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I am currently beginning a new, Leverhulme-funded research project, “World Literature and Commodity Frontiers: The Ecology of the ‘long’ 20th Century.”

Project description: Since the turn of the century, the field of comparative literature has been profoundly impacted by two key developments. One is the resurgence of debate around the concept of world literature, arising from a sense that ‘globalization’ has thrown the received disciplinary protocols of literary studies into question. The other is the continued headway made by ecocritical paradigms, which, in the context of urgent concerns over the planetary biosphere, have pioneered new ways of thinking about the interconnections between global literatures. Situating itself at the intersection of these areas of study, the project will pursue a form of literary comparativism grounded in the ecological changes entailed by the movement of specific commodity frontiers in a select range of locations.

Focusing on the period from 1890 to the present, the project will compare the relationship between literature and the sugar, cacao, coal, tin, gold, and stone frontiers in Brazil, the Caribbean, West Africa, and the UK. It will investigate how fiction and poetry mediate the lived experience of frontier-led ecological change, and how cultural imaginaries have been impacted by or contributed to such change. The project combines a materialist approach to world literature (understood in terms of its relationship to global capitalism) with new approaches to global ecology.

For further information, see: World Literature and Commodity Frontiers