Sunday, March 8, 2015

Danish literature researcher Gregers Andersen has published a non-fiction book about cli-fi novels (in Danish now, with an English translation coming out later this year)

In the academic world, on the research front, 'cli-fi' is 

growing by leaps and bounds. Two big events are on tap for 


1. Dr Adam Trexler in Oregon, an independent scholar, has arranged with the University of Virginia Press (UVA Press) to publish his genre-shaking nonfiction study of over 150 cli fi novels past and present. The book is titled ANTHROPOCENE FICTIONS and it is due out in May. Details are already online at the UVA website.

2. Danish researcher Dr Gregers Andersen is among the top academics in Europe also looking into the evolution and growth of the cli fi genre, and his new non-fiction book, based on his PhD thesis at the University of Copenhagen, will be published in English later this year. For now, it's available in Danish and titled: ''Klimaforandrede verdensforhold : Den globale opvarmning i fiktion og filosofi. ''

Tentative English title: 
[''Climate-Changed Existence and its Worlds: Global Warming in Fiction and Philosophy'']

A press release from the University of Copenhagen, where Dr Andersen works, published this news release on April 23, 2014 last year. The press release was headlined:

'' Fiction prepares us for a world changed by global warming ''

Dr Andersen teaches at the 

Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen

He notes:

My research is primarily focused on 2 subjects.
1.) I am currently working on the project "Theorizing the Anthropocene", a project funded by the Danish Counsil for Independent Resseach. The main focus point of the project is the question: Which new critical notions of culture does the idea of the Anthropocene (i.e. "The Geologocal Age of Humanity) provoke in contemporary cultural theory? For more information visit the homepage:

2.) I am continiously also working with the phenomenon Climate Fiction (Cli-Fi) - that is, fiction that employ the scientific paradigm of anthropogenic global warming in its plot - as well as with representations of anthropogenic global warming in contemporary philosophy and cultural theory. I expect to publish a book on contemporary Western cli-fi in 2015, as well as a full view of my research on this subject can be found in my Danish language Ph.D. Dissertation ''Climate Changed Existence and its Worlds. Global Warming in Fiction and Philosophy'' (published in Danish in 2014).   



Climate fiction, or simply ''cli-fi'', is a newly coined term for novels and films which focus on the consequences of global warming. New research from University of Copenhagen shows how these fictions serve as a mental laboratory that allows us to simulate the potential consequences of climate change and imagine other living conditions.
“Global warming is much more than scientific data on changes in the atmosphere; it is also a cultural phenomenon in which meaning is being shaped by the books we read and the films we see. And there are so many of them now that we can speak of a completely new genre, cli-fi, says PhD Gregers Andersen who has just defended his thesis Climate-Changed Existence and its Worlds; Global Warming in Fiction and Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen.
Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Screenshot from The Day After Tomorrow, 2004
“We use these films and novels to imagine what life and society might be like in a future when global warming has dramatically changed our world because, as opposed to numbers and statistics, fiction can make us feel and understand the changes.”
In his thesis, Gregers Andersen analyses 40 different novels, short stories, and films produced between 1977 - 2014 which all, in one way or the other, employ global warming as a theme. And in the 40 works, he has identified five themes that each represents global warming in a different way: The Social Breakdown, The Judgment, The Conspiracy, The Loss of Wilderness and The Sphere.

Nature passes judgment

The 2004 Hollywood blockbuster ''The Day After Tomorrow'' is a prime example of the theme Gregers Andersen has termed the Judgment; during the film, global warming has catastrophic consequences and causes a new ice age that lays most of Earth waste.
“In The Day After Tomorrow and a number of similar fictions, nature passes moral judgment on mankind’s exploitation of Earth’s resources and becomes an avenger who, quite literally, clears the air and thus restores the proper balance between man and nature,” Gregers Andersen says.

Climate change speeded up for effect

Apart from the Judgment theme Gregers Andersen, as mentioned, points to four other recurrent themes in the climate fictions he has analysed: The Social Breakdown, The Conspiracy, The Loss of Wilderness and The Sphere (see explanation in the factbox to the right). Despite the thematic differences displayed in these fictional takes on global warming and climate change, they all seem to have one central trait in common:
“If we do not take care of our environment, of or our home, it will change, and it will feel and seem very different – “unhomely” if you will. This is exactly the feeling the fictions want to leave us with. And even though UN’s panel on climate change (IPPC) has previously issued a  report stating that global warming may lead to abrupt and irreversible changes , most of these fictions do tend to exaggerate the consequences of global warming, and the climate changes often happen extremely quickly,” Gregers Andersen points out and continues:
“They do this to depict characters who can remember how the world was before the climate changes set in – the characters are, in other words, able to spot that “our home” has changed. However, it is still a recognizable world the characters inhabit in these fictions. And it needs to be recognizable because we are supposed to feel uncomfortable with the fact that our home planet has become a strange and alien place.”

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