Dr Adeline Johns-Putra

Reader in English Literature

Academic and research departments

School of Literature and Languages.


Areas of specialism

Ecocriticism; Romanticism; Epic poetry

My qualifications

Monash University
BA (Hons)
Monash University

Affiliations and memberships

Royal Society of Arts
Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (UK and Ireland)
President (2011-2015)


Research interests


Postgraduate research supervision

Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised

My publications


AG Johns-Putra (2016)Climate Change in Literature and Literary Studies: From Cli-fi, Climate Change Theatre and Ecopoetry to Ecocriticism and Climate Change Criticism, In: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: WIREs Climate Change7(2)pp. 266-282 Wiley
In the last five years, climate change has emerged as a dominant theme in literature and, correspondingly, in literary studies. Its popularity in fiction has given rise to the term cli-fi, or climate change fiction, and speculation that this constitutes a distinctive literary genre. In theatre, the appearance of several big-name productions from 2009 to 2011 has inspired an increase in climate change plays. There has been a growing trend, too, of climate change poetry, thanks to the rise of ecopoetry (poetry that exhibits ecological awareness and engages with the world’s current state of environmental degradation) and the launch of some key climate change poetry initiatives in the media. This prevalence of climate change literature has brought about a greater engagement with climate change in literary studies, notably the environmentally-oriented branch of literary studies called ecocriticism. The increasing number of ecocritical analyses of climate change literature, particularly novels, is helping to shape a canon of climate change fiction. In a separate development, there has been greater interest in the phenomenon of climate change in literary or critical theory (the branch of literary studies concerned with literary concepts and philosophies rather than with literary texts). This development—centred on the study of climate change as a philosophical or existentialist problem—is sometimes termed climate change criticism or critical climate change.
A Johns-Putra (2010)Satire and Domesticity in Late Eighteenth-Century Women's Poetry: Minding the Gap, In: Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies33(1)pp. 67-87 Wiley-BLackwell Publishing
This article examines the work of four women poets in the 1780s and 1790s - in particular, the way they juxtapose the apparent triviality of the domestic with the more elevated concerns expected of the poetic or literary. In this analysis, this juxtaposition is aligned with the gap between low and high that characterises burlesque, a gap that is exploited to comic and even satirical ends in these poems. This poetic critique of domesticity is set against a backdrop of recent criticism that reads the late eighteenth century as a time when the domestic ideology of separate spheres hardened. © 2009 British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Adeline Johns-Putra (2018)The Rest is Silence: Postmodern and Postcolonial Possibilities in Climate Change Fiction, In: Studies in the Novel50(1)pp. 26-42 Johns Hopkins University Press
Climate change is one of the most prominent symptoms of an age of unprecedented human impact on the biosphere—the age sometimes called the Anthropocene. In identifying humanity as a geological agent, the term “Anthropocene” exposes the fallacy of human exceptionalism, reminding us of the entangled nature of human and nonhuman agency, and the vast and decidedly nonhuman proportions of human action. For, as climate change and other Anthropocene events make clear, the effect of humans on their environment will far outlast human dimensions of individual lifetimes and even historical epochs: some of the impacts of humans’ activity—for example, species depletion—are irrevocable; others, such as polar ice-melt, are reversible (if at all) over immense durations of time. But in its recognition of the imbrication of human action with the biosphere (in all its human and nonhuman complexity), the concept of the Anthropocene captures a profoundly and existentially disturbing paradox. That is, even as we must confront the damaging illusion of human agency existing aloof and apart from nonhuman “nature,” we must also consider how to recuperate a nuanced view of human agency that enables humans to engage more fully with the unprecedented crisis now engulfing human and nonhuman organisms and environments.
The Gothic in the post-millennial period offers writers an anchoring point, a site of familiarity for the reader, in the midst of an evolving culture of reading. Moving beyond recognising the binary conception of old vs new media, at stake in this thesis is the reader’s approach to the text in light of digital developments to reading habits. The evolution of digital technologies that have influenced approaches to reading include our ability to process vast amounts of data in quick succession through hyperlinks, and the capacity to locate relevant data amongst an endless flow in a non-linear, multi-cursal format: recognised as ‘browsing or ‘surfing’ the web. This style of reading is indicative of the pathways through a labyrinth: a key motif for the digital posited by a range of critics included in this thesis such as Pierre Lèvy (1997), Espen J. Aarseth (1997), N. Katherine Hayles (2008) and Marie-Laure Ryan (2015). For the post-millennial novel, it is the changes that have occurred in light of digital reading practices that has led to the re-birth of the reader, not as an individual, but as a collective. Readers of the multimodal novel are driven by the physical responses required of them by the Gothic mode in a moment of boundary transgression of the storyworld and actual world: a Gothic faultline. In the following chapters, I locate the authors’ use of familiar Gothic tropes in Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000), Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park (2005), JJ Abrams’ and Doug Dorst’s S. (2013) and Zachary Dodson’s Bats of the Republic (2015) as a way of situating the reader in familiar territory. These tropes anchor the reader’s navigation through complex narrative structures. It is then possible to identify the moment at which the reader becomes conscious of their direct involvement in the storyworld, an affective and physical experience that can be conceptualised through the Lacanian term extimacy. Spanning both the interior of the print novel and external digital platforms that expand the storyworld, I conceptualise the reader’s experience using Garrett Stewart’s (1997) ‘Gothic of reading’ to underpin the process of activation a reader of Gothic fiction experiences. Consequently, I argue that the reader is no longer a mere consumer of entertainment, but an investigator, collaborator, code-breaker, and sometimes even a translator. The Gothic, it seems, is the ideal mode to capture both the anxieties of the digital present whilst harnessing recognisable forms to ease readers into the demands of the multimodal novel.
This thesis contributes to a vein of scholarship that has begun to challenge the assumption that the ubiquitous extra-literary use of ‘epic’ in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has severed the word from its original literary meaning and rendered it meaningless. While it does not deny that epic now frequently connotes little more than size, length or grandeur, this study also demonstrates that, in the greater number of cases, epic has been appropriated in order to associate new referents with ideas or qualities that were considered characteristic of the epic poem in the early modern period, such as fable, compositional unity, sublimity, genius and encyclopaedism. Part philological study, part cultural history, it traces epic’s origins as an extra-literary term to the eighteenth century, and explores how eighteenth-century phenomena, including the loosening of prescriptive criteria for literary genres and the emergence of mock-epic, precipitated a variety of different meanings and extra-literary uses of epic to flourish. Using examples sourced from a range of digital resources now available to map cultural discourse across this period, including Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, British Periodicals, Britain’s parliamentary Hansard and the United States Congressional Record, it illuminates the persistence of these meanings and uses of epic in cultural contexts as diverse as visual art, political propaganda, extreme sport, environmental conservation and software design, and, in the process, recovers the idea of epic as an important and understudied influence upon Anglo-American culture from 1700 to the present. Furthermore, the study reveals not only that extra-literary use of epic has consistently been motivated by the desire to invoke the ideas and ideals that (re)shaped definitions of the epic during the eighteenth century, but that such deployments of epic have also, with remarkable frequency, continued to perform the cultural functions of the epic poem: championing a particular culture and determining and shaping its history.
A Johns-Putra (2011)"Blending Science with Literature": The Royal Institution, Eleanor Anne Porden and The Veils, In: Nineteenth-Century Contexts33(1)pp. 35-52 Routledge, Taylor & Francis
A Johns-Putra (2012)Eleanor Anne Porden's Coeur de Lion (1822): History, Epic and Romance, In: Women's Writing19(3)pp. 351-371 Routledge, Taylor & Francis
This article examines the medievalist epic Coeur de Lion (1822), by Eleanor Anne Porden (1795-1825). The author reads this poem not simply for the way it draws on exhaustive research, but for the way it treats this research, invoking yet sidestepping the demands of historical accuracy. Specifically, Porden grapples with the challenges of representing Britain's chivalric past, exploring whether to adopt the feminized trappings of romance or to align herself with the objectivity of historical epic. In choosing the latter, Porden must struggle, further, with the challenge of transforming the historical Richard, moral blind spots and all, into an acceptable epic hero. Porden's struggle, heroic in itself, cannot help but work its way into the text. As such tensions come increasingly to express themselves as a conflicted relationship between poet and hero, Porden seeks resolution or, at the very least, relief in romance. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
A Trexler, A Johns-Putra (2011)Climate Change in Literature and Literary Criticism, In: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change2(2)pp. 185-200 Royal Metereological Society/ Wiley
This article provides an overview of climate change in literature, focusing on the representation of climate change in Anglophone fiction. It then evaluates the way in which these fictional representations are critiqued in literary studies, and considers the extent to which the methods and tools that are currently employed are adequate to this new critical task. We explore how the complexity of climate change as both scientific and cultural phenomenon demands a corresponding degree of complexity in fictional representation. For example, when authors represent climate change as a global, networked, and controversial phenomenon, they move beyond simply employing the environment as a setting and begin to explore its impact on plot and character, producing unconventional narrative trajectories and innovations in characterization. Then, such creative complexity asks of literary scholars a reassessment of methods and approaches. For one thing, it may require a shift in emphasis from literary fiction to genre fiction. It also particularly demands that environmental criticism, or ecocriticism, moves beyond its long-standing interest in concepts of 'nature' and 'place', to embrace a new understanding of the local in relation to the global. We suggest, too, that there are synergies to be forged between these revisionary moves in ecocriticism and developments in literary critical theory and historicism, as these critical modes begin to deal with climate change and reimagine themselves in turn. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
A Johns-Putra (2010)Ecocriticism, Genre, and Climate Change: Reading the Utopian Vision of Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital Trilogy, In: English Studies91(7)pp. 744-760 Routledge, Taylor & Francis
This paper calls for a rapprochement between ecocriticism and what it often disregards as theory. Specifically, it argues for the relevance of genre theory, which explores the dynamic relations of author, reader, text, and the worlds they inhabit. Texts are locatable within the environment of a given genre; further, generic environments reciprocally shape, structure, and determine our sense of the wider environment. This paper offers a generically inflected reading of Kim Stanley Robinson's Science in the Capital trilogy, in which the representation of climate change is understood as a complex set of negotiations within the generic space of utopian science fiction. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
A Johns-Putra (2013)Environmental Care Ethics: Notes toward a New Materialist Critique, In: Symplokē21(1-2)pp. 125-135 University of Nebraska Press
To scan the now ubiquitous definition put forward by the Brundtland Commission is to realize that our construction of “sustainability” is driven by a notion of care—care for the nonhuman environment enfolded with a concern for our human descendants. The rhetoric around our ideal response to climate change structures it as an ethical response. This essay proposes that, while so much of the ontology of the global ecological crisis called climate change has been closely interrogated, the ethics of care demanded in the name of that crisis has not been scrutinized in the same way. By “care,” I mean a feeling of concern for the wellbeing and needs of others; by “care ethics,” I mean an ethical position that takes this affective concern as its basis for action.1 Given that environmental ethics—the question of human conduct and its effect on the human and nonhuman environment—is a profoundly ontological project, accounting as it must for the perceived ontological difference between the human and nonhuman, this lack of ontological scrutiny is conspicuous, to say the least. This essay thus offers a theorization of the care ethics of climate change and sustainability. It considers this through the ontological project of new materialism, paying attention to the new materialist tendency to discuss ontology as agency, and being in terms of becoming. I propose that care too has to be discerned as always becoming, that it is to be considered—to invoke Heidegger—not as ontic but as ontological. And yet, pace Heidegger, I suggest that, in an environmental ethics of care, care is more fruitfully thought of not as a condition for ontology (as in Heidegger’s Sorge) but as itself deserving of ontological query. Care is not the means by which agency occurs; it is itself agential.
A Johns-Putra (2011)Key Critical Concepts and Topics, In: The Romanticism Handbook(5)pp. 101-118 Continuum / Bloomsbury Publishing
This chapter is divided into nine sections, each providing an overview of a key critical concept for the study of Romanticism: canon, class, gender, imagination, nature, Orientalism, revolution, science and slavery. In each of these nine sections, the concept in question is discussed in terms of how it developed over the Romantic period in the work of both major and minor Romantic writers. Each topic is also discussed with regard to the changing landscape of contemporary Romantic scholarship and criticism.
C Brace, A Johns-Putra (2010)The Importance of Process, In: Process: Landscape and Text10pp. 29-44 Rodopi
This chapter examines the process by which landscape and (written) text inter-relate, and therefore attends to the process of literary creativity. It explores the apparently ineffable, unknowable and ‘unwritable’ elements of the creative process. It focuses first on the writer as an agent in that process and then, via writers’ accounts of landscape and text, considers the creative process in terms of a dialectic between two phases: a conscious, reflective phase of observing, planning, and researching; and an unconscious, unreflective phase often designated as ‘inspiration’. That second phase becomes the locus of the ineffable aspect of creativity. By considering these two phases within a dialectic, we move closer towards an account of the unwritable aspect of the creative process. Thus, we respond, too, to the tension between representational and non-representational theories of landscape in cultural geography. In the final analysis, we offer two ways of approaching and discussing landscape and text based on two ways of constructing the creative dialectic – the one dealing with the moments at which landscape and text inform each other, and the other treating of coincidences between literary and geographical forms.
A Johns-Putra (2013)A New Critical Climate, In: Symplokē21(1-2)pp. 7-10 University of Nebraska Press
AG Johns-Putra (2015)Historicizing the Networks of Ecology and Culture: Eleanor Anne Porden and Nineteenth-Century Climate Change, In: ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment22(1)pp. 27-46 Oxford University Press
This essay contends that historicized textual analysis must account for the interlaced cultural and environmental conditions of a text’s composition and publication. Focusing on Eleanor Anne Porden’s The Arctic Expeditions (1818) as a depiction of global climate change, I demonstrate the extent to which discursive and ecological events are networked, and the significance of any given node within that network. I contextualize Porden’s poem within the polar publicity campaigns of Admiralty second secretary John Barrow and unprecedented ice-melt caused by the Tambora eruption in 1816, as well as alongside Porden’s quest for recognition as a woman of science and letters.
Adeline Johns-Putra (2019)Climate Change and the Contemporary Novel, In: Climate Change and the Contemporary Novel Cambridge University Press
Climate change is becoming a major theme in the contemporary novel, as authors reflect concerns in wider society. Given the urgency and enormity of the problem, can literature (and the emotional response it provokes) play a role in answering the complex ethical issues that arise because of climate change? This book shows that conventional fictional techniques should not be disregarded as inadequate to the demands of climate change; rather, fiction has the potential to challenge us, emotionally and ethically, to reconsider our relationship to the future. Adeline Johns-Putra focuses on the dominant theme of intergenerational ethics in the contemporary novel: that is, the idea of our obligation to future generations as a basis for environmental action. Rather than simply framing parenthood and posterity in sentimental terms, the climate change novel uses their emotional appeal to critique their anthropocentricism and identity politics, offering radical alternatives instead.
(2018)Cli-Fi: A Companion, In: Cli-Fi Peter Lang

Climate change fiction is a new literary phenomenon that emerged at the turn of the twenty-first century in response to what may be society’s greatest challenge. Climate change is already part responsible for extreme weather events, flooding, desertification and sea level rise, leading to famine, the spread of disease, and population displacement. Cli-fi novels and films are typically set in the future, telling of disaster and its effect on humans, or they depict the present, beset by dilemmas, conflicts or conspiracies, and pointing to grave consequences. At their heart are ethical and political questions: will humankind rise to the challenge of acting collectively, in the interest of the future? What sacrifices will be necessary, and is a green dictatorship our only hope for survival as a species?

Each chapter in this volume offers a way of reading a particular literary text or film, drawing attention to themes, formal features, reception, contribution to public debate, and issues for class discussion. Popular novels and films (Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capitol trilogy, Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, Ian McEwan’s Solar, and The Day after Tomorrow) are examined alongside lesser known writing (for instance J. G. Ballard’s «proto-climate change» novel The Drowned World and Antti Tuomainen’s Finnish thriller, The Healer), and films not generally thought of as being about climate change (Frozen and Take Shelter).

The book, which includes an introduction tracing the emergence and influence of cli-fi, is directed towards general readers and film enthusiasts as well as teachers and students. Written in an accessible style, it fills the gap between academic studies and online blogs, offering a comprehensive look at this timely new genre.

Adeline Johns-Putra (2019)Climate and History in the Anthropocene: Realist Narrative and the Framing of Time, In: Climate and Literaturepp. 246-262 Cambridge University Press
This chapter is prompted by recent calls by historians and other scholars for new understandings of history in the Anthropocene; it asks what this might mean for literary realism, invested as it is in the depiction of the passing of time. History in the Anthropocene renders redundant the human-historical, individual-universal dialectic that has long been the hallmark of the realist novel. Following Ian Baucom, this chapter looks to Walter Benjamin’s conceptualisation of history for clues to a new form of literary realism. For Benjamin, a true understanding of history demands the recognition of the 'image' of history, a recognition occurring in a moment of 'arrest' or stoppage in the flow of time and of thought. This chapter speculates on the emergence in the Anthropocene of a literary realism that performs just such an arrest, taking its reader beyond conventional understandings of (human) history and time.
Axel Goodbody, Adeline Johns-Putra (2019)The Rise of the Climate Change Novel, In: Climate and Literaturepp. 229-245 Cambridge University Press
This chapter outlines the emergence of climate fiction and its key modes. It pays particular attention to the extent to which climate fiction has worked within the established conventions of literary realism, meeting the many representational challenges mounted by climate change. While it considers the extent to which realism is able to render the abstract and intangible phenomenon of climate change visible, it argues that there is also a significant body of writing on the subject which turns to alternative forms and narrative strategies in the effort to represent climate change, and manages to overcome some of the limitations of realism. In other words, where climate fiction meets the challenges of representing climate change, it has the potential to provide a space in which to address the Anthropocene’s emotional, ethical, and practical concerns.
AG Johns-Putra (2017)"My Job is to Take Care of You": Climate Change, Humanity, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, In: MFS Modern Fiction Studies Johns Hopkins University Press
Though it never names its ecological catastrophe, The Road is increasingly read as a climate change novel. I explore how this narrative of father and son walking a dead landscape speaks to contemporary environmental concerns. Adapting apocalyptic techniques, it contrasts a lost humanity (that is, being both human and humane) against present inhumanity, locating the measure of humanity in the father's care for his son. Thus, the novel resonates with contemporary anxieties about caring for the future, anxieties often expressed in the figure of the child. The novel's conclusion, however, affords the opportunity of rising above such anxieties.
In today’s sociopolitical world, sustainability has become a ubiquitous term. It is also an intriguing term, incorporating both an immensity of vision and the minutiae of day-to-day life. But its slipperiness is manifest; does it mean the same thing to a farmer, a conservationist, a politician, or a multinational cooperation? Is sustainability a term whose meaning can be sustained? While much is written on sustainability across various domains, it has received little attention from literary scholarship, including from the burgeoning field of ecocriticism. One reason for this is that sustainability is often discussed in the context of broader issues such as food security or climate change. Another is the term’s contested usage, for example, in the disparity between its potential for safeguarding planetary diversity – a concern of many ecocritics – and its vulnerability to cooption within a neoliberal paradigm, whereby what seems mainly to be sustained is the possibility for business-as-usual. Sustainability is a profoundly problematic term. Yet, this in itself should invite literary commentary; indeed, such a response is now emerging. This collection represents the responses of leading and upcoming scholars to the question of how literary scholarship might engage with the sustainability debate. The essays in this book explore a range of approaches, from applying tools of literary enquiry in order to interrogate sustainability’s paradoxes, to investigating the ways in which literature envisages sustainability or plays out its tropes. For academic researchers and advanced students in environmental literary studies, this book offers a critical approach to sustainability.
C Brace, A Johns-Putra (2010)Process. Landscape and Text.10 Rodopi
While the relationship between place and creative effort has been the focus of pronounced new interest in various disciplines, the contours and co-ordinates of the process by which one informs the other, by which landscape shapes text and vice versa, have yet to be delineated in any systematic fashion. This volume sheds light on that process, investigating the ways in which it is both reciprocal and interstitial: how does text shape our perception of landscape as much as it is shaped by it, and how do we account for the points at which text and landscape intersect? The first part of the volume introduces us to the question of process in landscape and literary studies; the second part examines the moments within the process by which landscape and text come to bear upon each other; and the final part deals with the relationship between the material experience of landscape and the formal characteristics of a given text, using this to reflect back on the processes of landscape perception and creativity. This volume spans the disciplines of geography, literary studies, and the visual arts. It also brings together scholarly and creative perspectives, interspersing academic commentary with poetic-photographic essays.
C Brace, A Johns-Putra (2010)Recovering Inspiration in the Spaces of Creative Writing, In: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers35(3)pp. 399-413 Wiley & Blackwell
This paper emerges from a project conducted between academics in literary studies and geography that explored the creative process amongst writers who write for pleasure. It seeks to understand writing as creative process as well as simply representation, recovering process as a part of creative making. Building on a long tradition of theorising process and creativity in literary studies, which has cumulatively discredited the idea of inspiration, this paper asks whether a fresh engagement between geography, literary studies and other work on creative writing can provide new insights into the creative process. Recognising that questions of representation have been pursued with different trajectories in geography and literary studies, this paper attempts to identify our common intellectual concerns as well as asking whether a rapprochement between questions of representation and non-representational theory can provide the stimulus for an enlivened account that recovers the place of inspiration in creative writing. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) 2010.
H Bergthaller, R Emmett, Adeline Johns-Putra, A Kneitz, S Lidstrom, S McCorristine, IP Ramos, D Phillips, K Rigby, L Robin (2014)Mapping Common Ground: Ecocriticism, Environmental History, and the Environmental Humanities, In: Environmental Humanities5(1)pp. 261-276 Duke University Press
The emergence of the environmental humanities presents a unique opportunity for scholarship to tackle the human dimensions of the environmental crisis. It might finally allow such work to attain the critical mass it needs to break out of customary disciplinary confines and reach a wider public, at a time when natural scientists have begun to acknowledge that an understanding of the environmental crisis must include insights from the humanities and social sciences. In order to realize this potential, scholars in the environmental humanities need to map the common ground on which close interdisciplinary cooperation will be possible. This essay takes up this task with regard to two fields which have embraced the environmental humanities with particular fervor, namely ecocriticism and environmental history. After outlining an ideal of slow scholarship which cultivates thinking across different spatiotemporal scales and seeks to sustain meaningful public debate, the essay argues that both ecocriticism and environmental history are concerned with practices of environing: each studies the material and symbolic transformations by which "the environment" is configured as a space for human action. Three areas of research are singled out as offering promising models for cooperation between ecocriticism and environmental history: eco-historicism, environmental justice, and new materialism. Bringing the fruits of such efforts to a wider audience will require environmental humanities scholars to experiment with new ways of organizing and disseminating knowledge.
A Johns-Putra (2014)Care, Gender and the Climate-Changed Future: Maggie Gee's The Ice People, In: Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fictionpp. 127-142 Wesleyan University Press
Anthropogenic climate change, global warming, the sixth mass extinction event—whatever we want to call it—is now fixed in the science fiction imaginary: witness the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2010) and consider Kim Stanley Robinson’s near-future depiction of abrupt climate change in the “Science and the Capital” trilogy (2004, 2005, 2007). Perhaps just as noteworthy is the recent spate of novels about future climate-changed worlds by authors who are not usually identified with science fiction. This includes writers of so-called “literary” fiction on both sides of the Atlantic: Margaret Atwood, T. C. Boyle, Cormac McCarthy, Will Self, and Jeanette Winterson. Doris Lessing’s return to futuristic world-building in her “Ifrik” novels is worth considering in this vein. So too is British novelist Maggie Gee, and the environmental catastrophe she depicts in her novel, The Ice People (1998).
AG Johns-Putra (2006)Home and the Harem: Early Nineteenth-Century Orientalist Representations of Women by Women, In: Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies2(3)
Adeline Johns-Putra (2017)Borrowing the World: Climate Change Fiction and the Problem of Posterity, In: Metaphora Institut für Germanistik
In 1971, activist-author Wendell Berry, writing about the Red River Gorge in his beloved Kentucky, invoked the trope of a natural world not granted by our forebears but on loan from our descendants—the biosphere held in trust, as it were, for generations to come (Unforeseen Wilderness 26). The re-publication of part of Berry’s work in Audubon magazine soon after (Berry, ‘One-Inch Journey’ 4) led to a mis-attribution of them to John James Audubon, and, in 1973, when Dennis Hall, an official at Michigan’s Office of Land Use, adapted them without citation, he was erroneously credited also. Similarly, Australian Environment Minister Moses Cass’s use of it in a speech to the OECD in 1974 (qtd. in O’Toole) meant that the adage has sometimes been ascribed to him. From the 1980s onwards, the phrase was quoted in speeches and reprinted on book-jackets and in report by-lines—by, among others, representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Wildlife Fund (Talbot 495). Paul and Anne Erhlich attributed it to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (26) and an article in the Christian Science Monitor (Jones 23) assigned it to environmentalist Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute. The Los Angeles Times asserted that it was an Amish saying (Riley 5), United States Secretary of State James Baker named Ralph Waldo Emerson as its author (qtd. in Keyes L10), and the United States Council on Environmental Quality claimed the source to be Chief Seattle (qtd. in Keyes L10). 2 I have described these mis-attributions in detail not simply to offer an object lesson in the portability of provenance, but to suggest that this pithy aphorism has been so durable, so willingly and wishfully assigned to a range of wise and venerable sources, because it strikes a deep and resonant chord. The idea that our relationship with the biosphere is automatically a matter of posterity is a powerful one, and this quotation in particular achieves several important rhetorical tricks. It collapses a web of obligations—the interspecial and the intergenerational—into a single immemorial and apparently unthinkable strand of time. We are not simply construed as guardians of the environment for the environment’s sake; we are explicitly called on to steward it for this vastly distant future, while being reminded of our debt to those in the past. We are thus placed in a grand historical chain of obligations. This is a different version of posterity from John Passmore’s ‘chain of love’, which reads, rather, as a kind of pass-the-parcel conception of intergenerational concern: Men do not love their grand-children’s grand-children. They cannot love what they do not know. But in loving those grand-children—a love which already carries them a not inconsiderable distance into the future—they hope that those grand-children too will have grand-children to love. By this means there is established a chain of love and concern running throughout the remote future. (88) For Passmore, we ‘cannot love’ what we ‘do not know’, and thus future generations are cared for vicariously, since it is the receipt by a given generation of the love and care of immediately preceding generations that positions and motivates it to care for the next. Unlike the chain imagined by Passmore, the rhetoric of environmentalist posterity brings those future generations into the immediate purview of parental love. The call to stewardship seems to trail off into the reaches of time, but its use of synecdoche—the modelling of our attitude to future generations on our responsibilities to our offspring—replaces the terror of sublime infinity with the intimacy of parental caring, sheltering, and nurturing. From Berry’s original 3 expression of it through its many incarnations, the primal, emotional punchline is that the (every)man loves his children. In this essay, I first consider the prevalence of the notion of posterity in popular climate change discourse, scrutinising its appeal to ideas of parenthood, which leads to a consideration of this discourse’s appropriation of the figure of the child. I argue that not just this preoccupation with posterity but the use of the child as a particularly emotive shorthand conceal a collective angst about the cumulative effect of human activity on the planet. In a time of dire destruction of the biosphere at large, this anxiety is exacerbated by the intractable ethical dilemmas that underlie our obligations not just to future humans but to nonhuman species. In the final analysis, the climate change novel emerges as a space in which this angst is aired, shared, and—most importantly—queried, as countless such novels place parent-child relationships under emotional and intellectual scrutiny. Ultimately, I contend that many climate change novels’ use of apparently sentimental parent-child imagery is, paradoxically, part of a vital critique of the human exceptionalism that underwrites such imagery.
A Johns-Putra (2006)The History of the Epic Palgrave Macmillan
This is a narrative history of the development of the genre from antiquity into the present day.
(2019)Climate and Literature, In: Climate and Literature Cambridge University Press
Leading scholars examine the history of climate and literature. Essays analyse this history in terms of the contrasts between literary and climatological time, and between literal and literary atmosphere, before addressing textual representations of climate in seasons poetry, classical Greek literature, medieval Icelandic and Greenlandic sagas, and Shakespearean theatre. Beyond this, the effect of Enlightenment understandings of climate on literature are explored in Romantic poetry, North American settler literature, the novels of empire, Victorian and modernist fiction, science fiction, and Nordic noir or crime fiction. Finally, the volume addresses recent literary framings of climate in the Anthropocene, charting the rise of the climate change novel, the spectre of extinction in the contemporary cultural imagination, and the relationship between climate criticism and nuclear criticism. Together, the essays in this volume outline the discursive dimensions of climate. Climate is as old as human civilisation, as old as all attempts to apprehend and describe patterns in the weather. Because climate is weather documented, it necessarily possesses an intimate relationship with language, and through language, to literature. This volume challenges the idea that climate belongs to the realm of science and is separate from literature and the realm of the imagination.
AG Johns-Putra (2006)Gendering Telemachus: Anna Seward and the Epic Rewriting of Fenelon's Telemaque, In: Approaches to the Anglo and American Female Epic, 1621-1982pp. 85-97 Ashgate
This book examines a variety of women's epics of the Romantic age, from war epics to biblical narratives, from heroic poems to mock epics.
AG Johns-Putra (1999)Christ as Woman's seed: Romantic Women Poets Rewriting the Bible, In: Prism(s): essays in romanticismpp. 59-81
AG Johns-Putra (2007)"Anna Seward's Translations of Horace: Poetic Dress, Poetic Matter and the Lavish Paraphrase, In: Translators, Interpreters, Mediators: Women Writers 1700-1900pp. 111-128 Peter Lang
This thesis seeks to re-evaluate the role of personification in Romantic-period poetics by examining how women writers used the device to address a reductive alignment of the female with the natural. Women poets employ personification to tell different narratives about human and non-human interrelationship. Personifications that feminise nature appear prolifically throughout Romantic poetry. Women writers take up the technique and its tropes in order to critique the cultural equation of women with nature and offer alternative presentations that recognise greater complexity both in their own experience and in the non-human environment. Traditional ideas of a feminised, other “Nature” come under reconsideration. Each chapter focuses on how women poets re-appraised and appropriated feminine personifications of nature in the context of aesthetic, scientific, philosophical and political discourses. I examine how six writers, Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Smith, Anna Seward, Ann Batten Cristall, Helen Maria Williams and Anna Letitia Barbauld, tackle the gendered dynamics and cultural assumptions surrounding personification in each of these differing discourses. I investigate how they personify nature in innovative ways to present a richer understanding of their relationship to nature.