Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Marxism in Culture: Two book launches on Landscape and Utopia

21 June 2019, 5:30 pm–7:30 pm


The IAS is delighted to host this Marxism in Culture seminar where John Timberlake (Middlesex University) will present his book 'Landscape and the Science Fiction Imaginary' and Caroline Edwards (Birkbeck, University of London) her book 'Utopia and the Contemporary British Novel'

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to





Andrew Murray


IAS Forum
Room G17, Ground Floor, South Wing, UCL
Gower Street
United Kingdom


'John Timberlake's book Landscape and the Science Fiction Imaginary (Intellect, 2018) takes up Bloch's Utopian Function, (as well as Darko Suvin,  Jameson's Archaeologies etc) but differentiates itself by re-framing science fiction as a peculiarly visual discourse. Timberlake argues that landscape, as a specifically historical construct (human space + human time), is key in understanding Science Fiction's specifically historical contrivances, juxtapositions and displacements in the manner it produces the desire to visualise ('ocularity'). As the recent review in Foundation, the International Review of Science Fiction has it, "Timberlake's analysis is based on an understanding of the sf imaginary both as a spatial abstraction situated between the Real and the Symbolic, and, following William Gibson, as an unevenly distributed temporal relation whereby fragments of the future are encountered in the present' (Foundation 131 p.103).

Caroline Edwards’ book Utopia and the Contemporary British Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2019) examines how the experience of time functions in a specific set of British novels to reveal the persistence of the utopian imagination in the twenty-first century. Writers such as Hari Kunzru, Maggie Gee, David Mitchell, Ali Smith, Jim Crace, Joanna Kavenna, Grace McCleen, Jon McGregor and Claire Fuller are distinguished by their formal inventiveness and suggestively non-mimetic encounters with otherwise realist narrative representations of contemporary experience. Through a series of close readings Edwards develops the philosophical category of non-contemporaneity to consider what she calls these “fictions of the not yet” – which open up a realm of utopian possibility that shines through in moments of temporal alterity, glimpses of the future, redeemed strands of past hopes, and alternative social worlds already alive in the present.


John Timberlake (b.1967) is an artist. Recurrent themes in his work are the construction of histories, memory and landscape.  Recent exhibitions include: 10-4 at Stephen Lawrence Gallery, Greenwich (2018); Visions of War Above and Below (Imperial War Museum, London, 2015-16) Artists Impression: Mangled Metal (Peltz Gallery Birkbeck, 2015); Turning Points (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, 2014-15). He is an alumnus of Brighton Polytechnic, The Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and Goldsmiths. Timberlake’s solo authored monograph Landscape and the Science Fiction Imaginary was published by Intellect in 2018.

Dr Caroline Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research focuses on the utopian imagination in contemporary literature, science fiction, apocalyptic narratives, and Western Marxism. She is author of Utopia and the Contemporary British Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Her work on contemporary writers has also led to two books of essays: China Miéville: Critical Essays, co-edited with Tony Venezia (Gylphi, 2015) and Maggie Gee: Critical Essays, co-edited with Sarah Dillon (Gylphi, 2015). Caroline is currently working on her second monograph, Arcadian Revenge: Utopia, Apocalypse and Science Fiction in the Era of Ecocatastrophe, which considers how fictions of extreme environments (such as Mars, Antarctica, the deep sea, and the centre of the Earth) have allowed writers to imagine creative responses to real and perceived disasters about climate change, from the late 19th century to the present day.

All welcome!

Convenors: Matthew Beaumont, Dave Beech, Alan Bradshaw, Warren Carter, Gail Day, Steve Edwards, Larne Abse Gogarty, Esther Leslie, Luisa Lorenza Corna, David Mabb, Antigoni Memou, Andy Murray, Nina Power, Dominic Rahtz, Pete Smith, Peter Thomas, Alberto Toscano, Marina Vishmidt.