Narratives of Water: Flows, Routes, Crises in the Atlantic World

deadline for submissions: 
December 11, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
University of Turin

Narratives of Water: Flows, Routes, Crises in the Atlantic World 

University of Turin, Italy 

Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Modern Cultures 

March 21-22, 2024 


In her 1951 work The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson describes the tension between our desire to re-enter the ocean and our physical inability to do so, stressing how humanity has put all the might of its “skill and ingenuity and reasoning powers” behind the task of exploring and investigating the vastness of the ocean in order to “re-enter it mentally and imaginatively.” In stressing the creative dimension of such a return to both the substance and the locus where life first began, Carson highlights the immanence of human fascination with water, all the more accentuated in current times. 

As climate change ravages our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes, and with them their flora and fauna, an urgent conversation on the intricate relationship between humanity and water has been underway among ecocritics, its many facets coalescing into the field of Blue Humanities (Mentz 2023). Several recent publications (e.g., Oppermann 2023; Mentz 2023; Campbell and Paye 2020) show that this interdisciplinary area of inquiry has enjoyed rapid growth in the twenty-first century, encompassing an array of subjects, from literature and history to environmental science and cultural studies, all united by a shared interest in the profound significance of waterscapes. This evolving field encourages a holistic perspective, fostering a deeper understanding of the enduring connection between humanity and the blue expanses that cover our planet. 

Our two-day conference, “Narratives of Water: Flows, Routes, Crises in the Atlantic World,” wishes to explore the multifaceted dimensions of water through literary texts (understood broadly to include also theatre plays, graphic novels, movies, TV series, video games, podcasts, and other cultural products). While Blue Humanities started out focusing primarily on oceans, we encourage scholars interested in submitting a contribution to expand the scope of their investigation also to other waterscapes, including freshwater bodies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and to water-related atmospheric phenomena such as rain, snow, hail, and storms. 


Scholars working in the fields of American Studies, English Studies, Ecocriticism and related areas are welcome to submit contributions that explore texts in which one or more of the following dimensions of water are featured: 


  • Socio-political: water as an instrument to perpetuate/disrupt socio-political dynamics of oppression, privilege, exclusion, selection, but also as a trigger to historical or fictional events and as an escape route 
  • Spatial: water as a site, the backdrop of historical or fictional events, or as a geographical marker that sets national/cultural boundaries 
  • Temporal: water as movement, as a flow both of time and matter, water as a shifting compound that has a historical dimension 
  • Atmospheric: water as part of the natural atmospheric phenomena, and all the consequences deriving from changes to the water cycle  
  • Material: water as a substance that has a physical impact, that can be touched and experienced through the senses, and that therefore can be a source of life, either by being drunk or by being used for protection (e.g., in a mother’s womb), or a source of danger, either due to its impetuous movement, its overabundance, or its absence 
  • Metaphoric: water as a metaphor for human/nonhuman experiences in/of the world 
  • Metareferential: water as a metalinguistic/metaliterary tool to describe the act of artistic creation and/or to make sense of the world through a process of semiosis 
  • Didactic: water as a pedagogical tool to raise awareness about climate change, and to impart lessons on the enmeshed nature of human life within the earth system 


Please, note: this conference is a fully in-person event, to be held at the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Modern Cultures of the University of Turin, Italy. We are not planning on making the event hybrid. 

We are planning on keeping the event free for participants.


Confirmed Keynote Speaker

Prof. Alison Glassie, Northeastern University 


Submission process 

Please, submit a 300-word abstract and short bionote (150 words) to Andrea Carosso,, and Valentina Romanzi,, by December 11, 2023

Notifications of acceptance will be sent by December 18, 2023