#Bookhour is an open forum twitter discussion between scholars and the public that takes place the last Tuesday of the month. Find out more here.
On Tuesday 5th April, Dr Andrew Tate, Dr David Bell, Dr Louise Squire and #bookhour organiser Dr Diletta De Cristofaro discussed Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea. The chat focussed on the defamiliarisation produced by the first-person-plural narration, on how the novel negotiates between the collective and the individual, on acts of resistance as well as the notions of utopia and hope within the text, on the narrative’s extrapolation from present circumstances and on what this extrapolation may suggest in terms of current ecological issues.
About the book
Narrated in an intriguing first-person-plural voice by the “utopian” community of B-Mor (formerly, Baltimore), On Such a Full Sea tells the story of Fran and her escape from this community. Fran is on a quest to find her lover, Reg, who was mysteriously abducted. The novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic America which is strictly stratified, with colonies like B-Mor producing food and other necessities for the upper-class “Charters”, and plagued by a fatal disease called C.
Q1. How does the unusual first-person plural narrative voice shape our understanding of this particular future?
Q2. ‘Do not discount the psychic warmth of the hive’. How does the novel manage tensions between individual liberty and social responsibility?
Q3. What do the book’s reflections on individualism and collectivism say about our capacity to respond to ecological issues e.g. food security?
Q4. How do you read the book’s speculations on the limits of perception?
Q5. How effective are the novel’s techniques of extrapolation and estrangement?
Q6. Where (if anywhere) is the hope?
Diletta De Cristofaro (@tedilta) is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham, where she was recently awarded her doctorate. Her PhD thesis deals with time and history in twenty-first-century post-apocalyptic fiction and, in particular, with the nexus between the conception of history featured in these novels and that of postmodern theories. Diletta’s research interests include apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, utopias and dystopias, contemporary Anglo-American writings, and critical theory. Diletta has published on Jim Crace and Cormac McCarthy.
David M. Bell (@dmbutopia) is a Research Associate at the Universities of Sheffield and Newcastle. His work is interested in the operation of utopia(nism) within, against and beyond capitalism and the state, as manifested in a number of cultural forms. He is writing ‘Rethinking Utopia: Place, Power, Affect’, to be published by Routledge in 2017.
Louise Squire (@Louise_Squire) completed her PhD in English (University of Surrey) in late 2014. She is currently working part time at the University of Portsmouth and completing a monograph based on her doctoral work. She is active in the environmental humanities with a focus on contemporary American and British anglophone fiction. Her article on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is published in The Oxford Literary Review, and she is co-editor for a collection entitled Literature and Sustainability: Concept, Text and Culture, forthcoming with Manchester University Press.
Andrew Tate (@cloudatlaskid) is Reader in Literature, Religion and Aesthetic at Lancaster University. His research focuses on the intersections between literature, theology and aesthetics in nineteenth-century writing and contemporary fiction. Recent publications include journal articles on Ruskin and the Psalms, Contemporary Fiction and Christianity (Continuum, 2008) and he is currently working on two book-length projects, one on Twenty-First Century Apocalyptic Fiction (Bloomsbury, 2016) and another on the figure of Jesus/Christ in post-millennial narrative.