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Lecture to examine post-apocalyptic fiction


Fiction tackling the theme of the end of the world as we know it will be on the agenda when Susan Watkins delivers her inaugural lecture as Professor of Women’s Writing at Leeds Beckett University.

The event will take place at the University’s city centre Rose Bowl building on Wednesday 26 October from 6-7pm.

The lecture, entitled ‘Women’s Post-Apocalyptic Fiction 1945-Present: Writing as Re-vision’, will see Professor Watkins examine some of the features of the genre across that period. She will also examine what happens to literature - words, stories and narratives – after the apocalypse takes place. Just as there is, in these novels, life after apocalypse, so there is writing and narrative after apocalypse. But what kinds of writing survive?

Professor Watkins, commented: “Since the millennium there has been an increase in the production of novels and films that imagine the end of the world as we know it, usually as a consequence of climate change, globalisation, corporatisation and the unchecked excesses of techno-science.

“Contemporary women writers are no exception to this trend: novelists like Margaret Atwood, Jeanette Winterson, Jane Rogers, Sarah Hall, Emily St John Mandel, Maggie Gee, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor have all published fictions set after the apocalypse has happened.”

Professor Watkins will argue that women writing in the post-apocalyptic mode throughout the period 1945 to the present have successfully transformed the genre by arguing for the possibility of creative outcomes for humanity post-apocalypse.

“Conventional male-authored apocalyptic fiction tends towards conservatism: traditional patriarchal and imperialist definitions of what civilization is,” said Professor Watkins. “The narrative momentum after the imagined disaster is either towards the restoration of what has been lost during the apocalypse, or focuses on nostalgic mourning for the past. Contemporary women writers’ present alternatives, however, as they focus instead on the ways in which patriarchy and neo-colonialism are intrinsically implicated in the disasters they envision, and successfully transform and rewrite the genre.”

Professor Watkins is based in Leeds Beckett University’s School of Cultural Studies and Humanities and is Director of the Centre for Culture and the Arts. Her main research expertise is in the field of contemporary women’s fiction and feminist theory. Before being appointed to a senior lectureship at Leeds Beckett University in 1998 she was senior lecturer at the University of Chester for six years. A founding member and former Chair of the Contemporary Women's Writing Association (CWWA) and previously an Associate Editor of the Oxford journal Contemporary Women's Writing, Professor Watkins was also co-editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature until December 2015.

Professor Watkins is author of the books Twentieth-Century Women Novelists: Feminist Theory into Practice and Doris Lessing and is co-editor of Scandalous Fictions: The Twentieth-Century Novel in the Public Sphere and Doris Lessing: Border Crossings. In addition she has published articles about women’s writing in the Journal of Southern African Studies, Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies’ and LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory and Feminist Review, as well as co-editing special issues of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature and the Journal of Gender Studies.

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