“Wild Possibility”: American Literatures, Climate Change, and Hope in the Anthropocene

deadline for submissions: 
April 3, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Dr Wendy McMahon and Dr Rebecca Tillett, University of East Anglia, U.K.
contact email: 

Call for submissions for Journal of Comparative American Studies


Wendy McMahon and Rebecca Tillett


“Wild Possibility”: American Literatures, Climate Change, and Hope in the Anthropocene 


The editors invite contributors to submit proposals for a special issue of Comparative American Studies on literatures of the American hemisphere, from Alaska to Argentina, Canada to the Caribbean, to the US Pacific Island Region, and their engagement with Anthropogenic climate change. The complex and contentious histories, geopolitics, and interrelated histories of colonial domination, oppression, dispossession, and dislocation of the American hemisphere have resulted in commonalities of experience among oppressed communities and cultures. In the twenty-first century, the historically uneven distribution of resources has resulted in a further commonality of experience: the environmental injustices and increasing inequalities emerging from the climate crisis and its uneven impacts. The twenty-first century has also witnessed a hemispheric boom in writing concerned with climate change which, we contend, represents a rich site for the ‘wild possibility’ of hope in times that can feel hopeless. These writings, while locally and culturally specific, speak across borders of all kinds to offer ways of thinking and acting in the face of climate crisis. This special issue of Comparative American Studies makes an important intervention into the field of climate and narrative, both situating these literatures within a hemispheric discourse and providing a critical framework for analysis.


Increasingly, literature and literary criticism have turned their attention to narratives of the Anthropocene and climate change as a new, distinct geological epoch defined by the impact of human collective activity that has left permanent traces in the geological record. The profound ecological and human damages done by extractive industries and capitalist economies mean that the Anthropocene marks a moment of human and planetary crisis. There is a broad agreement that we ‘cannot see climate change outside of the larger context of the Anthropocene.’ (Craps and Crownshaw, 2018). Accordingly, the majority of western responses focus on dystopia and apocalypse, and can seem overwhelming to the point of despair. However, we contend that this does not have to be the case, that much climate change literature instead offers hope. As Rebecca Solnit argues, it is "hope [that] requires clarity – seeing the troubles in this world – and imagination, seeing what might lie beyond... situations that are perhaps not inevitable and immutable”. Hope contains, therefore ‘wild possibility’ (Solnit, 2004).  This special issue aims to excavate the grounds for hope evident in the diverse climate change literatures of the Americas and we would like to invite contributors who share our view that this is, to evoke Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau, ‘a moment of hope’ (Mouffe and Laclau, 2002). Hope here is not something trivial or a state of naïve optimism, but is a category that allows us to imagine and reimagine possibility in times where transformational change can seem impossible. We contend that literature itself is always ‘hopeful’ in that making and shaping worlds through which its imaginative possibilities become sites of social critique and potential transformations. If grief, the mourning of what we have lost and what we stand to lose, is the defining experience of the Anthropocene, then Julie Kristeva argues, ‘it is only by traversing our grief that there can be any possibility of hope’. It is hope, Ernst Bloch asserts, that refuses to ‘make peace with the existing world’ (Bloch, 1988). In this time of climate crisis, hope is therefore essential, for as Solnit insists, ‘hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope’ (2004). 



All essays should focus on the Americas, broadly conceived, and possible topics could include but are not limited to:


Comparative essays (i.e. addressing commonalities of experience across discriminated communities)


Rebellion, resistance, revolution


Local organisation and action against acts of environmental racism 


Urban experiences / eco-urban neglect


Extractive capital and /or disaster capitalism


Culturally diverse and/or marginalised and underrepresented literatures


Comparative genres of climate narrative


Literary criticism and the environment / climate change 


Alternative/sustainable ways of living and being in the world



Please send proposals of 250 words with a brief bio to w.mcmahon@uea.ac.uk and r.tillett@uea.ac.uk by Monday 3 April 2023.We especially welcome contributions from underrepresented scholars and on underrepresented literatures.