Profile | Nicole Merola

Nicole Merola




Dr. Nicole M. Merola is the Head of the Department of Literary Arts & Studies and Associate Professor of Ecocriticism & American Literature at the Rhode Island School of Design. She holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Washington. Dr. Merola’s teaching and research interests include the Anthropocene; biodiversity and extinction narratives; literary, visual, and performance-based approaches to climate change; contemporary environmental literary, visual, and material culture; critical animal studies; green film studies; the polar regions; science studies and the intersections of science, literature, and art; the socioecological pasts and presents of Narragansett Bay; and theories of natureculture.

Dr. Merola has published scholarly essays on Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain; on the ways landscape photography can intervene in politico-legal conversations about wilderness preservation; on the social, cultural, and ecological consequences of water mismanagement; on photographer Jill Greenberg’s animal portraits; on Don DeLillo’s novel Cosmopolis; on T.C. Boyle’s short stories “Descent of Man” and “Dogology”; on Lars von Trier’s film Melancholia; and on Michelle Paver’s novel Dark Matter. She is currently completing an article on teaching climate change cultures and is working on two different projects related to the Anthropocene: a book project tentatively titled A Dark Archive: Materializing the Risks of the Anthropocene in Contemporary North American and British Literatures and “Anthropocene Artifacts: Reading Culture Stratigraphically,” a research project, co-conducted with Eli Block (Brown/RISD Dual Degree, ’17).





A Dark Archive: Materializing the Risks of the Anthropocene in Contemporary North American and British Literatures

In Progress

Dr. Merola’s current book project, tentatively titled A Dark Archive: Materializing the Risks of the Anthropocene in Contemporary North American and British Literatures, examines how contemporary novels, poems, and short stories diagnose, assess, and make visible multiply-layered forms of risk characteristic of the Anthropocene: irremediable disruption to biospheric and geochemical processes, irrevocable destructions of habitats and ecosocial communities, in short, the unfolding of grim ecosocial presents and futures for both humans and nonhumans.

This project considers a range of dark ecologies, those that might sketch the planet as hostile space rather than home, emphasize the depravities of our political and economic models rather than celebrating our landscapes, or situate humans as unexceptional creatures within the context of cosmological timescales, arguing that, in order to confront what it means to live in the Anthropocene we need to focus on materializing ecosocial anxiety and imagining diminished ecosocial futures.


Anthropocene Artifacts: Reading Culture Stratigraphically

Summer 2015

This summer research project, funded by a 2015 Summer Bridge Grant from the RISD Research Office and co-conducted with Eli Block (Brown/RISD Dual Degree, ’17), investigates how stratigraphy, a method used by geologists to determine the order in which different rock strata were formed, assign dates for particular geochronological units (eons, periods, epochs, etc.), and interpret the natural history of the Earth, might be transmuted into an environmental humanities method for unpacking how literary, visual, material, and performance texts register anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity, the geochemical composition of earth systems, the material composition of contemporary rock layers, and sea levels.


Theorizing the Anthropocene

RISD Seminar Course

This class, offered through the Department of Literary Arts & Studies at RISD, asks students to consider how anthropogenic impacts on the planet, such as changes in biodiversity, climate change, consumption of fossil fuels and material goods, destruction of habitat, ocean acidification, overpopulation, sea ice loss, and changes in sea level can be registered through a range of cultural objects, including literature, film, visual and performing arts, the built environment, and material objects.


Selected Publications

“‘for terror of the deadness beyond’: Arctic Environments and Inhuman Ecologies in Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter.” Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture, and Environment 5.2 (2014): 22-40.

“Materializing a Geotraumatic and Melancholy Anthropocene: Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods.” the minnesota review 83 (2014): 122-132.

“Mediating Planetary Attachments and Planetary Melancholy: Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.” Design, Mediation, and the Posthuman, eds. Amy Propen, Colbey Emmerson Reid, and Dennis Weiss. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014. 249-267.

“T. C. Boyle’s Neoevolutionary Queer Ecologies: Questioning Species in ‘Descent of Man’ and ‘Dogology.’” America’s Darwin: Darwinian Theory in U.S. Culture, eds. Tina Gianquitto and Lydia Fisher. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014. 534-575.

Cosmopolis: Don DeLillo’s Melancholy Political Ecology.” American Literature 84.4 (2012): 827-853.

“Monkeys, Apes, and Bears, Oh My!: Illuminating the Politics of Human-Animal Relationship in Jill Greenberg’s Monkey Portraits and Bear Portraits.” JAC: Rhetoric, Writing, Culture, Politics. 30.3-4 (2010): 645-681.

“Connecting to Narragansett Bay: Fostering Ecological Citizenship through Environmental Humanities and Art and Design.” Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy 21.1 (2010): 60-78.

“A Litany of Disasters or Going with the Flow: New Developments in Water Politics.” Journal of Postcolonial and Commonwealth Studies 13.2-14.1 (2006-2007): 160-172.

“Reading (in) the Blue Ridge: The Bioregional Imperative of Cold Mountain.” Reader 53 (2005): 45-75.

“Attending to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Coastal Plain: Subhankar Banerjee’s Photographic Journey as Riposte.” Green Letters #6 (2004): 50-60.



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