1st Edition

The Shifting Sands of the North Sea Lowlands Literary and Historical Imaginaries

By Katie Ritson Copyright 2019
    180 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    180 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Global seawater levels are rising and the low-lying coasts of the North Sea basin are amongst the most vulnerable in Europe. In our current moment of environmental crisis, the North Sea coasts are literary arenas in which the challenges and concerns of the Anthropocene are being played out.

    This book shows how the fragile landscapes around the North Sea have served as bellwethers for environmental concern both now and in the recent past. It looks at literary sources drawn from the countries around the North Sea (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and England) from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, taking them out of their established national and cultural contexts and reframing them in the light of human concern with fast-changing and hazardous environments. The six chapters serve as literary case studies that highlight memories of flood disaster and recovery, attempts to engineer the landscape into submission, perceptions of the landscape as both local and global, and the imagination of the future of our planet. This approach, which combines environmental history and ecocriticism, shows the importance of cultural artefacts in understandings of, and responses to, environmental change, and advocates for the importance of literary studies in the environmental humanities.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of the Environmental Humanities, including Eco-criticism and Environmental History, as well as anyone studying literature from the Germanic philologies.

    Introduction. On the Edge of the North Sea  1. Against the Tide: Living with the North Sea  2. Conquest and Control: Engineering the Anthropocene on the North Sea  3. A Sense of Place in the Anthropocene: W.G. Sebald and East Anglia  4. Landscape as Palimpsest: East Anglia in British "New Nature Writing"  5. Causeways to the Past: Anthropocene and Memory in Contemporary Novels  6. Under the North Sea: Petrospectral Futures  Conclusion. The Literary Imagination in the Environmental Humanities


    Katie Ritson is Managing Editor at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich.

    "In evocative and moving prose, The Shifting Sands of the North Sea Lowlands takes us down rivers and along coasts, through mudflats, silt, and fenlands, to explore the remarkable littoral landscapes and literary imaginations of the North Sea Lowlands. In Ritson’s reading, these ever changing places and the diverse texts they have animated and inspired offer up an incredible richness of possibilities both for understanding our pasts and for crafting shared futures in this Anthropocene epoch."Thom van Dooren, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies and Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney, Australia

    "Where does the Anthropocene tell its stories? And who are the storytellers? With the skill of a novelist and cutting-edge trans-disciplinary methodology, Katie Ritson finds the answers to these questions in the eloquent landscapes of the North Sea Lowlands, where sands and waters, nature and history, human creativity and ecological predicaments merge into one another. Vis-à-vis with the combined imagination of elements and literature, The Shifting Sands of the North Sea Lowlands is one of the best examples of how the environmental humanities can contribute to shaping the generous imaginaries we need in a time of shifting horizons."Serenella Iovino, co-editor of Environmental Humanities: Voices from the Anthropocene and Italy and the Environmental Humanities: Landscapes, Natures, Ecology

    "Bringing together both environmental history and ecocriticism, The Shifting Sands is an example of the best kind of environmental humanities scholarship, steeped in both disciplines and traditions." - Astrid Bracke, HAN University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands