Climate impiety. Beyond post-apocalyptic climate change fiction

Start - End 
2017 - 2021 (ongoing)
Department of Literary Studies
Research Focus 



Mahlu Mertens's PhD project explores how climate change literature that resists the typical form of the climate dystopia may provide alternative ways of narrating anthropogenic climate change that are more apt to represent this multi-faceted and far-reaching phenomenon. In the twenty-first century there has been an explosive growth of so-called cli-fi, especially in the Anglophone world. Most such works are novels that dramatize the phenomenon by sketching a post-apocalyptic, ecological dystopia. Indeed, there seems to have emerged a standard narrative pattern. This prototypical form, however, ultimately sidesteps the problem of truly imagining the complexity and gigantic temporal and spatial scales of climate change, because it simplifies and compresses it to make it containable on a human scale. This project therefore analyses four categories of works that all break with one of the characteristics of this prototypical climate fiction: works set in the present, works that span a large time period, comical climate literature, and climate change denial literature. Inspired by novelist Amitav Ghosh’s remark that novels might be less suited to deal with climate change than other genres, it also analyses plays, poems, and comics. The overall aim is to provide insight into a more diverse arsenal of literary strategies for depicting climate change than those on which most critical energy has been expended so far, and thereby to enrich the toolkit of resources for effective climate change communication.



Phd Student(s)