Mermaids, sea-monsters and basking sharks: ecologies and imagination

with Professor Susan Oliver

Susan Oliver's book cover, which reads 'Walter Scott and the Greening of Scotland' against a history painting of people standing in a green clearing under a large bridge


11:00 Interstellar Ideas on the Green, Planet Positive
Sunday 19 June

Literature offers us a chance to think imaginatively about ecologies. Susan Oliver’s book Walter Scott and the Greening of Scotland explores how light, weather conditions, and folklore combine to create vivid ecologies where fantastical living things, such as mermaids and sea-monsters, exist alongside real and often rare species. Did deep-sea fishermen see a kraken or a Norwegian pine, washed out to sea and glimpsed through fog? Explorer and naturalist Joseph Banks identified the remains of a sea monster seen between Scotland and Scandinavia as a basking shark. Can mermaids be heard singing along shorelines during the Simmer Dim?

Susan will talk about these and other instances where the strange and real come together to help up to think about the curious, spectacular, and astonishing environment that is the North Sea.


Susan Oliver is a Professor of Literature at the University of Essex. Her research and teaching focuses on literature, visual arts and the environment. She is author of books including Walter Scott and the Greening of Scotland and Scott, Byron and the Poetics of Cultural Encounter, for which she was awarded the 2007 British Academy’s Rose Mary Crawshaw Prize.


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