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Melting and dissolution: a contemporary aesthetic?

Fonte et dissolution : une esthétique contemporaine ?

« Cultural Express » - 2023

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Published on Wednesday, October 05, 2022


At the Anthropocene epoch, where the cyclicality of seasons no longer holds sway, where the characteristic climatic markers of winter are fading, we aim to question the paradigm of melting, dissolution, liquefaction, and on the opposite, drying. In this sense, the contributors will study the disappearance of the winter season in contemporary productions, fictions or non-fictions, in order to highlight the articulation between the affective loss of this ideation and what contemporary societies perceive of themselves.



“Where are the snows of yesteryear?” asked the poet François Villon, a question that nowadays makes us nostalgic for the harshness and white coat of winter landscapes. Adam Gopnik interprets it this way, illustrating the idea of the aesthetic and emotional loss of winter in the context of climate change, of which global warming is a symptom:

Obviously I’m thinking about the desolation of the North and the coming of man-caused climate change, and with it the actual loss of winter. […] The catalogue of what we stand to lose, in cities swamped and icebergs melting and environments irrevocably altered, has all been written about and prophesied. […] And somewhere soon along this loop, the tundra will start heating up as the permafrost melts and all the carbon escapes; instead of being a great cooling force in nature, the tundra will become one more source of warmth. We may not be coming to the end of the planet, but we may truly be coming — and sooner than we might expect — to the end of winter as we have known it (Gopnik, 2011, p. 239-241).

If this — almost rhetorical — narrative is not recent, as its cyclical ways are pointed out by François Walter, it is renewed and updated in contemporary productions. They themselves are fed by a narrative of anxiety impregnated with discursive and cultural practices (media, literature, films, songs, etc.), at various levels. And at the Anthropocene epoch, where the cyclicality of seasons no longer holds sway, the characteristic climatic markers of winter are fading in the western forests (Wohlleben, 2017), as their immutability has been shaken (Bensaude-Vincent, 2021).

Moreover, the growing fascination for catastrophic fictions multiplies the echo effect of this narrative. The fantasy of the end of the world, of a finitude, or of our ends, is at the heart of Anthropocene fictions (Trexler, 2015; Boulard, 2018; Engélibert, 2019). How much are these climate fictions emphasizing an aesthetic of melting and dissolution?

The imagined winter is intrinsically attached to the (Arctic) North in Western thought – cold, snow, winter are ideas of “the Imagined North” (Chartier, 2018) –, and this region, even more than others, is a victim of climate change. The fragility of glacial landscapes results in their dissolution, their evaporation as facing rising temperatures. But the North neither have the prerogative of this season nor of the cold, although both the physical and emotional loss of these two components is a detriment for the inhabitants of polar spaces (Watt-Cloutier, 2018). And Winter is a chronotope itself (Walter, 2013).

In contemporary corpora, two movements seem to emerge from the dissolution of winter. On the one hand, the territories associated with this season are getting warmer, or even “summerliked”, thus reversing the climatic paradigm (Blå [The End of the Ocean], Maja Lund, 2017; Extincta, Victor Dixen, 2019; Greenland, Ric Roman Waugh, 2020), provoking conflicts over resources and illustrating the "Heat Death’’ theories, according to which drought and atmospheric warming would be such that life would disappear from the planet (Boia, 2004).

On the other hand, an ideation of rising waters is also brought forward in fictions, based on the re-actualizations of the myth of the Flood (Trexler, 2015), with a spill of melted ice on the rest of the planet (After the Flood: A Novel, Kassandra Montag, 2020; Climax, Thomas B. Reverdy, 2021), inevitably awakening beliefs of a world end. At the same time, the increased dependence of humans on technology is leading to a heightened fear of water-related climatic disasters: “Heavy rain, snow and cold spells are always likely to produce disasters, or at least disruption” (Boia, 2005, p. 97) on infrastructures (transport, housing, etc.). A fear fueled by the apprehension of the absolute melting of the poles, due to rising temperatures, redrawing the world map, reorganizing economic and political models.

The disappearance of winter thus creates two mirrored narratives, and two contradictory anxieties, the one of the drying up of the land, and the one of its engulfment under water. These two narratives, within the apocalyptic narratives, as much as they convey the fears of an ecological collapse (Diamond, 2009), reveal in fact the anxiety of societal collapses.

“Ends of the world” provide us with a sensitive barometer of the march of history. […] For a completely static society (a theoretical model), the “end” would have little meaning. However, an acceleration of historical processes entails an accumulation of factors – malfunctions, breakdowns, fear of the unknown, social disintegration, greater deracination or marginalization – that stimulate the apocalyptic imagination… (Boia, 2005, p. 138).

The phenomena of acceleration mark the passage from a relative global stability, of which changes would be barely perceptible, to a world where the precipitation of modes of action prevent their fixation as habit and routine: this is the phenomenon of “liquid modernity” (Bauman, 2013). For the philosopher, the liquid metaphor upholds a critique of consumerism and individualism, which consequences lead to a liquefaction of society. The causal link between the liquefaction of a society and ecological anxieties is, according to him, expressed by the awareness of the misuse of planetary resources, reflecting a sense of both material and human expiration, source for contemporary anxieties of dissolution[i].

A previous issue of Cultural Express dedicated to winter, its manifestations, its celebrations and its disturbing potential for destruction, published in 2020, has opened the way to Winternal studies (Freyheit, Wuillème, 2020). One of the studies about disaster movies focused on winterness and its promise of liquid climate catastrophes: “All images that combine the dreads of the decay, the Apocalypse, the deglaciation of the poles, the global warming and rising waters, the clash of civilizations, the nuclear winter, the Flood, the Ragnarök, the end of History, an ultimate mass extinction, the heat death of the universe[ii]” (Hubier, 2020). Following this issue, we aim to question the paradigm of melting, dissolution, liquefaction, and on the opposite, drying. In this sense, the contributors will study the disappearance of the winter season in contemporary productions, fictions or non-fictions, in order to highlight the articulation between the affective loss of this ideation and what contemporary societies perceive of themselves[iii].

Topic Proposals

  1. The imagination of melting and dissolving: what will remain of Winter when it will have melted?
  2. The flood: the world under water?
  3. The “summerlikation” of territories ?

How to apply

Proposals for articles, in French or in English, of about 400 words (with title and corpus), accompanied by a short biography, can be sent to the following address: smarielou@gmail.com

before October 15, 2022

The online publication will be hosted by the online cultural studies journal Cultural Express edited by Matthieu Freyheit and Victor-Arthur Piegay, from the University of Lorraine. The issue will be edited by Marie-Lou Solbach, from the University of Strasbourg.


  • Submission of proposals: before 15/10/22
  • Notification of acceptance: 15/11/22
  • Submission of selected articles: 30/04/23

Steering Committee

  • Christian Chelebourg, Professeur des Universités, Université de Lorraine
  • Matthieu Freyheit, Maître de conférences, Université de Lorraine
  • Victor-Arthur Piégay, Maître de conférences, Université de Lorraine

Scientific Committee

  • Régine Atzenhoffer, Maître de conférences, Université de Strasbourg
  • Isabelle Boof-Vermesse, Maître de conférences, Université Lille 3
  • Jean-François Chassay, Professeur des Universités, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Elodie Chazalon, Maître de conférences, Université de La Rochelle
  • Christian Chelebourg, Professeur des Universités, Université de Lorraine
  • Laurent Déom, Maître de conférences HDR, Université Lille 3
  • Antonio Dominguez-Leiva, Professeur des Universités, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Matthieu Freyheit, Maître de conférences, Université de Lorraine
  • Sébastien Hubier, Maître de conférences HDR, Université de Reims Champagne Ardenne
  • Hélène Machinal, Professeure des Universités, Université de Bretagne Occidentale
  • Claire McKeown, Maître de conférences, Université de Lorraine
  • Victor-Arthur Piégay, Maître de conférences, Université de Lorraine
  • Julie Roy, PhD, University of Massachusetts
  • Sébastian Thiltges, Post-doctorant, Université du Luxembourg
  • Frédérique Toudoire-Surlapierre, Professeur des universités, Université de Haute-Alsace
  • Tanguy Wuillème, Maître de conférences, Université de Lorraine


Baumann Zygmunt, La Vie liquide, Mesnil-sur-l’Éstrée, Fayard, 2013 [2005].

Beau Rémi, Larrère Catherine, Penser l’Anthropocène, Presses de Sciences Po, «  Académique  », 2018, en ligne : https://www.cairn.info/penser-l-anthropocene--9782724622102.htm

Bélisle Mathieu, Roy Alain (éd.), «  Qui a peur des changements climatiques ?  », L’Inconvénient, no 84, printemps 2021.

Bensaude-Vincent Bernadette, Temps-paysage. Pour une écologie des crises, Paris, Le Pommier, «  Symbiose  », 2021.

Berger James, After the End: representations of post-apocalypse, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Boia Lucian :

  • La Fin du Monde. Une histoire sans fin, Paris, La Découverte, 1999 [1989].
  • L’Homme face au climat. L’Imaginaire de la pluie et du beau temps [The Water in the Imagination], Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2004.

Boulard Anaïs, Un monde à habiter : imaginaire de la crise environnementale dans les fictions de l’Anthropocène, thèse de doctorat en littérature comparée, sous la direction d’Anne-Rachel Hermetet, Université d’Angers, 2016, en ligne :https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-01376541

Chartier Daniel, Qu’est-ce que l’imaginaire du Nord  ? Principes éthiques, Harstad, Norvège, Canada, Arctic arts summit, Imaginaire | Nord, «  Isberg  », 2018.

Chartier Daniel, «  Gloire au réchauffement de l’Arctique. La troublante lecture d’un roman anti-écologiste, “Erres boréales” (1944)  », Bernier Valérie, Duvicq Nelly, Landreville Maude (éd.), Une exploration des représentations du Nord dans quelques œuvres littéraires québécoises, Montréal, Presses de l’université du Québec, 2012.

Chelbourg Christian, Les Écofictions : mythologies de la fin du monde, Bruxelles, Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2012.

Diamond Jared, Effondrement : comment les sociétés décident de leur disparition ou de leur survie [Collapse. How Societies Chose to Fail or Succeed], Agnès Botz, Jean-Luc Fidel (trad.), Paris, Gallimard, 2009 [2005].

Eco Umberto, Chroniques d’une société liquide, Paris, Grasset & Fasquelle, 2017.

Engélibert Jean-Paul :

  • Fabuler la fin du monde : la puissance critique des fictions d’apocalypse, Paris, La Découverte, 2019.
  • Apocalypses sans royaume politique des fictions de la fin du monde, XXe-XXIe siècles, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2013.

Freyheit Matthieu, Wuillème Tanguy (dir.), « Winter is coming : que sont nos hivers depuis Jack London devenus ? », Cultural Express [en ligne], n° 3, 2020, url :


Gopnik Adam, Hiver. Cinq fenêtres sur une saison [Winter. Five windows on the season], Paul Gagné, Lori Saint-Martin (trad.), Montréal, Lux Éditeur, 2019 [2011].

Hamelin Louis-Edmond, « Le mot hiver en français », Cahiers de géographie du Québec, Volume 50, n139, 2006, p. 105-113.

Hubier Sébastien, «  L’Armageddon de glace : pour une étude culturelle de l’hiver dans les films-catastrophe  », Cultural Express [en ligne], no 3, 2020, «  Winter is coming : que sont nos hivers depuis Jack London devenus  ?  », Matthieu Freyheit, Tanguy Wuillème (dir.), url : http://cultx-revue.com/article/larmageddon-de-glace-pour-une-etude-culturelle-de-lhiver- dans-les-films-catastrophe.

Lafargue Jean-Noël, Les Fins du monde de l’Antiquité à nos jours, Paris, François Bourin Éditeur, 2012.

Lahtinen Toni, «  The Tale of The Great Deluge. Risto Isomäki’s The Sands of Sarasvati as Climate Fiction », ReinhardHennig, Jonasson Anna-Karin et Degerman Peter, Nordic Narratives of Nature and the Environment. Ecocritical Approaches to Northern European Literatures and Culture, Lanham, Boulder, New-York, London, Lexington Books, 2018, p. 79-96.

McFarland Sarah, Ecocollapse Fiction and Cultures of Human Extinction, Londres, New-York, Bloomsbury, « Environmental Cultures », 2021.

Montandon Alain, Écrire les saisons : cultures, arts et lettres, Paris, Hermann, 2018.

Rumpala Yannick, Hors des décombres du monde. Écologie, science-fiction et éthique du futur, Ceyzérieu, Champ Vallon, 2018.

Schoentjes Pierre, Ce qui a lieu : essai d’écopoétique, Marseille, Éditions Wildproject, 2015.

Soudière Martin (de la), Quartiers d’hiver. Ethnologie d’une saison, Paris, Créaphis, 2016.

Suberchicot Alain, Littérature et environnement : pour une écocritique comparée, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2012.

Trexler Adam, Anthropocene Fictions. The Novel in a Time of Climate Change, Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 2015.

Walter François, Hiver : histoire d’une saison, Paris, Payot, 2013.

Watt-Cloutier Sheila, Le Droit au froid : Le combat d’une femme pour protéger sa culture, l’Arctique et notre planète [The Right to Be Cold : One Woman’s Fight to Protect the Arctic and Save the Planet from Climate Change], Gérarld Barlld (trad.), Montréal, Écosociété, 2019 [2018].

Wohlleben Peter, L’Horloge de la nature. Prévoir le temps, comprendre les saisons, les animaux et les plantes, Cesena, Macro Éditions, «  Le Fil Vert  », 2017.


[i] Through a resonance effect, liquid isotopia shapes the vocabulary of the digital, an ultra-contemporary phenomenon, constantly referring the current period to this metaphor. See Marc Bernardot, « Plongée dans les métaphores et représentations liquides de la société numérique », Netcom[En ligne], 32-1/2 | 2018, url : http://journals.openedition.org/netcom/2886 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/netcom.2886.

[ii] We translate.

[iii] Adam Gopnik, Winter, op. cit., p. 243: “For the idea and imagery of winter has long been bound up with our ideas of memory and the past. We will not lose our sense of these things, of course, if winter changes, any more than those who live in torrid climates have lost theirs. But the apparatus, the affect, the folklore, the mythology of memory and the mineral world will go – the feel of the thing will alter, and we will ask where the snows of yesterday went all the time, and forever. Without our memory of winter, the North, the snow, the seasonal cycle, something will be lost to our civilization too, a loss as grave in its way as that of the Inuit”.


  • Saturday, October 15, 2022


  • Intermédialité, interdisciplinarité, écocritique, imaginaire(s) de fin du monde, esthétique de la fonte et de la liquéfaction, dérèglement climatique, hiver, inondation/sécheresse


  • Marie-Lou Solbach
    courriel : marie-lou [dot] solbach [at] etu [dot] unistra [dot] fr

Information source

  • Marie-Lou Solbach
    courriel : marie-lou [dot] solbach [at] etu [dot] unistra [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

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« Melting and dissolution: a contemporary aesthetic? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, October 05, 2022, https://calenda.org/1021133

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