Heather Milligan

Project Title: A Novel Climate: Disrupting Genre in the Anthropocene

Climate change, ecological collapse, nuclear conflict, digital surveillance, rising authoritarianism: the eco-political crises of the twenty-first century are growing and compounding with significant, understudied consequences, not least for literature. As these cataclysms seep into novelists’ imaginary worlds, new forms and themes have emerged to grapple with humanity’s unique responsibility for planetary change.

Too often, climate fiction—popularly dubbed ‘cli-fi’—is dismissed as a narrow genre of dystopian writing. By studying critically acclaimed novels across genres, including westerns, myths, and crime fiction, my research will explore how diverse new writing contends with today’s most urgent political and environmental threats. I seek to demonstrate that, beyond a mere trope or plot device, climate change fundamentally disrupts the meaning-making strategies of a wide range of contemporary authors in expansive and unexpected ways. In the literary imagination, climate change appears not only as the condition of a dreaded future, but as a force reframing our precarious present and atrocity-strewn past.

My doctoral studies aim to produce findings of interest to literary and environmental humanities scholars, activists, artists, policymakers, and media figures engaged with global climate and sustainability narratives. This research will encourage an approach to the climate and ecological crises as not one issue among many, but the defining transformation in a new epoch of human thinking.

Awarded: Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Field: Literary Studies

University: University of Edinburgh

Latest News