Fellow 2022-2023FLORIAN MUSSGNUG
Florian Mussgnug (BA Oxon, MSt Oxon, PhD Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa) is Professor of Comparative Literature and Italian Studies and Vice Dean International for Arts and Humanities at University College London. He has published widely on Twentieth and Twenty-First Century literature in Italian, English and German, with a particular focus on the environmental humanities, creative critical practice, and narratives of risk, crisis, and care. He is co-director of UCL Anthropocene, a multidisciplinary research hub which brings together specialists from the social sciences, arts and humanities, life sciences, and environmental and health sciences.
Recent publications include “Dwelling on Grief: Narratives of Mourning across Time and Forms” (2022, with S. Corso and J. Rushworth); “Thinking Through Relation: Encounters in Creative Critical Writing” (2021, with M. Nabugodi and T. Petrou); “Mediating Vulnerability: Comparative Approaches and Questions of Genre” (2021, with A. Masschelein and J. Rushworth); “Human Reproduction and Parental Responsibility: Theories, Narratives, Ethics” (2020, with S. Corso and V. Sanchini); “Rethinking the Animal-Human Relation: New Perspectives in Literature and Theory” (2019, with S. Bellin and K. Inston); “The Good Place: Comparative Perspectives on Utopia” (2014, with M. Reza); “The Eloquence of Ghosts: Giorgio Manganelli and the Afterlife of the Avant-Garde” (2010, winner of the 2012 Edinburgh Gadda Prize).
He is jointly responsible for the running of a London-wide research network (LINKS) and an annual, international summer school (Hermes: Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies). He was academic director, from 2018 until 2021, of the UCL Cities Partnerships Programme in Rome and has held visiting and honorary positions at Sapienza University Rome, Roma Tre University, Oxford University, Siena University, the University of Cagliari and the British School at Rome.
(Post)-Apocalyptic Anthropocene: Diachronic Relations
My project focuses on Transhistorical Speculative Fiction (TSF): an emergent genre that is represented here by a preliminary corpus of twenty-five contemporary novels in five languages. Each of these texts is arranged as a transhistorical triptych, with different parts set, respectively, in the author’s past, present and imagined (apocalyptic) future. Temporal juxtaposition serves to highlight the materiality of loss – dwindling resources, dying species, forgotten words and cultural practices – as well as bonds of responsibility between communities, across generations, and between humans and non-humans.
My analysis of TSF demonstrates the pervasive cultural influence of apocalyptic thinking in the Twenty-First Century. It also shows how cultural attention to linear time and world-shattering rupture, in mainstream apocalyptic discourse, stands in the way of more complex and probing critical engagements with non-human temporalities. The unfolding planetary emergency demands forms of linguistic and conceptual inventiveness that can alert readers to unfamiliar and counterintuitive temporal and spatial scales. TSF responds to this demand with disruptive, self-reflective apocalyptic storytelling that is attentive to material entanglement and that draws its force from non-anthropocentric knowledge practices and imaginative frameworks.