Sustainable Groundwater Stories – From Disasters to Epical Narration

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Deborah Wardle


Fiction writers rarely imagine water’s subterranean realms. Novelists tend not to encroach beneath the predominant attention to surface water to find the potency of groundwater narratives. This paper examines the deep, time connections of water and story. Blending post-human imaginaries with the politics of Australian water cultures and drawing from Val Plumwood’s “shadow places”, the paper applies the notion of “shadow waters”1 to creative writing methodologies. Telling disaster stories is not enough. Narrating the vulnerabilities and potencies of groundwater’s tidal movements means linking ancient pasts with perilous futures through the precarious present. Acknowledging the long tradition of Indigenous oral story lines, Alexis Wright’s “epical storytelling” in Carpentaria is exemplary.2 What can be learnt of sustainable groundwater ecologies and incursions into groundwater management from stories that give voice and representation to aquifers themselves?

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Author Biography

Deborah Wardle, University of Melbourn and RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Melbourne Technical College)

Deborah Wardle is a writer, teacher and researcher with stories and peerreviewed articles published in Australian and international journals including Meanjin, Overland, The Big Issue, Meniscus, Mosaic (Canada), Fusion, and Animal Studies Journal. Deborah teaches literature at RMIT and Creative Writing at University of Melbourne. Her PhD thesis explores the ways climate fiction expresses groundwater’s potency and vulnerability in Australian narratives.