Tag Archives: Ecocriticism

Charity placement with Small Woods Association

It has been a very busy autumn/winter period!

A write-up of my charity placement with the Small Woods Association, which was part of my activities as an EU Climate-KIC ‘Pioneer into Practice’, has now gone live on the University of Birmingham Website.


I’ve reproduced a slightly longer version below!


Charity Placement with Small Woods Association

Dr Louise Hardwick has recently completed a four-week placement with the Small Woods Association in Ironbridge. The charity is the national organisation for woodland owners, workers and supporters. Louise, an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow, undertook the placement as part of her EU-funded activities with Climate-KIC, the EU’s main climate innovation initiative. Through the award of a funded place on the Climate-KIC ‘Pioneers into Practice’ scheme, Louise has able to develop the practical applications of her research in Ecocriticism through a specific training programme (workshops, online exercises, and a dedicated coach). Most importantly, through Climate-KIC, Louise applied her knowledge in a real-world situation with Small Woods Association (SWA).

The placement was also part of Louise’s cross-College activities at BIFoR (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research), where she is the Interdisciplinary Leadership Fellow for Ecocriticism. Louise explored the connections between the important knowledge base at Small Woods Association and BIFoR’s ground-breaking FACE facility which uses state-of-the-art science to address the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.

Louise at the Green Wood Centre site, part of SWA’s national headquarters.


At SWA’s working centre in Coalbrookdale, located in a stunning natural environment, Louise learned about ‘the story of wood’, from the local heritage of coracles to wood’s fascinating role in the construction of the Ironbridge itself. She also enjoyed a number of practical demonstrations of wood craft! During her placement, Louise met with SWA team members to discuss the connections between their work and her research on Caribbean authors whose literature raises urgent questions about human relationships with the land. She developed training and presentation materials to support the centre, and was profiled in the SWA members’ newsletter.

Louise’s placement has established a significant new working relationship between BIFoR and SWA with great future potential. Further collaborative activities such as internships and Scholars in Residence schemes can offer new ways to connect her research and the wider research conducted at BIFoR with important non-academic partners.




Ecocritism Keynote at Durham IAS

On Friday 13th May, I gave a keynote paper at the international symposium ‘Aesthetics of Crisis: Ecology, Disaster, Representation‘ which was held at the University of Durham’s Institute of Advanced Study, and was generously funded by the Durham Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience (https://www.dur.ac.uk/ihrr/).

The symposium was organised by Dr Kerstin Oloff (Hispanic Studies, Durham) and is part of a wider programme of activities. It followed the ‘Plotting the Crisis’ symposium held at the Durham IAS in 2013, and is part of the series of events run by the Ecology and the Arts Research group in the Modern School of Languages and Cultures at Durham (https://www.dur.ac.uk/mlac/research/groups/ecology/).

I spoke on my recent research, and my paper was called ‘Experiments in Ecocriticism in the French Caribbean’.

It was a chance to discuss the ideas I set out in an article which will be published any month now… In this article, I undertake a cultural and political examination of the Manifeste pour les ‘produits’ de haute nécessité, a manifesto co-authored by a collective of leading Martinican cultural figures, including Chamoiseau and Glissant, in response to the general strikes of 2009 in Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and Réunion. These  strikes focused metropolitan attention on the high cost of living or ‘la vie chère’ in the overseas departments. I argue that authors are creating new forms of hybrid cultural creation which aim to transform human attitudes towards work and natural life, and to address the potential impending environmental catastrophe in the Caribbean, and beyond.

What is the link to Zobel, you may well ask…?  Well, as I’ve commented before on this blog, my current research is identifying a number of environmental themes in Zobel’s work (see previous posts on my public talk at the Toulouse La Novela festival, my work with Birmingham Institute for Forest Research, and my page on Ecocriticism).

The day had a fantastic line-up of papers which discussed the anthropocene, depictions of migration, and Cli-fi, the branch of Sci-fi that focuses on environmental themes.

It was a pleasure to meet so many colleagues working in related fields, and it provided a rare opportunity to mix in an interdisciplinary environment. The other keynote was provided by Dr Mark Anderson (University of Georgia) who gave a fascinating paper on  “Latin America in the Anthropocene: Crisis and Cultural Representation” and has a book out soon on that research project. I’ll be looking out for it…




August activities and Zobel project summer shutdown

Last week I attended an international Summer School at the University of Oxford on Ecoliteracy.

Ecoliteracy is a broad term which refers to a range of different practices and theories focusing on how we interact with the natural world. In our current, rapidly urbanizing western societies, it is increasingly clear that an urgent rethinking of our relationship with nature is required.

I’ve blogged before about the importance of the environment in Zobel’s works, and my experiments at using the branch of literary theory called ecocriticism to address this neglected aspect of his work. I’ve also mentioned my new role at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) and you can read more about this here..

BiFoR and UoB logos and treeFrom his literature to his interest in Ikebana, the environment and the place of the human being within wider systems is something that urgently needs to be explored and reassessed in Zobel’s work.

The Oxford course was fantastic – the attendees hailed from many different continents and we were encouraged by our excellent teacher Jane Corbett to draw as much on our own experiences as on the theories about the environment that were on our reading list. My colleagues shared their own expertise in fields as diverse as health and safety, waste management, psychiatry, biology, retirement living and teacher training, which made for a rich and stimulating week.

It provided very fertile conditions (excuse the pun) to explore the environment in Zobel and I enjoyed setting my thoughts down on paper for my end-of-course assignment.

As a continuing professional development activity, it was refreshing to once again be the student (I’m not sure that ever stops)!


I also had the pleasure of seeing some Martinican colleagues who were visiting the UK. I took them on a whistle-stop tour of Oxford, and in amongst visiting colleges, they brought me up to date on progress with the Joseph Zobel centenary in Martinique. They were also excited to hear about what the Guardian termed my “Indiana Jones moment” 🙂

Now, it’s back to my desk! I’ll be focusing on drafting my book chapters for the rest of August, and then having a period of annual leave, so I’ll return to the blog in late September – à bientôt!

Summary en français of my public talk in Rivière-Salée

I have received the following write-up of the talk I gave at Rivière-Salée’s Centre Culturel last week, and with the kind permission of the author, who is an MA student at the University of the Antilles, I have reprocuced it below.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to share my work on Rivière-Salée’s most famous author in his place of birth.

Thank you for this summary, Françoise, I am delighted you enjoyed my talk!

Bonne lecture!

J’ai assisté ce mercredi 22 avril à une conférence sur Joseph Zobel, dans son fief natal, à l’occasion du centenaire de la naissance d’un « petit nègre de Petit-Bourg » dont le génie littéraire a été traduit dans le monde entier. C’était un avant-gardiste de la Négritude et de la Créolité, et il a trouvé en Louise Hardwick, enseignante-chercheur à l’université de Birmingham, en Angleterre, une grande spécialiste de son œuvre.

Zobel, Césaire, Fanon et Glissant ont été de grands hommes dont les écrits représentent une richesse étonnante de la culture antillaise et ont permis de faire rayonner la Martinique à l’étranger. Si Aimé Césaire est le plus connu, son ami, Joseph Zobel a une place de choix dans le cœur des Martiniquais, et plus particulièrement des Saléens.

C’était très impressionnant de rencontrer « une étrangère » venir parler avec autant de fascination et de passion d’un “enfant du pays” à travers la littérature qu’il a léguée aux générations suivantes. Louise Hardwick prépare un ouvrage sur cet écrivain majeur afin de faire découvrir au plus grand nombre la portée de l’œuvre d’un génie né il y a cent ans, sur les terres salées.

Ce qui fut enrichissant, c’est sa réflexion “écocritique” sur la relation de Zobel avec la terre (jardin créole et morne). Cette enseignante-chercheur de passage sur l’île jusqu’au 29 avril vaut la peine d’être écoutée. Sa maîtrise du français est remarquable.


Amicalement, Françoise DUVAL

Etudiante en Maîtrise à l’Université des Antilles 

This Academic Life – March

This month has been pretty much dominated by Salon du Livre preparations and the event itself, which was fantastic. It was extremely valuable to discuss my work on Zobel during a public debate with key cultural figures who are also interested in him from Martinique and France. You know it has been a good discussion when, unprompted, a member of the audience asks if they can take the microphone and respond to the comments we were making!

This represented a real leap forward for my work to change the public understanding of Joseph Zobel and Caribbean literature more generally. My Round Table comments drew some very positive and helpful feedback, and I’m now in the final stages of planning more research and public engagement activities in Martinique…

I’ve included the write-up of my Salon du Livre activities which appeared on the University of Birmingham news pages below:

Paris Book Fair

Louise Hardwick was an invited speaker at the prestigious Paris Book Fair this weekend, and participated in a Round Table debate on Joseph Zobel’s legacy.

The debate was organised by the Ministry for Overseas France in collaboration with a French group of cultural advisors, museum curators, writers, artists and academics who are working on Joseph Zobel. The event was a major milestone in Louise’s programme of activities in the UK, France, Martinique and the USA as an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow.

At the Round Table, Louise spoke alongside Professor Romuald Fonkoua from the Sorbonne, artist Roland Monpierre who has just launched a graphic novel adaptation of one of Zobel’s novels, and members of the Zobel family, Jenny Zobel and Charlotte Zobel, who are actively involved in exploring Joseph Zobel’s legacy.

Louise discussed her current AHRC-funded research project on Zobel, which will lead to a complete reassessment of Zobel’s many novels, short stories, poetry and other cultural output (including painting, sculpture and radio broadcasts), giving rise to a more complete understanding of the impact of this prolific author who played a major cultural role in Martinique, Senegal and France.

The French Minister for Overseas France, George Pau-Langevin, was present in the audience, as was the President of the Martinican Cultural Commission, Yvette Galot, who praised the Round Table debate for improving the public understanding of Zobel’s significance, commenting that “it is essential to continue this vital work on Zobel’s heritage.”

Zobel’s best-known novel La Rue Cases-Nègres and its film adaptation Sugar Cane Alley by Euzhan Palcy are both widely studied across the Anglophone world, from the USA to Australia. Euzhan Palcy, who is based in New York, and Martinican Head of Museums Lyne-Rose Beuze were also present at the Salon du Livre, and provided their invaluable perspectives on Zobel’s legacy.

Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean

hardwick-childhood-caribbean161x240I’m currently working on a book on Joseph Zobel, and as those ideas take form, I’ve been blogging about some of the directions I’ll take. If you’re interested in this, take a look at the pages on Ecocriticism and WW1 and the French Caribbean.

But what sparked my interest in Joseph Zobel?

I wrote an AHRC-funded doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford, which I then adapted into the book Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean which was published in 2013. In this project, I discussed récits d’enfance, or childhood narratives, by a range of authors, including Zobel. In the scope of this project, I examined La Rue Cases-Nègres, La Fête à Paris (later republished as Quand la neige aura fondu) and Laghia de la mort.

So if you’re looking for academic criticism of Zobel which has already been published, here’s the write-up of that book:

Louise Hardwick, Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013)

The book  draws attention to a neglected body of récits d’enfance by contemporary bestselling, prize-winning Francophone Caribbean authors Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, Gisèle Pineau, Daniel Maximin, Raphaël Confiant and Dany Laferrière, while also offering new readings of texts by Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant, Joseph Zobel, Françoise Ega, Michèle Lacrosil, Maurice Virassamy and Mayotte Capécia.

This book examines a major modern turn in Francophone Caribbean literature towards the récit d’enfance, or childhood memoir, and asks why this occurred post-1990. Texts are read in the context of recent changes in public policy and education policy concerning the commemoration of slavery and colonialism both in France and at a global level, including the UNESCO project ‘La Route de l’esclave’, the ‘loi Taubira’ and the ‘Comité pour la mémoire de l’esclavage’.

The study proposes an innovative methodological paradigm with which to read postcolonial childhoods in a comparative framework from areas as diverse as the Caribbean, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and particularly the Haitian diaspora in North America.

Find out about my other recent publications at: https://josephzobel.wordpress.com/publications-2014-2016/

Reviews of Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean

Childhood, Autobiography and the Francophone Caribbean is the first book-length study of a remarkable literary phenomenon that emerged in the last decade of the twentieth century in the French Antilles and Haiti – the autobiographical narrative. Louise Hardwick expertly analyses this relatively understudied genre which uses childhood narrative in as much a politically as an aesthetically subversive manner. Her clear, meticulous and informed study reveals the ways in which these narratives of childhood, driven by a devoir de mémoire, relate individual memory to collective identity. This is a welcome critical work that makes a major contribution to francophone as well as to postcolonial literary studies.   Professor J. Michael Dash, New York University

… a study that is a pleasure to read … Hardwick’s meticulous research, balanced approach and lucid prose merit serious consideration from specialists of the region. Professor Françoise Lionnet, University of California Los Angeles

In an impressive series of close readings, Louise Hardwick analyses the genre of autobiographical childhood narratives … These innovative readings constitute the volume’s tour de force: in inaugurating the critical field of récits d’enfance studies, it renews our approaches to Francophone Caribbean literature in general. Dr Malik Noël-Ferdinand, Université des Antilles-Guyane

Louise Hardwick’s excellent study is a most welcome contribution to the field … With its beautiful style and pedagogical structure, it is a didactic masterpiece. Dr Christina Kullberg, Uppsala University, Sweden

Toulouse conference with Patrick Chamoiseau

(Version française ci-dessous/ French version below)


I’ve just got back from beautiful Toulouse where I gave a paper at the conference ‘Patrick Chamoiseau et la mer des récits’ (Patrick Chamoiseau and the sea of stories), held at the University of Toulouse – Jean Jaurès (campus photos below).

maison de la recherchelibrary

For the full programme, click here: Chamoiseau Conf Toulouse Sept14.

My paper was about Ecocriticism in the work of Zobel and Chamoiseau, and you can find out more by looking at my blog page on ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE.

In addition to the academic paper, and more nerve-wrackingly, I also participated in a Round Table public discussion at an annual festival called ‘Toulouse La Novela’. This wonderful festival of ideas, science and culture takes place in the heart of the city each year. Our round table took place in a beautiful park in a Big Top tent (see photos below)!

At the round table, I explained the main ideas of my conference paper on biodiversity and the environment to the Toulouse public, and talked about Birmingham Institute for Forest Research and the need for researchers in the sciences and humanities to take a more joined up approach to tackle environmental challenges. A couple of joggers, wondering what was going on in the tent, even popped in! Patrick Chamoiseau then responded to the themes of my paper. He spoke with such passion about the Martinican environment that I’m feeling inspired to push on with my research into ecocriticism in Zobel’s work.

round table


Je viens de rentrer de Toulouse, où j’ai donné une conférence lors du congrès ‘Patrick Chamoiseau et la mer des récits’. Pour le programme, cliquez ici: Chamoiseau Conf Toulouse Sept14

Dans ma contribution, il s’agissait d’une exploration de l’écocritique chez Zobel et Chamoiseau. Pour en savoir plus, jetez un coup d’œil à la page ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE.


De plus, j’ai participé (non sans trépidation) à une Table ronde dans le cadre du festival Toulouse La Novela. Ce festival d’idées, science et culture a lieu chaque année au cœur de la ville. Notre table ronde a eu lieu dans un très beau parc sous un chapiteau !

Le grand rondLe Chapiteau

Lors de la table ronde, j’ai résumé les idées principales de ma communication sur la biodiversité et l’environnement au public toulousain, et j’ai parlé du Birmingham Institute for Forest Research, en soulignant qu’il faut que les chercheurs dans les domaines des sciences et des humanités se réunissent afin de répondre aux défis environnementaux. A mon très grand plaisir, quelques joggeurs, curieux de voir ce qui se passait sous le chapiteau, ont pris la décision de rentrer pour écouter notre discours ! Ensuite, Patrick Chamoiseau a répondu aux thèmes de ma communication. Il a parlé de l’environnement martiniquais avec tant de passion que j’ai hâte de reprendre mes recherches sur l’écocritique chez Zobel…

New page on Ecocriticism/Ecocritique

Just added a new page on Ecocriticism and the project’s links with Birmingham Institute of Forest Research… Take a look (click on ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE above).

Je viens d’ajouter une nouvelle page sur l’écocritique, ainsi que sur les liens de ce projet de recherche avec le Birmingham Institute of Forest Research… Cliquez ci-dessus sur le bouton ECOCRITICISM/ECOCRITIQUE

BiFoR and UoB logos and treeLogos BiFoR and UoB