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Climate Fiction(s) #1

Séminaire / Recherche

Le 15 octobre 2024

Saint-Martin-d'Hères - Domaine universitaire

Climate Fiction(s)

Une série de séminaires autour de la notion de « climate fiction » co-organisé par Marie Thévenon (UGA, ILCEA4) & James Dalrymple (UGA, ILCEA4).

Ce séminaire est le premier d'une série de séminaires intitulée « Climate Fiction(s) » qui a pour but d'explorer différents types de fictions climatiques, à la fois dans la littérature et dans les arts visuels, d'un point de vue anglophone. Lors de ce premier séminaire, notre invité sera Prof. Peter Mathews, Professeur de littérature anglaise à l'université de Macau (Chine), qui parlera de The Bell of the World (2023) de l'auteur australien Gregory Day.


Seminar n°1: Toward an Ethics of Receptivity: Reading Gregory Day’s The Bell of the World
Guest-Speaker:  Peter Mathews, Professor of English Literature at the University of Macau
Respondent: Christine Vandamme, Senior Lecturer at Grenoble Alpes University, ILCEA4

This seminar will examine the novel The Bell of the World by Gregory Day, an Australian author whose work has gained increasing recognition over the past few years as an important literary commentator on humanity’s relationship to the environment. At the start of his career, Day’s “Mangowak” trilogy of novels explored stories set along the southeast coast of Australia through a Catholic spirituality. His reputation began to grow when he published Archipelago of Souls in 2015, shortlisted for the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Award, about a soldier who retreats to a small Australian island, emotionally damaged after spending the war resisting the Nazis in Crete. His fifth novel, A Sand Archive (2018), is about an engineer, F. B. Herschell, who is charged with stabilizing the soil along the southeast coast to allow the construction of the now-famous Great Ocean Road. This task takes him to France in the 1960s where, between witnessing mass demonstrations and falling in love with his host’s daughter, he studies sand-dunes along the French coast, bringing back with him a species of grass to Australia. Despite the success of this venture, he increasingly comes to regret his decision, as the kind of grass he used is intrusive and does not suit the Australian environment. The novel is not only a powerful meditation on how change, both social and environmental, shapes the lives of its characters, but it was also a major critical success: it was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, and won the Patrick White Literary Award. Day also won the Nature Conservancy Australia Nature Writing Prize in 2021. In this seminar on Day’s latest novel, The Bell of the World, we will start by considering with Day’s decision to go against the conventional tendency to tell stories about the environment that look to the future, while emphasizing the necessity and urgency of action to avoid disaster. The Bell of the World, by contrast, asks the reader to look back rather than forward: the story’s two main arcs are set, firstly, in the years just before World War I, and secondly, sometime in the 1960s. In a similarly counter-intuitive manner, Day’s metaphor of the “bell of the world” emphasizes the importance of receptivity over action as the first and most crucial step toward establishing harmony with the environment. Finally, a rereading of modernism is crucial to understanding Day’s novel, with a particular focus on the book’s references to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), Tom Collins’s Such is Life (1904), and the experimental music of John Cage, who appears as a fictionalized version of himself in the novel. Taken together, these three starting points – looking back to the past, learning to how to listen, and reinterpreting modernism – will provide a critical matrix for reading and understanding this powerful novel about humanity’s relationship to the environment in the context of climate change.


Peter D. Mathews is a tenured Full Professor of English Literature in the Department of English at the University of Macau. After completing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Monash University in 2002, he worked for nearly a decade as an academic in the United States, before moving to Asia since 2010. His research focuses mainly on modern and contemporary British fiction, Australian literature, and critical theory. He is the author of three academic books in these fields: Lacan the Charlatan (2020), English Magic and Imperial Madness (2021), and From Poet to Novelist: The Orphic Journey of John A. Scott (2022). He is currently working on a book about the Australian author Rodney Hall.

Respondent: Christine Vandamme is a senior lecturer at Grenoble Alps University, where she teaches British literature in the 19th century as well as postcolonial literature in the 20th century. Her field of expertise is that of space, place and literature but also space, place and identity, from a narratological and deconstructive perspective but also with a particular interest in the ideological, political and ethical implications of such spatial representations. She has published extensively on Joseph Conrad, Malcolm Lowry and Patrick White. She published a book on Conrad’s Lord Jim in 2004 and co-edited a volume on Tropes and the Tropics in Conrad’s fiction in 2010. She also co-edited Science and Empire in the Nineteenth Century in 2010. Lately, she has published mostly on the representation of space and place in Australia with a particular focus on non-indigenous Australian perceptions and visions of the “bush” as well as what indigenous Australians call “country”, whether literary and cultural (Henry Lawson, Patrick White, David Malouf, Alexis Wright) or pictorial (Sydney Nolan, Russell Drysdale). She co-edited a volume on Space, Place and Hybridity in National Imagination in the English-speaking postcolonial world with Andre Dodeman in 2021. She is currently working on the notion of resurgence and invisibility and to what extent Art can provide a space of negociation, cultural and political exchange and ethical co-imagination of future imagined nations. In a difficult time when even the simple addition to the Australian Constitution of the Aboriginal voice, a purely consultative body, was refused last autumn, humanities remain an essential field where the urgent issues of climate change, social justice for all and a collective need to co-construct a sustainable future should be discussed, co-imagined and put to the test.


Le 15 octobre 2024
Complément date

à 16h30


Saint-Martin-d'Hères - Domaine universitaire

Complément lieu

Salle 211 (2e étage) à la MaCI (Maison de la Création et de l'Innovation)


Marie Thévenon ( (Marie[dot]Thevenon[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr))
James Dalrymple ( (James[dot]Dalrymple[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr))

à télécharger

Publié le 8 juillet 2024

Mis à jour le 8 juillet 2024