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Name: Hollie Johnson 

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: Ecodystopia: Environmental Apocalypse and the Ecocidal Imagination


Thesis Description:

My project aims to carry out an ecocritical re-evaluation of literary dystopias that tracks the role of environmental concerns within the development of the genre. In particular, my thesis focuses upon the recent environmental turn of dystopian novels after 1950, thereby moving away from reductively anthropocentric scholarly accounts of dystopia. Instead, my project engages with the ongoing discussions around nature and environment with the specific aim of clarifying what an ecocritical approach can bring to the understanding of recent dystopian fiction. In the course of this exploration I will also be challenging existing definitions of the dystopian genre in order to locate how specifically environmental disaster narratives are located within this genre, and also how they problematize it.

By engaging with both critical work on dystopia and the developing field of ecocritical theory, my thesis aims to provide a new, original direction between these two fields. Ecocriticism is a relatively new theoretical area and critics continue to disagree strongly over its definition and aims. Equally, critics of literary dystopias continue to debate the characteristics and development of the genre. Indeed, the emergence of ‘eco-dystopias’ has further complicated such discussions. Despite the abundant recent critical attention surrounding both these areas, the intersection between them has received little attention, therefore my project addresses the lack of dialogue between these fields. 


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Dr Nathan Waddell (University of Nottingham), Prof Dominic Head (University of Nottingham)



‘“Back to the Future”: Predatory Capitalism and the Dystopian Cycle of Progress’, ASLE-UKI Postgraduate Conference ‘A Change of (S)cene: Reviewing Our Place in a New Geological Epoch’, The University of Lincoln, 31/08/16

‘Borders under siege: Ecological dystopia and cyborg insurrections in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, Global Fantastika; Lancaster University, 05/07/16

‘Anarchy, Nostalgia, and Resistance: The Role of Nature in We, Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, CRSF Postgraduate Annual Conference; The University of Liverpool, 27/06/16

‘“Constructed as in Crisis”: Ecotopian Nightmares in J.G. Ballard’s Rushing to Paradise, PCA/ACA (Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association) National Conference 2016; Shearton Seattle Hotel, Washington, 24/03/16

‘Climate Fiction and Ecodystopian Landscapes’, M3C Research Festival; Nottingham Conference Centre, 12/05/16

‘Ecotopian Nightmares in J.G. Ballard’s Rushing to Paradise, LINK15 Interdisciplinary Research Conference; East Midland’s Conference Centre, University of Nottingham, 20/07/15


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


Landscape, Space, and Place (2013-Present):

  • Since my MA, I have been a part of the University of Nottingham's Landscape, Space, and Place Research Group - an interdisciplinary project which explores the differing conceptions of spaces and landscape.
  • In 2014, I joined the LSP Committee and became involved in organising that year’s annual symposium – ‘There and Back again: An Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Workshop on Travel’, which took place on 22nd June 2015.
  • In 2015, I became one of the groups leading coordinators, involved in organising the monthly reading group and this year’s annual symposium – ‘Everywhere and Nowhere: An Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Symposium on Imagined Spaces’, taking place on 20th June 2016. For more information, please see the Imagined Spaces symposium website.

LINK Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference (2015-2016):

  • In 2015 I was a member of the organizing committee for LINK 15. LINK is an interdisciplinary conference that aims to bring the University of Nottingham’s postgraduate students together. Focusing on the University’s own research themes, LINK ‘15 is an opportunity for both masters and research students to meet fellow postgrads from all over the University, forging new research links across schools and departments and offering a creative environment for research exchange. 
  • Building on my experience from last year, in 2016 I took up a leading role in LINK 16, heading the committee alongside the SU Postgraduate Officer. We expanded the capacity of the conference to host more oral presentations and poster presentations and gained some excellent feedback from the students involved.

Sustainability Research Network (2014-2015):

  • September 2014 I joined the University of Nottingham's Sustainability Research Network, and in October I became a committee member. The SRN is an interdisciplinary initiative which aims to engage with and promote ideas of sustainability, asking questions such as what is the value of nature? 



Other Research Interests:

  • Posthumanism - My Masters dissertation focused on posthumanist theory and twenty-first century human identity within Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy. Posthumanism feeds into ecocritical arguments and questions of sustainability by exploring how the ways in which we conceptualise human identity and singularity directly affects how we conceive of the wider environment around us.
  • Postmodernism - One approach in trying to establish a consistent practice of ecocritical theory has been to examine its relation to pre-existing theoretical thought, postmodernism in particular. Indeed, ecocriticism tensions and similarities with postmodern theory have been a central aspect of discussion and so an engagement with the implications of postmodernism will be essential in establishing a more concrete definition of ecocritical theory. 


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