The ruins of the recent past have recently received increased attention worldwide, as seen in proliferating images of post-industrial Detroit, new pilgrimages to Chernobyl, and the documentation of post-Soviet architectural remains. The corpus of environmental fiction and poetry depicting modern ruins has grown accordingly, but remains under-studied. While considerable research has been devoted to literary ruins in earlier periods, the current moment is underexplored and commands urgent scholarly attention, especially in the context of environmental studies. This project examines urban ruins in contemporary writing, showing that literary depictions of ruins can form an important part of a text’s ecological work. The project’s scholarly contribution is threefold. First, it contributes to the interdisciplinary understanding of the current global preoccupation with modern ruins. Second, the project deepens scholarship on key modern writers whose environmental texts include ruins: Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Derek Mahon and Judith Wright. Third, in reading modern ruin depictions as a form of caution to the reader, the project contributes to research on the study of the text as form of environmental warning.
Beginning in February 2022, Bridget Vincent will be a Lecturer in English at the Australian National University. Her first book, Moral Authority in Seamus Heaney and Geoffrey Hill, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2022. She writes on modern literature and ethics, and her specific research interests include: ecocriticism and ruin theory in contemporary literature (AIAS project); public apology in twentieth century writing; ekphrasis; the lyric essay; and attention in literature.
Project title: The Architecture of Warning: Urban Ruins and the Ecological Imagination
Area of research: Literature and ethics
Fellowship period: 1 February 2022 - 31 January 2024