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Fellow 2023-2024Susan Watkins

Fellowship Term 10/2023 – 01/2024

Susan Watkins is Professor of Women’s Writing at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. Her PhD is from the University of Sheffield (UK) and she previously worked at the University of Chester (UK). Her research focuses on contemporary women's writing and feminist theory, with particular interests in dystopia, apocalyptic fiction, ageing and the future. Susan's most recent book is Contemporary Women’s Post-Apocalyptic Fiction (Palgrave, 2020). She is also the author of Doris Lessing (Manchester UP, 2010) and Twentieth-Century Women Novelists (Palgrave, 2001) and co-editor of The History of British Women’s Writing, Volume IX 1945-1975 (Palgrave, 2017), Doris Lessing: Border Crossings (Continuum, 2009) and Scandalous Fictions: The Twentieth Century in the Public Sphere (Palgrave, 2006). She has published articles on women’s writing in the Journal of Southern African Studies, Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, LIT: Literature, Interpretation, Theory and Feminist Review. Susan is a founder member and former Chair of the Contemporary Women's Writing Association (CWWA) and previously a Co-Editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. She was Director of Leeds Beckett University's Centre for Culture and the Arts for 10 years.

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In the spotlight: Susan Watkins

Susan Watkins

Ageing, Apocalypse and Adaptation

In the global north, ageing is imagined in terms of apocalypse, as a disaster for both the individual and society, which can be seen in the prominence of metaphors for ageing futures like the 'silver tsunami' and the 'demographic ticking timebomb'. Challenging this damaging narrative of ageing as a personal and social apocalyptic disaster, which associates children with the future and older people with the past, this project will be the first to propose a new theory of ageing as a process of adaptation. Like adaptation studies in cultural studies and the humanities, which have moved away from fidelity criticism (the issue of how faithful an adaptation is to its original) towards thinking of adaptation as a creative, improvisational space (Hutcheon, 2013), I argue that we can replace apocalyptic narratives of ageing with an open, adaptive response to the ageing process. This project will conduct a sustained examination of speculative fictions focused on ageing, which offer creative alternatives to apocalyptic visions of ageing futures. The project will consider texts from across the spectrum of speculative writing, including ones from the Global South, that are creative in their approach to ageing and make use of adaptative strategies to rework and transform our engagement with ageing futures.