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Writing on the Precipice: James Bradley Featured in The Sydney Review of Books

An article based on James Bradley’s keynote from the Global Ecologies – Local Impacts conference has been featured by The Sydney Review of Books.

An article written by James Bradley was featured in The Sydney Review of Books. James article is an edited version of his keynote paper given at the Global Ecologies – Local Impacts conference, in November 2016. Global Ecologies was the sixth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature, Environment and Culture, Australia and New Zealand (ASLEC-ANZ), and was hosted in collaboration with SEI.

In his article, James states that:

Recent events in the United States, Great Britain and Europe have underlined what happens when the stories we tell are no longer anchored in reality, especially in societies in which civic institutions and social bonds have been so degraded by two generations of neo-liberal ideology they no longer function. In such a situation fantasy and reality become indistinguishable and the stories we tell ourselves first trivial and then poisonous, fantasies that deny the world around us. Likewise our thinking about the environment is structured not by reality but by denial, a misplaced belief the world is incapable of drastic change, when not just the science but our understanding of our planet’s history tells us the opposite is true.

When discussing the issues that we as a human race will confront in the near future, James argues that the duty of writers and artists is to:

Not only must we confront the inhuman scale of the transformation that is taking place around us, its temporal, physical and moral enormity, we must find ways of making sense of its complexity and interconnectedness. We must begin to find new ways of representing its effects, new imaginative and lexical vocabularies capable of naming and describing concepts and experiences that exceed the human. We must learn to talk about grief without being overwhelmed by it or descending into bathos. We must find ways of recording and memorialising what is being lost, of resisting not just the assumptions of hypercapitalism but the amnesia it induces, the constant Year Zero of a post-fact society. And perhaps most importantly, we must find ways to communicate ideas that are not just uncomfortable and frightening but actively difficult to comprehend because they demand we accept the ideas and ideologies that structure our world.

To read James’ feature full article, click here. 

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Below, is a video of James and SEI Co-director, Iain McCalman from Global Ecologies – Local Impacts. In this video, Iain converses with author James about his novel Clade and its Anthropocenic milieu.


James Bradley is a novelist and critic. His books include the novels, Wrack, The Deep Field, The Resurrectionist and most recently Clade, which was shortlisted for a number of major literary awards, a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus, and The Penguin Book of the Ocean. In 2012 he won the Pascall Prize for Australia’s Critic of the Year, and he has been shortlisted for this year’s Bragg Prize for Science Writing. His first book for younger readers, The Altered Child, will be published in 2017.