April - July 2018
Home Institution: Lakehead University, Orillia
Project: Environmental Narrative and Memory in Contemporary Canadian Fiction
How does a nation forget its ecological sacrifices—the poisoned workers, the eroded landscapes, the regions depopulated, the species vanished? Public debate tends to overemphasize the future as the always-deferred site of environmental disaster. But national narratives and cultural memory also matter for environmentalism. Localized disasters and slow-moving, incremental ecological changes tend to be left out of national narratives of progress and unity—a phenomenon Canadian journalist Naomi Klein describes as “ecological amnesia,” one crucial dimension of how environmental problems get ignored and underestimated.
This interdisciplinary research project studies the aesthetic modes by which contemporary Canadian writing makes environmental degradation, risk, and resource extraction socially visible, and explores how these stories intervene in the ways national narratives are told, remembered, and understood. In several studied works by Alistair MacLeod and Sheldon Currie, environmental loss is narrated in relation to experiences of Scottish diaspora.
Dr. Cheryl Lousley is Associate Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Studies at Lakehead University Orillia in Canada. She is the founding editor of the Environmental Humanities book series with Wilfrid Laurier University Press and the Canadian editor of Resilience: Journal of the Environmental Humanities. She has held a Fulbright Research Chair in the Department of English at the University of California Santa Barbara, and a Carson Fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich. Her work appears in several landmark collections of ecocriticism, including The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism; Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context; and Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities: Postcolonial Approaches. She is currently finishing a book manuscript on the imagined world conjured and contested at the public hearings of the 1983-1987 World Commission on Environment and Development.