How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?
The ecological eye made me realise how much art history can contribute to better ways of thinking about the environment and ecological crisis.
What book in your field has inspired you the most?
Felix Guattari The Three Ecologies or, outside my field, Murry Bookchin The Ecology of Freedom.
Did your research take you to any unexpected places?
Not in a physical sense, but intellectually it led me to an extraordinary amount of inspiring writing that exists right across the environmental humanities – from literature, anthropology, politics, geography, critical animal studies and theory. On top of that, I also had to engage with ecology, natural sciences and some really old classics, like Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid or Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation – neither of which are discussed much in art history.
Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?
I deliberately mix longhand with outline drafts using Scrivener and Workflowy software. Then it goes into Word for polishing. I also wrote some key parts of The ecological eye in a holiday caravan park in Kintyre, on the west coast of Scotland. It was a quiet holiday park!
Why did you choose to publish with MUP?
Their Rethinking Art’s Histories was the perfect series, with great editors. Also many colleagues at Edinburgh had worked closely with Manchester University Press and enjoyed the experience. I love the collaboration with them and the fact that the book is coming out in three formats straight away (paperback, hardback and eBook).
What are you working on now?
Another possible monograph on the ecological-cultural dimensions of the year 1972. This cropped up as a surprisingly rich year in my book research but no one realises how it was such a great year for new kinds of eco-thinking.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice when starting out this project, what would it be?
Share drafts more widely with colleagues. It takes bravery but is rarely a mistake, in my experience.
If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?
Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. I’m attracted to large, polymathic books that pull together incredibly diverse material. Kropotkin’s anarchist classic uses the idea of symbiosis and mutuality to give a history of the biosphere from cell-life to contemporary society. It’s an amazing achievement and I don’t care if biologists might dispute it!
What other genres do you enjoy reading?
Philosophy, ecological / nature writing, contemporary fiction, feminist writing.
Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?
Adam Phillips (psychoanalyst); Stewart Lee (comedian); Donna Haraway (theorist/biologist); Susan Stewart (poet and literature professor); Antonio Carluccio (chef – and because I don’t cook, certainly not for these people.)