Redefining Paradise: Environmental Fiction in California and the American West

Deadline: 31 January 2022
Contact: Katarzyna Nowak-McNeice
Email: [email protected]

The editor of a volume tentatively titled Redefining Paradise is looking for submissions focusing on 21st-century, environmentally oriented fiction written in California and the American West.
Representing California (and more widely the American West) as an earthly paradise is a long tradition dating back to the very first textual depictions of the region, and this tradition continues till the present. But for as long California has been seen as a paradise, so has such a perception been deemed problematic: the human grip on this earthly paradise has always been seen as precarious, and the paradise itself unreachable or impossible to keep. Today, the threats resulting from climate change – the rising sea levels, droughts, wildfires, mudslides – are all part of the complex reality with which humans must cope. Dealing with climate catastrophe on a global scale means redefining nature and the human relation to it; reaching any realistic scenario of repealing, partially reverting, or mitigating the enormous climate disaster we are living through must include a radical redefinition of our relation to the environment and of our understanding of who we are and what role we might play. Many writers and philosophers recognize this pressing demand. If, as many thinkers argue, our current climate catastrophe is a failure of imagination (such as David Wallace-Wells in The Uninhabitable Earth, or as suggested by Martha Nussbaum in Political Emotions and Wendell Berry in Imagination in Place), then to remedy the catastrophe we need precisely a concentrated exercise and a great effort of imagination.
There is a grand tradition of writing about environmental issues in California and in the West (from John Muir, through Gary Snyder, to Denise Levertov, Octavia Butler or Robert Haas), and there are heirs to this tradition who not only continue to talk about difficult truths, but also propose daring, imaginative solutions (Amanda Gorman, Molly Fisk, Cathy Park Hong, Laila Lalami, Susan Straight, or Hector Tobar – the list is by no means exhaustive). As we emerge – slowly but surely – out of the pandemic and into a world that many say cannot remain the way it has been, a collection of essays discussing environmental issues and possible solutions would certainly be timely.

Potential contributors are invited to reflect on the idea of climate catastrophe as a failure of imagination which is remedied by Californian and Western art and fiction – prose and poetry, but also films and other, multimodal means of expression. Ideas to consider include: paradise redefined – and understood in secular terms; redefinition of nature; changed understanding of humanity / animality; redefinition of humanity based on an inclusive approach to the natural world; creative approaches to understanding the place of humans in the natural environment; post-apocalyptic, utopian visions. The list remains open-ended.

Please send proposals of about 200 words and a short bio before 31 January 2022 to [email protected]. Full essays of 5,500 – 6,500 words will be due by 30 May 2022. Initial questions and queries are welcome.

The editor of the Ecocritical Theory and Practice series of Lexington Books (Rowman and Littlefield) has expressed strong interest in the project.

Posted on September 20, 2021