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Creative Writing: Rising to the challenge of Climate Change

Creative Writing: Rising to the challenge of Climate Change

Explore how storytelling helps address the ethical and technical challenges of environmental narratives.

Dr Kevan Manwaring is the Course Leader for the new AUB Online MA Creative Writing. Here, he talks about how research for his latest book has fed directly into course content, and how all modern writers should rise to the challenge of Climate Change. 

Creative Writing and the Environmental Crisis 

In a recent BBC Radio 4 segment, Simon Armitage, the UK's Poet Laureate, explored glaciers in northern Norway as part of his role as the Arctic Poet Laureate. While standing on one, he said ‘every poet needs to address Climate Change’ in their writing.   

This goes for novelists, scriptwriters and writers of creative non-fiction. It overshadows all activity, cultural or otherwise, across the globe in the 21st Century. The United Nations declared ominously that it presents ‘the defining crisis of our age'.  

Critic Mark Bould suggests every cultural artefact – film, TV series, novel, computer game, graphic novel, pop song, etc – is inflected with this awareness, whether the creator intends it to or not, because of what he calls the ‘Anthropocene Unconscious’ 

Exploring ecological thinking and issues  

As an MA Creative Writing student, you’ll need to be a self-reflexive writer, bringing an informed consciousness to your practice. That’s not to say that everything you write has to foreground ecological thinking and issues, but this course will simply create the opportunity to explore these issues deeply.  

Responding to the zeitgeist 

One module in particular focuses directly on environmental aspects: Writing in the Anthropocene. This has been informed by a monograph I’ve recently authored for Palgrave Macmillan, Writing Ecofiction: navigating the challenges of environmental narrative, and is supported by cutting-edge research.  

‘Ecofiction’ or ‘Cli-Fi’ is becoming a popular form, prominently displayed in bookshops and frequently present in best-seller lists and book prize short-lists. It’s a way of responding to the zeitgeist – the footage we see on the news programmes every evening, the extreme weather events happening with increasing frequency and power.  

This genre dramatises the news, the latest reports, and the real-world impacts, articulating our fears and concerns.  

Combine the art of storytelling with a deep commitment to environmental consciousness with AUB Online’s MA Creative Writing:

Explore the course

Developing a creative response to the theme of Climate Crisis  

Some of the most exciting writing is coming out from this field at the moment, in my opinion – for example, Richard Power’s astonishing Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Overstory. My book explores a cross-section of creative approaches, and the ethical and technical challenges they present.  

Through a discussion of classic and contemporary texts, critical responses and creative writing exercises, this book will aid 21st Century writers of the environment in developing their own effective creative responses to the theme of Climate Crisis.  

It also explores writing that delves into the embodied, local, and transhuman aspects, challenging conventional notions of 'nature' and the perceived separation between humanity and the natural world.  

With an awareness of the Global South and the ‘subaltern’, the very framing of the ‘Anthropocene’, ‘wilderness’ and ‘nature writing’ is challenged.  

The ever-present spectre of didacticism is addressed, and you’ll be encouraged to consider a spectrum of perspectives, and to make your own ‘ecologies’ of connection. The module will use the book as a starting point, but the emphasis will be on how you wish to explore environmental crisis.  

All voices are welcome 

Any perspective and approach are possible, if it’s undertaken in a well-informed, and well-crafted way. It could be a piece of New Nature Writing, a short story or chapter which dramatises an aspect of the Climate Emergency, a poem that articulates a more-than-human perspective, a script which brings to life the struggles of an eco-activist with a climate denier partner or parent.  

It has to be emphasised that one critical position isn’t the only one to be taken – a cross-section is a far better approach.  

The important thing to remember is that the ecological imaginary is broad and demands a multiplicity of perspectives. All voices are welcome – we all have an authentic, authoritative voice and a stake in the survival of our planet and species.    

Dr Kevan Manwaring

Course Leader, MA Creative Writing

Start your creative journey here.

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