Environs: The Modern Natures Issue

Route 57 is the University of Sheffield’s creative writing journal. 2019 will see the publication of our 15th issue. To mark this anniversary edition, we’re inviting submissions to a special themed issue: Environs: The Modern Natures Issue.

For the second year running, Route 57’s themed issue will be a collaboration, this time with The Hepworth Wakefield and Kelham Island Museum, as part of the ‘Co-Constructive Humanities’ project. The special issue will take the ‘environs’ that these spaces suggest as a cue for creative, critical and experimental explorations of the ‘modern natures’ we live within, and which ‘environ’ us.

The Hepworth’s current exhibition ‘Modern Nature’, from which this issue takes inspiration, ‘explores our evolving relationship with the natural world and how this shapes individuals and communities.’ To environ is to surround, skirt, compass; to enclose, encircle or circuit. But it is also to consider what environs us, the borders and breachings of layers of atmosphere, “green belt”, the hinterlands and interstices of ecological resilience and/or biodiversity decline. ‘Modern Nature’ interrogates the ‘merging of urban and rural landscapes, the rapid expansion of cities and the increasingly intrusive management of the countryside.’ These places were historically sites of labour, where moorland met mill. Now the northern, post-industrial spaces of modern natures worry at and question the urban-rural distinction, but also the terms and tropes of the “liminal”, and the “edgeland.” Place-writing can attend to the complexity of these environs.

At once we ask, what environs the whole earth? If place-writing is a kind of attention to the specificity of environment, how can writing respond to headline figures of ecocidal biodiversity loss (60% of life destroyed since 1970); to last autumn’s news about insect decline; to each year warmer than the last; to weekly reports from the ice caps and warming oceans (12 years to change course)? Not to mention (but we should mention) the manifold “natural” disasters that are symptoms of a system out of kilter. How can literature be said to do anything under these conditions, or respond to such “vital signs”? Should it? What kinds of writing are calibrated to register this empirical/affective complex in response to these data?

This special issue wagers that the environs of the present might also be generative. We want your poems, prose fiction, performance writing, artwork and creative and/or critical non-fiction that approach our modern natures from a variety of perspectives, and which engage with what environs us. We are looking, then, for work stimulated by the place(s) of modern natures, the “re-wilding” of the urban and the ongoing management of the rural. Also writing at the environ, or the limit of the earth-system, where climate emergency, drought and flood, planetary-scaled bio-degradation and collapse, are strangely bound to plastic flows in the oceans and the agency of objects; to consumer responsibility; and to ecological mourning and mental health. We are interested in work which adopts a less human-centred perspective, as well as work that thinks through the human as it environs, and is environed by, the modern natures of planetary existence.

For an idea of what we do, take a look at the current issue: www.route57.group.shef.ac.uk.

This special issue will be co-edited by Daniel Eltringham and Veronica Fibisan. The journal is divided into sections, each of which has a staff editor. We are looking for submissions by Monday 14thJanuary. We aim to publish in April 2019. We are also looking for student editors for the different genre sections.

If you are interested in acting as an editor, please contact the staff editors for the genre that interests you (you may apply to more than one), with an email that gives some indication of experience, if any, and if none why you’d like the job! Please also include a short sample of your writing. The job is not arduous: you’ll be meeting perhaps twice over Spring semester to deal with submissions.

Short fiction

For all short prose submissions (complete short stories or extracts from longer works, of no more than 5,000 words), please submit to Rebecca Sandeman and Alicia J. Rouverol (route57fiction@gmail.com).

Non-fiction

Bold and imaginative prose and theory writing to Christie J Oliver Hobley (route57nonfiction@gmail.com). Submissions might be in the form of experimental non-fiction, essays, memoirs, opinion pieces, theory work, reviews or something stranger, in the interstices between these genres.

Poetry

Submit your poems of no more than 200 lines to Ágnes Lehóczky (a.lehoczky@sheffield.ac.uk).

Performance

Plays, scripts, sketches or performance pieces of all kinds to FrancesBabbage (f.babbage@sheffield.ac.uk). Extracts from longer works also accepted. If your work is accepted you may like to arrange a reading performance: we can help you find actors and technical support.

Artwork

Photography, illustrations, drawings and other visual material, to Daniel Eltringham (general editor, d.eltringham@sheffield.ac.uk).

The work will be collected into a special issue of Route 57 calledEnvirons: The Modern Natures Issue, and will be part-funded by a grant associated with the Faculty of Arts’ collaborative project with The Hepworth Wakefield and Kelham Island Museum.