Block seminar: Marta Puxan-Oliva

23-24 May, 2022
11:00am – 1:00pm
Room B112.B FLUL

Marta Puxan-Oliva (Universitat de les Illes Balears)

Oceanic imaginaries: cross-cultural encounters in geography and literature

This seminar introduces students to Oceanic Studies, an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the social construction of the ocean, especially driven by new conceptions of space in critical and political geography. The ocean here is conceived as a physical space that changes over time, that is being socially used and imagined. These multiple layers produce several conceptions of the ocean, culturally linked to historical facts, idealizations, and diverse traditions as well. Literature has had an enormous influence in shaping, dialoguing, and contesting oceanic imaginaries, changing its perceptions in relation to the changing times. This block seminar will introduce the social construction of the ocean in contemporary literature through an interdisciplinary perspective.

In a first session, the seminar will delve into the field of oceanic studies from the perspective of critical geography and literary criticism, setting the theoretical basis of the discussion based on the work of scholars like Philip Steinberg, Doris Massey, John Hannighan, Lauren Benton, Hester Blum, Elizabeth DeLoughrey or Isabel Hofmeyr. In the second session we will examine South African J.M. Coetzee’s novel Foe and Cambodian Vannak Anan Prum’s graphic memoir The Dead Eye and the Deep Blue Sea: A Graphic Memoir of Modern Slavery. These two literary texts will help us discuss and represent the diverse oceanic imaginaries from the uses of sea for criminal practices like colonial slavery or modern slavery in fishing boats, to revisions of our social perspectives through new materialist perspectives that invite ecocentric conceptions of the ocean.


Marta Puxan-Oliva is Ramón y Cajal senior researcher at the Universitat de les Illes Balears. She has worked for several universities and conducted research stays at Princeton University, the University of Chicago and Harvard University (Marie Sklodowska Curie Outgoing Fellowship, 2012-15). She is a specialist in Comparative Literature, in the fields of narrative theory, comparative racial studies, ecocriticism and global literary studies. She has published articles in journals like Poetics Today, Studies in the Novel, English Studies, Letral, Journal of Global History or the Journal of World Literature. Her book Narrative Reliaiblity, Racial Conflicts, and Ideology in the Modern Novel (Routledge, 2019) bridges narrative theory with the constitution of racial ideologies.

Currently, Marta Puxan-Oliva codirects with Neus Rotger the project “The novel as global form: Poetic challenges and cross-border circulation” (2021-24). For the last few years, she has been working on “global environments” in literature, especially the ocean, studying environmental criminality at sea in contemporary literary and film narratives. She is a member of the research group LiCETC: Literatura Contemporània: Estudis Teòrics i Comparatius.