Narratives of the Anthropocene: Affective Responses to Climate Trauma

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


One of the great challenges in presenting climate change is its scalar effects. Climate change narratives often collapse the scale into typical conventions, such as the two-hour film, which present the problem but also present unrealistic solutions. This becomes coupled with a period of anticipatory mourning or ‘pretrauma,’ following E. Ann Kaplan, of the climate crisis, with its expected catastrophic result.
This paper argues that nostalgic narratives have the potential to focus on a medium scale, allowing the experience of reflective nostalgia (Boym) to frame both the long scope of the historical consequences, and tie that to the local affective narrative of trauma within the story. Furthermore, the paper argues that through the collapsed scale possible through the nostalgic narrative, and the acceptance of life loss in the face of climate trauma, readers can confront, accept, and ultimately react meaningfully to our changed circumstances – freeing us from the Anthropocene’s perceived paralyzing nature.
The paper will focus on readings of two novels, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Sequoia Nagamatsu’s 2022 debut How High We Can Go in the Dark. Through close readings, the paper demonstrates how rather than looking towards still possible futures, the focus on the loss – exploring the emotional impact of dwelling in the certainty of change and our varied responses to it – coupled with a nostalgic edge as they both deal with a postapocalyptic scenario allows us to consider how we can move forward and use our past longings for positive future change. They equally consider the responses of grief – moving past denial towards acceptance of monumental change – and explore the use of hope in such bleak and dire circumstances. The medium scale allows us to both promote active affective change and keeps the threat of climate and environmental change present and real.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date30 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2023
EventASLE-UKI Biennial Conference: Transitions - University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Aug 20231 Sept 2023


ConferenceASLE-UKI Biennial Conference
LocationUniversity of Liverpool
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • climate change fiction
  • Climate Trauma
  • Climate Change
  • Ecocriticism
  • Ecotrauma


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