BSR Online Lecture | Oceanic futures: dystopia after lockdown

WEDNESDAY 20 MAY 18.00–19.30 CET

Florian Mussgnug (UCL)

This virtual lecture will take place using the online platform, Zoom.

Our future is becoming more oceanic. Sea-level rise will soon have an irreversible, devastating impact on coastal communities and more-than-human habitats. How are our stories changing in response to this threat? Mutability and fear are the hallmarks of an emergent new oceanic imaginary, which depicts the sea as a dynamic, intimate and threatening presence: not the aqua nullius of maritime mythology, but an encroaching, uncanny force that unsettles and disrupts everyday lives. This lecture considers some recent literary examples from Italy, North America, Germany and Britain, and explores the ambivalent and precarious sense of space that characterises these fictions. Oceanic dystopias thus mark the advent of a new affective regime, which runs counter to the spatializing impulse of twentieth-century dystopia, and resists the claustrophobic localism of lockdown culture. Beyond the current crisis, dystopian fluidity (or liquid dystopia) embraces the fundamental unpredictability of post-holocenic societies and ecologies: not a “new normal”, but a protracted uncertainty that necessitates new political and epistemic modes, temporalities and projections of futurity. 

Florian Mussgnug teaches Italian and Comparative Literature at University College London, where he founded the UCL Comparative Literature Programme. He has published widely on 20th and 21st Century literature, with a particular focus on literary theory, experimental literature, and narrative prose fiction in Italian, English and German. He is co-investigator for the five-year AHRC-funded research project “Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020: Interart/Intermedia” and academic director of the UCL Cities Partnerships Programme in Rome. In 2017/18 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the British School at Rome.

Please register here as places are limited.