This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Wednesday 22 June 2022, 6pm to 7pm
  • Location: Online only
  • Admission: Free admission, booking required

Event details

Reading literature in a time of climate emergency can sometimes feel a bit like fiddling while Rome burns. Yet, at this turning point for the planet, scientists, policymakers and activists have woken up to the power of stories in the fight against global warming. 

Delve into four thousand years of world literature with Professor Martin Puchner, author of Literature for a Changing Planet, and draw vital lessons about how we put ourselves on the path of climate change - and how we might change paths before it’s too late.

From the Epic of Gilgamesh and the West African Epic of Sunjata to the Communist Manifesto, Martin will make you look at world literature in a new light - as an archive of environmental exploitation and a product of a way of life responsible for climate change.

Literature depends on millennia of intensive agriculture, urbanisation and resource extraction, from the clay of ancient tablets to the silicon of e-readers. Yet literature also offers powerful ways to change attitudes toward the environment. Join Martin as he …

  • Uncovers the ecological thinking behind the idea of world literature since the early nineteenth century;
  • Proposes a new way of reading in a warming world;
  • Shows how literature can help us recognize our shared humanity;
  • And discusses the possible futures of storytelling.

If we are to avoid environmental disaster, readers and writers need to care about the fate of life on the planet. We must learn to tell the story of humans as a species responsible for global warming. 

Join Martin for important insights about the fundamental relationship between storytelling and the environment.

This event will take place live on Zoom Webinar. You’ll receive a link to join a couple of days before the event takes place and a reminder an hour before. During the event, you can ask questions via a Q&A function, but audience cameras and microphones will remain muted throughout.

Image credit: Jacket art and design © Nuno Moreira

Book sales

You can buy copies of many of our speakers’ books from Fox Lane Books, a local independent bookseller and Festival partner. In some cases, author signed bookplates are available too.


About the speaker

Martin Puchner is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He is a prize-winning and bestselling author whose books include The Language of Thieves: My Family’s Obsession with a Secret Code the Nazis Tried to Eliminate  and The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization. He is the general editor of The Norton Anthology of World Literature. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Connect with Martin on Twitter


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