Islands have long been the subject of cultural fascination, but in recent decades, they have exerted an increasingly powerful centrifugal force, sending writers to the outer edges of the British-Irish archipelago in search of inspiration and insight.
Drawing on contemporary ecocritical approaches, island studies, and emergent archipelagic perspectives, Ecocriticism and the Island explores a wide selection of island-themed creative non-fiction. Through a combination of textual analysis, and, where possible, original interviews and archival research, Pippa Marland offers new insights into the work of Tim Robinson, Brenda Chamberlain, Christine Evans, W.G. Sebald, Stephen Watts, Amy Liptrot, Kathleen Jamie, Adam Nicolson, Robert Macfarlane, and David Gange. In assessing the ways in which these authors negotiate existing cultural tropes of the island while offering their own distinctive articulations of “islandness,” this book represents an important intervention into island literary studies. At the same time, it contributes to the development of an archipelagic strand of ecocriticism—one that offers a valuable perspective on human-environmental relationships in an Anthropocene context.
Pippa Marland is a lecturer in humanities at the University of Bristol, UK.
List of illustrations
PART I: APPROACHING THE ISLAND
1 Taking the ‘Good Step’ in Tim Robinson’s Stones of Aran
2 The ‘World-Hungry Art of Words’: Tim Robinson’s Formal Dialectic
PART II: MATERIAL IMMERSION
3 ‘The Past Is Too Much with Us’: Material Remains in Brenda Chamberlain’s Tide-race
4 The Living Island: Christine Evans’ Bardsey
PART III: THE ISLAND ASSEMBLAGE
5 W. G. Sebald’s Orfordness: Rewriting the Romantic Island
6 Reading Things: Sebald’s Melancholy Resistance
PART IV: ARCHIPELAGIC REFRACTION
7 Stories from the ‘Heart of the World’: Stephen Watts’ Republic of Dogs/Republic of Birds
8 Thoughts of Home: Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun
PART V: ISLANDS AT THE EDGE
9 ‘Signs of Strangeness’: the guga Hunt in Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways and the Plastic Doll’s Head in Kathleen Jamie’s ‘Findings’
10 From the Stone Age to the Age of Satellites: Anthropocene Islands
Epilogue: Archipelagic Ecocriticism
About the Author
Ecocriticism and the Island is a fascinating study of the diversity and importance of literature and life across the north Atlantic archipelago. Written with clarity and insight, it is a guide to the histories of communities around Ireland and Britain and an augur of our collective future through engagement with art, language, and climate science, all brought together in a compelling critical and creative narrative. It is an important addition to the archipelagic and blue humanities and marks a good step forward in island thinking.
Drawing upon an impressive breadth of theoretical reference as well as interviews with key writers, Pippa Marland offers sensitive and illuminating close readings of a diverse range of creative non-fictional texts. The result is a brilliantly original and engagingly lucid work of ‘archipelagraphy’ that demonstrates how ecocriticism might contribute to island studies and how island-themed texts might advance ecocritical practice. Ecocriticism and the Island is essential reading for all researchers and students interested in the intersections of literature, place, and contemporary environmental thought.
Read this book if you are drawn to the ever-more-crowded bookstore shelves of creative nonfiction about place and about living in, traversing, or mapping distinctive geographies and their communities. Ecocriticism and the Island is a meticulously researched study of island-themed books by some of the most important writers on these shelves. It is a gift to researchers seeking new approaches to island literary studies, offering thorough and utterly persuasive close readings that confirm the ultimate inseparability of actual and imagined islands. It is also a gift to researchers seeking a route between the concepts and methods of island studies and of ecocriticism, two approaches that, as Pippa Marland amply demonstrates, need each other.