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A Year Without a Winter

Fri, Sep 22, 2017    1pm

A Year Without a Winter

Dehlia Hannah, Philosopher and Curator
Gillen D’Arcy Wood, Langan Professorial Scholar of Environmental Humanities of English, University of Illinois
Vandana Singh, science fiction writer and Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Physics and Earth Science, Framington State University

In conversation with James Graham, Director of Publications, Columbia GSAPP

Today, weather extremes brought about by anthropogenic climate change pose relentless cognitive and imaginative challenges. Beyond news media, what are the cultural registers of this phenomenon? How can artistic and literary engagements with destabilizing natural patterns summon new planetary imaginaries—reorienting perspectives on humanity’s position within the environment?

In 1815, the eruption of Mount Tambora, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, enveloped the globe in a cloud of ash, causing a climate crisis. By 1816, remembered as the ‘year without a summer,’ the northern hemisphere was plunged into cold and darkness. Amidst unseasonal frosts, violent thunderstorms and a general atmosphere of horror, Mary Shelley began Frankenstein––a work of science fiction that continues to shape attitudes to emerging science, technology and environmental futures. Two hundred years later, in 2016, the hottest year on historical record, four renowned science fiction authors were invited to the experimental town of Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s prototype for arcology, to respond to our present crisis. A Year Without a Winter presents their stories alongside critical essays, extracts from Shelley’s masterpiece, and dispatches from expeditions to extreme geographies.

To be published in the spring by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, the book is a collective thought experiment retracing an inverted path through narrative extremes. A Year Without a Winter brings together science fiction, history, visual art, and exploration. Inspired by the literary ‘dare’ that would give birth to Shelley’s novel amidst the aftermath of a massive volcanic eruption, and today, by the utopian architecture of Paolo Soleri and the Arizona desert, expeditions to Antarctica and Indonesia, the project reframes the relationship between climate, crisis, and creation.


Dehlia Hannah is a philosopher and curator based in Copenhagen. She holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia University and is currently Research Curator for the Centre for Environmental Humanities at Aarhus University, Denmark. A Year Without a Winter was initiated at Arizona State University during her Visiting Assistant Professorship with the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Art, Media and Engineering. Her work examines ideas of climate change, nature and environment through aesthetics and philosophy of science.

Vandana Singh is an Indian science fiction writer and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Earth Science at Framingham State University in Massachusetts. Singh has been working on transdisciplinary scholarship of climate change, including innovative pedagogies. In 2014 she was the recipient of a program award from the American Association of Colleges and Universities, for which she traveled to the Alaskan Arctic and created a case study of climate change at the intersection of science, culture, and economics as a novel approach to teaching climate change at the undergraduate level. Her second short story collection, Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories, will be out from Small Beer Press in February, 2018. She also contributed the story “Widdam” to the forthcoming A Year Without a Winter publication.

Gillen D’Arcy Wood is the Langan Professorial Scholar of Environmental Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he directs the Program in Environmental Writing. His research takes the form of revisionist environmental histories of the global nineteenth-century, with a special focus on climate change. The most recent of his four books, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World (Princeton University Press, 2014), received worldwide attention—from Nature, The New York Times, and The Economist, to the South China Morning Post and Japan Globe—and was recognized in Book of the Year awards by the Guardian, the London Times, and the American Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. His new book-in-progress, Antarctica Through the Looking Glass: The Victorian Discovery Voyages, 1838-42, reconstructs the vital role of the first South Polar expeditions in the origin of modern climate science and glaciology.

Free and open to the public.
Organized by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City at Columbia GSAPP.