New Empiricisms in the Anthropocene: Thinking With Speculative Fiction About Science and Social Inquiry

The Literary Education Lab’s Sarah E. Truman and colleague Elizabeth de Freitas have a new article out in Qualitative Inquiry. Open Access link:

Here’s the abstract:

Interest in new empiricisms and transdisciplinary methods has led many social inquirers to engage with 20th-century post-classical physical science. Many of these projects have focused on alternative matter–mind mixtures and in/organic variation, concerned that past theories of sociality have dismissed the vibrancy and animacy of the nonhuman material world. This paper explores the power of speculative fiction to help us rethink empiricism in posthuman ecologies of the Anthropocene, in the midst of post-truth conditions and growing science denialism. We foreground speculative fiction as a way to open up scientific imaginaries, rethinking the relationship between nature, technics, and human “sense” making. We show how such texts offer alternative images of research methods for studying pluralist ecologies and new forms of worldly belonging.

Literary Education Lab’s Larissa McLean Davies @ Melbourne Writers’ Festival


Australian literature provides a means through which we might better understand ourselves, and our relationships with our region and the world. Larissa McLean Davies, Associate Professor in Language and Literacy at Melbourne Graduate School of Education, is joined by Professor Ken Gelder to explore the crucial role of literature and reading in this time of climate and social crisis, and the vital importance of teaching diverse Australian literature in schools. With an introduction from Alexis Wright, Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature.

White déjà vu: article by Literary Education Lab’s Sarah E. Truman

New article out by Sarah E. Truman in English in Australia:

Drawing on affect theory, critical race scholarship and discussions of whiteness, she argues that despite continued local attempts at diversification of English literary education, whiteness continues to circulate through and cling to many of the core texts, narratives and messages that make up English literary education. This whiteness is general and specific, global and local, obvious and hidden. Rather than attempting to discuss the literary canon as a whole, she focuses on a specific literary text as an example of how whiteness circulates as neutral or normal in literary education, even in a text that’s often framed as helping (white) students learn about racism:

New Article on Science Fiction and Science Mistrust

Literary Education Lab’s Sarah E. Truman, and college Liz de Freitas have a new article out in Rhizomes: Science fiction and science dis/trust: Thinking with Bruno Latour’s Gaia and Liu Cixin’s The Three-body Problem. It’s Open Access:

Here’s the Abstract:

This article draws on the ideas of Bruno Latour to examine the nature of science dis/trust and denialism in times of crisis. We argue that Latour’s image of science creates new demands on public trust, shifting the focus from ‘trusting that a particular scientific claim is true’ towards an engagement with Gaia (earth) where scientists encounter and form alliances with agencies alive with trickster motive. We use the science fiction novel Three body problem to explore the specific challenges to scientific authority within this relational ontology, under various climatic regimes. We show how the SF novel offers insights into Latour’s proposal for science as a risky diplomacy in a metamorphic zone.

Article out by Literary Education Lab’s Truman and McLean Davies

Literary Education Lab’s Sarah E. Truman and Larissa McLean Davies have an article out in Reading Research Quarterly with colleagues in the United Kingdom entitled ‘The Capaciousness of No: Affective Refusals as Literacy Practices’. The article is open access:


The authors considered the capacious feeling that emerges from saying no to literacy practices, and the affective potential of saying no as a literacy practice. The authors highlight the affective possibilities of saying no to normative understandings of literacy, thinking with a series of vignettes in which children, young people, and teachers refused literacy practices in different ways. The authors use the term capacious to signal possibilities that are as yet unthought: a sense of broadening and opening out through enacting no. The authors examined how attention to affect ruptures humanist logics that inform normative approaches to literacy. Through attention to nonconscious, noncognitive, and transindividual bodily forces and capacities, affect deprivileges the human as the sole agent in an interaction, thus disrupting measurements of who counts as a literate subject and what counts as a literacy event. No is an affective moment. It can signal a pushback, an absence, or a silence. As a theoretical and methodological way of thinking/feeling with literacy, affect proposes problems rather than solutions, countering solution‐focused research in which the resistance is to be overcome, co‐opted, or solved. Affect operates as a crack or a chink, a tiny ripple, a barely perceivable gesture, that can persist and, in doing so, hold open the possibility for alternative futures.

Article by Literary Education Lab’s McLean Davies, Truman, and Buzacott in Gender and Education

Members of the Literary Education Lab: Larissa McLean Davies, Sarah E. Truman, and Lucy Buzacott have an article out in Gender and Education entitled: Teacher-researchers: a pilot project for unsettling the secondary Australian literary canon


Despite ongoing attempts to disrupt the white cis-hetero-masculine nature of the literary canon the secondary school English curriculum remains tethered to its lineage. In conversation with feminist new materialist scholars who argue that the stories we read and write have material affects on who we are becoming, this paper argues that in order to mobilise change in the secondary years of schooling, interventions into the canon must move beyond (re)forming text lists or providing teachers with readymade pedagogical resources. Drawing on the Australian context, the authors outline some of the contemporary challenges teachers face in diversifying and decolonising the curriculum. Drawing on their Literary Linking Methodology the authors discuss a pilot project that seeks to unsettle the canon by supporting teachers to undertake extended immersion with both contemporary literary texts and archival research. Accordingly, this paper contributes to understandings of the tensions and challenges teachers face in introducing contemporary Australian texts into the curriculum and offers insights into the ways in which professional learning might be (re)imagined so that English teachers might draw on available cultural resources as researchers and literary knowledge producers in the twenty-first century.

Join us for our Speculative Fiction Reading Salon

Why speculative fiction? Speculative fiction has for decades highlighted, critiqued, and troubled advances in science and technology, recognized and explored gender fluidity, advocated for social justice and heralded the ‘post-human’ in its varied manifestations – cultural, biological, and technological. 

Speculative thought allows readers and thinkers to consider the past, present, and future otherwise. 

Academics, students and staff interested in speculative literature, science fiction, STEM imaginaries, and the ethics and politics of literary ‘worldings’ are welcome to join. 

The texts we will be reading in the first 6 months of the salons will prioritize Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, women, trans & non-binary authors of speculative fiction.

Upcoming texts include:

  • February 6th Terra Nullius (by Claire Coleman)
  • March 5th The Marrow Thieves (by Cherie Dimaline)
  • April 2nd An Unkindness of Ghosts (by Rivers Solomon)
  • May 7th Binti (by Nnedi Okorafor)
  • June 4thFrankissstein (by Jenette Winterson)
  • July 2ndFull Metal Indigiqueer (by Joshua Whitehead)

Please purchase or borrow the book from the library. If they’re not in the library, tell the library to order them!

To sign up please contact Dr. Sarah E. Truman