British Association for American Studies


Storify of #bookhour chat on GOLD FAME CITRUS by Claire Vaye Watkins

#Bookhour is an open forum twitter discussion between scholars and the public that takes place the last Tuesday of the month unless otherwise stated. Find out more here.

On 28th March 2017,  USSO hosted a #bookhour to discuss Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold Fame Citrus (2015). During the discussion Dr Iain Williams, Pat Massey, Hollie Johnson and Christina Brennan discussed the tensions between ‘Deep time’ and climate change in Watkins’ novel, and to what extent these issues were filtered through a narrative of American exceptionalism. Debates arose around whether Gold Fame Citrus could be classified as climate fiction (or ‘cli-fi’), and gender relations in Watkins’ novel (particularly in light of Watkins’ autobiographical history as a member of the Charles Manson family). The panellists ended the discussion by discussing the symbolism of children in climate and post-apocalyptic narratives, and left the #bookhour asking about the value of realist vs experimental fiction in depicting climate change.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Gold Fame Citrus depict tension between the idea of Deep Time and the danger of rapid climate change
  2. Does Gold Fame Citrus attempt to absorb climate change into a narrative of US exceptionalism
  3. How effective is Watkins’ world-building? i.e. is Citrus’ extended universe convincing, and how “thought-through” does it feel? See e.g. the start of section 2, the “Ray in the Limbo Mine detainment center” chapter.
  4. How potentially illuminating, for those reading and ruminating on Citrus, are the recurrent references to John Muir et al.? (N.B. the handy listing of Luz’s choice biographies at p.185 in the hardback version).
  5. Gold Fame Citrus kills off its male lead at an unconventionally early juncture? What are the implications of this for the rest of the novel?
  6. What is the significance of the character Ig in Gold Fame Citrus? How does it compare to depictions of children in climate change/ post-apocalyptic novels?

Discussion Leaders 

Dr Iain Williams (@IainWilliams1) who is a postdoctoral English literature tutor at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in contemporary U.S. literature. His current research project is investigating the relationship between Deep Time and water.

Pat Massey (@MasselinesSt) is a second year-PhD student a the University of Manchester. His thesis title: New Orleans Exceptionalism in the Cultural Response to Hurricane Katrina. Academic preoccupations outside of Louisiana: instances of and reactions to natural disaster; the relationship between music and literature; the mysterious art of Pecha Kucha.

Hollie Johnson (@HollieD_Johnson) is a final-year PhD student at the University of Nottingham. Her thesis focuses upon the recent environmental turn of dystopian novels after 1950, thereby moving away from reductively anthropocentric scholarly accounts of dystopia. Her project engages with the ongoing discussions around nature and environment with the specific aim of clarifying what an ecocritical approach can bring to the understanding of recent dystopian fiction.

Christina Brennan (@cmbrennan_) is a PhD student in the division of English Literature and American Studies at the University of Manchester, UK. Her thesis examines representations of natural disaster in cities in late twentieth-century and twenty-first-century North American fiction. She previously studied at the University of Leeds and her wider research interests include literature on war, migration and displacement in the United States.