Researcher in Focus - Dr Sam Solnick

Posted on: 24 April 2019 by Nick Jones in 2018 Posts

Sam Solnick
Dr Sam Solnick

Meet this month's researcher in focus, Dr Sam Solnick, a lecturer in the Department of English, specialising in contemporary literature.

Sam joined the University of Liverpool as the William Noble Research Fellow in 2015 after teaching at University College London and Queen Mary, University of London and was made a lecturer in 2017. His current research focus is the relationship between the arts and the environment, particularly in relation to climate change, energy and the Anthropocene.

Sam’s current fascination with the intersection of literature and environment grew out of a PhD project that started as a study of how post-1945 British landscape poetry engaged with a the tradition of writing about nature, but quickly mutated to explore how, in an era of ecological change, authors write about nature at a time when – thanks to climate change, mass extinction, genetic engineering and the rest – we have to radically reconfigure our idea of what nature means.

This research evolved into Sam’s first monograph Poetry and the Anthropocene: Ecology, Biology and Technology in Contemporary British and Irish Poetry which was published in Routledge’s ‘Environmental Humanities’ series in 2016. The book combines close reading and archival research with theoretical approaches drawn from ecocriticism, posthumanism and animal studies to provide innovative new readings of a series of major British and Irish poets from across the political and poetic spectrum. It analyses changing conceptualisations of place, evolution, scale, technology and the metaphors and discourses of the sciences, to show how literature can respond to environmental crises without descending into agitprop, self-righteousness or apocalyptic cynicism.

Sam is co-director of the University’s Literature and Science Hub and the co-lead of the ‘Designing Futures’ theme for the Centre for the Humanities and Social Sciences of Health, Medicine and Technology. As part of their research, impact and public engagement he has worked on a variety of local, national and international initiatives to promote and examine the public understanding of the arts, science and environment. Partners have included Tate Liverpool, FACT, Alder Hey Hospital/The Woodland Trust, the arts collective Shrinking Space, the Society of Spanish Researchers UK and the Opera Company ‘Loud Crowd’. Sam was on the steering committee for the Liverpool Literary Festival 2017, including helping set up the ‘China Stories’ creative writing competition. As a contributing editor for the arts and culture quarterly The White Review he has worked with the Department of English’s Centre for New and International Writing on projects such as Citizens of Everywhere and the ongoing Hope Street Writer in Residence programme.

Since becoming a lecturer Sam has continued to explore the aesthetics, ethics and politics of environmental change. Recently published or forthcoming publications include examinations of the short story and the environment; the Anthropocene novel; representations of fossil fuels across fiction, poetry and theatre; and a celebratory critique of apocalyptic pessimism (via an analysis of Prince’s “1999”).

Sam’s has also written about his research interests for variety of print and online publications including the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, iNews and The Independent (and, for some reason, about the relationship between Game of Thrones and football in the The Mirror).

He is working on a new project that will see his research in the Environmental Humanities develop to include the emergent, interdisciplinary field of the Energy Humanities, drawing upon the arts to explore the beliefs, values and emotions that are bound up with different energy regimes, to address issues of sustainability, climate change, technology and environmental justice.

Find out more about Sam and his work on his staff page.

Keywords: Researcher in Focus.