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Elizabeth Smith

History, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

The ?Environmental Uncanny?: Unsettling the Multispecies Encounter in Contemporary Environmental Poetry

When we think of an encounter with nonhuman life, perhaps we picture a person locking eyes with a tiger. But what happens when we encounter not a tiger, but a parasite? Both within and outside literature, depictions of the multispecies encounter often follow a similar pattern, favouring charismatic megafauna at the expense of many other forms of life. My PhD will explore texts which disrupt this pattern, turning towards weird, invasive, and unsettling creatures. 

Using Amitav Ghosh’s concept of the “environmental uncanny” as a springboard, I will employ perspectives from dark ecology and multispecies studies to delve into these unsettling ecological entanglements. I will examine how contemporary poetry uses the uncanny to engage with organisms that are often bypassed by mainstream environmentalism, including invertebrates, plant life, insects, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Perhaps interrogating the discomfort generated by these encounters will lead us towards new narratives, making space for unloved organisms. 

My research interests extend to all kinds of weird ecological assemblages, Anthropocene hauntings, and environmental fiction. I am open to making interdisciplinary connections across the arts and sciences. 

Research Area

  • Economic and Social History
  • History


'Beachcombing: Claiming, Disclaiming, and Reclaiming in the Anthropocene'. Informal article in paratextmag.com, December 2020: https://paratextmag.com/2020/12/31/beachcombing-claiming-disclaiming-and-reclaiming-in-the-anthropocene/.

'The Anthropocene Writ Small: Lichens and their Scales'. Informal article in areyouevergreen.com, August 2021: https://www.areyouevergreen.com/articles-1/the-anthropocene-writ-small.

Other Research Interests

Feminist theory
Postcolonial ecologies
Environmental humanities
Interdisciplinary perspectives from the arts
Interdisciplinary perspectives from the environmental sciences