Award-winning novelist and anthropologist Amitav Ghosh will deliver the keynote address of the Illinois 150 Conference: "The 21st Century University and Research
Award-winning novelist and anthropologist Amitav Ghosh will deliver the keynote address of the Illinois 150 Conference: “The 21st Century University and Research for the Public Good.” Ghosh will speak on climate change, the subject of this latest work of nonfiction.
Are we deranged? Ghosh argues that future generations may well think so. How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming? In his first major book of nonfiction since In an Antique Land, he examines our inability—at the level of literature, history, and politics—to grasp the scale and violence of climate change.
The extreme nature of today’s climate events, Ghosh asserts, make them peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining. This is particularly true of serious literary fiction: hundred-year storms and freakish tornadoes simply feel too improbable for the novel; they are automatically consigned to other genres. In the writing of history, too, the climate crisis has sometimes led to gross simplifications; he shows that the history of the carbon economy is a tangled global story with many contradictory and counterintuitive elements.
He ends by suggesting that politics, much like literature, has become a matter of personal moral reckoning rather than an arena of collective action. But to limit fiction and politics to individual moral adventure comes at a great cost. The climate crisis asks us to imagine other forms of human existence—a task to which fiction, Ghosh argues, is the best suited of all cultural forms. His book serves as a great writer’s summons to confront the most urgent task of our time.
(Tuesday) 7:00 pm