated by scientific ecology, philosophy, sociology and literary and cultural theory.

Articles should conform to Green Letters’ style sheet. Articles should be submitted for consideration via Scholar One, our online submission system on this link https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/rgrl.

Timeline:

Please send enquiries and abstracts of up to 300 words to Evelyn O’Malley at e.omalley@exeter.ac.uk  by 12 April.

Full Manuscripts: September 2024.

Publication: March 2025.

 

References:

Beer, Tanja (2021) Ecoscenography: An Introduction to Ecological Design for Performance, Palgrave.

Hamilton, Jennifer (2014) ‘What are the Environmental Humanities,’ The Conversation.

May, Theresa J. (2021) Earth Matters on Stage: Ecology and Environment in American Theater. Oxon and New York: Routledge.

Nixon, Robert (2011) Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Seymour, Nicole (2018) Bad Environmentalism: Irony and Irreverence in the Ecological Age,  Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Woynarski, Lisa (2020) Ecodramaturgies: Theatre, Performance and Climate Change, Palgrave.

‘Original, rigorous and timely’ critical study wins environmental writing prize

A critical study described as ‘original, rigorous and timely’ has won one of Britain’s premier environmental writing prizes.

Poetry & Commons: Postwar and Romantic Lyric in Times of Enclosure by Daniel Eltringham this week won the biennial creative writing prize awarded by the British and Irish Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, the body which represents teachers and scholars of environmental writing and ecocriticism.

Original, rigorous and timely, this book puts Romantic-era poetry into fruitful dialogue with post-war and contemporary British avant-garde poetry. In doing so, Eltringham reveals why the figure of the commons might matter now more than ever, in the face of market-driven, neoliberal forms of enclosure, entwined with ecological crisis.

Eltringham compellingly demonstrates how we can use historical knowledge in the contemporary moment by tracing the ways in which recent poets revisit, revise and revivify ideas of the commons and practices of commoning. The book’s materialist approach offers an inventive take on some well-known poems by canonical Romantic writers, as well as introducing readers to a wealth of new poetic and contextual materials.

The judges especially valued its meticulous research, astute in-depth analysis and illuminating discussions of both poetry and politics. But there are moments of humour and hope too. As Eltringham wryly points out, “sheep and poetry are uneasy companions;” yet his book amply reveals how such unlikely alliances might model productive forms of collectivity and resistance.

Poetry & Commons is published by Liverpool University Press, ISBN 9781800856509. The book is available from Liverpool University Press and other booksellers.

For More Information:
Mandy Bloomfield: mandy.bloomfield@plymouth.ac.uk

 

“Wonderful” self-published novel wins environmental writing prize

A self-published novel described as ‘wonderful’ has won one of Britain’s premier environmental writing prizes.

Fergus The Silent by Michael McCarthy this week won the biennial creative writing prize awarded by the British and Irish Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, the body which represents teachers and scholars of environmental writing and eco-criticism.

The novel imagines the rediscovery of the great auk, the legendary extinct Atlantic seabird, on a remote Scottish island, and the actions of the man who stumbles upon the birds – but who then keeps his discovery secret for seventeen years, with ultimately disastrous consequences.

The great auk formerly bred in Scotland but is believed to have gone extinct in Iceland in 1844.

The book emerged at the head of a very strong shortlist, on which it was the only self-published work.  The result was announced at the ASLE conference in Liverpool on August 30th.

“This is a wonderful novel,” said the chair of the judges, Richard Kerridge, leader of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

“It combines a passionate and complex and at times disastrously painful love story, with a story about species loss and extinction, of a particularly ingenious and exciting kind.  The plot structure and pace are superb. The joy, fear and greed arising for different characters from this astonishing find are beautifully worked into a moving, dramatic story.”

The author Michael McCarthy is a former Environment Correspondent of The Times and Environment Editor of The Independent, and an established writer on environmental themes. His book The Moth Snowstorm – Nature and Joy was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize in 2015.

However, he was unable to find a publisher for Fergus The Silent and in the end published the book himself. It is his first novel.

“We are particularly delighted to award the prize to a self-published novel,” Kerridge said. “It is surprising that a book of this quality by a distinguished author didn’t find a mainstream or trade publisher.”

“Serious realist fiction that engages with these problems still has to fight for its place.”

“I have a very good agent but he simply could not find anyone to take the book on,” McCarthy said. “He received a whole series of what he termed ‘rave rejections’ – as in, ‘we think this is great but it’s just not quite one for us.’ In the end I got fed up with it just being a file in my computer and published it independently.”

“I am honoured that it has received the prize.”

Fergus The Silent is published by YouCaxton Publications, ISBN 978-1-914424-38-0. It is available on Amazon, price £12.99.

For more information:
Richard Kerridge,  r.kerridge@bathspa.ac.uk
Michael McCarthy, mjpmcarthy1@gmail.com

ASLE-UKI Book Prize Shortlist 2023

We are delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2023 ASLE-UKI Book Prize.

There are two categories:

  1. the best academic monograph in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities published at any time in 2021 or 2022.
  2. the best work of creative writing in any form or genre with an ecological theme published at any time in 2021 or 2022.

The shortlisted titles are as follows. The winners will be announced at the 2023 ASLE-UKI Conference in Liverpool.

 1. Best academic monograph:

D. H. Lawrence, Ecofeminism and Nature, Terry Gifford
Poetry and Commons, Daniel Eltringham
Creaturely Forms in Contemporary Literature, Dominic O’Key
Contemporary Fiction and Climate Uncertainty: Narrating Unstable Futures, Marco Caracciolo
Modern British Nature Writing, 1789-2020: Land Lines, Will Abberley, Christina Alt, David Higgins, Graham Huggan, Pippa Marland.
African Ecomedia: Network Forms, Planetary Politics, Cajetan Iheka.

2. Best work of creative writing:

Fergus the Silent, Michael McCarthy (novel)
Leaf, Anne Elvey (poetry)
Visions and Feed, Maria Sledmere (poetry)
Cut Flowers, Harriet Tarlo (poetry)
The European Eel, Steve Ely (poetry)
Venomous Lumpsucker, Ned Beauman (novel)
How Beautiful We Were, Imbolo Mbue (novel)
Under the Blue, Oana Aristide (novel)
Shalimar, Davina Quinlivan (memoir)

John Parham

We are deeply saddened to announce the death of our dear friend and colleague John Parham. John was a key driving force in ASLE-UKI and in the environmental humanities for more than two decades. As ASLE-UKI Secretary and editor of Green Letters for many years, he played a pivotal role in shaping the association. He was a brilliant scholar with a remarkably diverse array of interests: from Gerard Manley Hopkins to comedy to Australian punk to cultural theory (and much more besides). Ecocriticism has lost one of its most significant voices. We will miss his conviviality, kindness, humour, intellect and solidarity. There will be an opportunity to celebrate his life and work at our conference in Liverpool in August 2023.

John Miller
President, ASLE-UKI, 21 June 2023.

Hay Festival Anthology

An Anthology of Essays on the Theme of Literature and Sustainability

To commemorate 10 years of the UWTSD INSPIRE/ASLE UK competition at the Hay Festival

For ten years (with a short Covid-enforced break) ASLE-UKI and The Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation, and Resource Effectiveness (INSPIRE) at The University of Wales, Trinity St. David, worked together to sponsor a prize-winning essay to be delivered as a public lecture at the Hay Literary Festival. That competition has now sadly come to an end, but we are delighted to be able to make the prize-winning essays available as a free downloadable PDF.

The essays offer short and accessible insights into current research and creative writing in literature and sustainability, with topics as diverse as Shakespeare’s grain dealing, starlings in literature, fracking and poetry, to love, trees, and solar power! The anthology includes contributions from:

  • Jayne Elisabeth Archer
  • Brycchan Carey
  • Catherine Charlwood
  • Rachel Dowse
  • Hugh Dunkerley
  • Hayden Gabriel
  • Adeline Johns-Putra
  • Richard Kerridge
  • Greg Lynall
  • Helen Moore
  • Howard Thomas
  • Richard Marggraf Turley

Download the Hay Festival Anthology

As well as all the prize winners, would would like to thank Jane Davidson, Director of INSPIRE at UWTSD, and Andy Fryers, Sustainability Director, Hay Festival, for their support during the ten years of this competition. Thanks everyone!

CFP: ASLE-UKI Biennial Conference 2023

ASLE-UKI Biennial Conference: Liverpool 2023

Call for Papers

Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland, Biennial Conference 2023

‘Transitions’

30 August – 1 September 2023, University of Liverpool

Confirmed Keynote Speakers: Brycchan Carey, Nandini Das, Caroline Edwards, Graeme MacDonald, Chris Pak, Craig Santos Perez

The 2023 conference for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI) will be hosted by the Literature and Science Hub at the University of Liverpool. ASLE-UKI welcomes participation from scholars, readers, and creative practitioners interested in the relationships between literatures, environments and cultures – past, present, or future from anywhere in the world.

As with previous ASLE-UKI conferences we are happy to receive papers on any aspect of literature, culture, and environment, but we particularly welcome responses that address the conference theme of ‘Transitions’.

Please submit proposals for 20-minute papers, preformed panels, and roundtable discussions sessions via the conference webpage by 1st June 2023.

For more information and contact details, please visit the regularly updated conference webpage.

ASLE-UKI Biennial Conference: Liverpool 2023

ASLE-UKI Book Prize 2023

ASLE-UKI Book Prize 2023

We are pleased to announce that the competition is now open for the 2023 biennial ASLE-UKI book prizes. There will be two categories.

  1. the best academic monograph in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities published at any time in 2021 or 2022 (please note this does not include edited collections).
  2. the best work of creative writing in any form or genre with an ecological theme published at any time in 2021 or 2022.

The initial long list will be drawn up from nominations received from members of ASLE-UKI, our international affiliates, or from publishers. Members are welcome to nominate their own books. Nominations will be restricted to one per person (or publisher) for each category.

The judging panel will be drawn from the current ASLE-UKI committee. For a book to be considered, either two hard copies or one hard copy and a PDF copy (or e-book) will need to be supplied to the judging panel. We will not be considering edited collections, but may introduce additional categories in future years.

The winners will be announced in Autumn 2023 and each will receive a cash prize of £100.

Please send nominations to the following members of the committee by January 31st, 2023, stating whether you are nominating as an ASLE-UKI member, a member of one of our affiliates, or as a publisher:

Regulations

The prize will be awarded to the monograph or work of creative writing that in the view of the judging panel makes the most significant new contribution to ecocriticism and/or the environmental humanities.

For the critical monograph prize, the judging panel will assess the scholarly quality of the work, its quality as an aptly innovative critical response to the developing ecological crisis, and its contribution to the development of public ecological and environmental awareness and feeling.

For the creative writing prize, the judging panel will assess the literary quality of the work, its quality as an aptly innovative literary response to the developing ecological crisis, and its contribution to the development of public ecological and environmental awareness and feeling.

The judging panel will be drawn from members of the ASLE-UKI committee but may also include expert readers nominated by the committee.

Edited collections will not be considered.

For books to be considered they must have been published at any point in 2021 and 2022.

Books written by members of the committee can be considered (whether self-nominated or nominated by another member), but that committee member will not take any part in the judging process in that year.

Nominations can be received from members of ASLE-UKI, from members of its international affiliates or from publishers. Nominations will be limited to one per category per person.

Nominations must be made by January 31st, 2023.

The prize winners will be announced in Autumn 2023 and each will receive a cash prize of £100.

New ASLE-UKI Podcast Now Available

Green Listening: Discussions in Ecocriticism

The second in our series of podcasts run by the ASLE-UKI Postgraduate and Early Career Representatives is now available, introduced by Sarah Bezan from the University of York.

Our podcast series is hosted by Spotify but you can listen online without needing a Spotify subscription.

Episode 2, “Prospective Anthropocenes and Speculative Environments”, explores creative modes of representation that engage with problems of nature trauma. Hosted at University College Dublin, it takes the form of two tête à têtes between four scholars from Ireland and the UK. Paula McGrath (UCD) and Sam Solnick (Liverpool) talk about theatre, performance, and creative writing; Sarah Bezan (York) and Ailise Bulfin (UCD) discuss species loss and climate change.

Follow the link below to listen free of charge.

 

ASLE-UKI Conference Programme Now Available

The draft programme for the ASLE-UKI Biennial Conference at Northumbria University is now available to view on the following page:

Follow the links below for the detailed programme for each day, which will open in a new page. Information about the online day will be posted shortly.

Abstracts for all papers and panels are available by following the links below.