The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century


MA Guðrun í Jákupsstovu

Guðrun í Jákupsstovu is a doctoral fellow in the SNSF-funded research project The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century at the University of Bern.

Originally from the small island country of the Faroe Islands, Guðrun has, for nearly all her life, lived in immediate proximity to the ocean. This sparked an initial research interest in cultural representations of island subjectivities, and questions within environmental and blue humanities more broadly.

Her dissertation examines contemporary British and Scandinavian nature writing texts that situate questions and understandings of Anthropocene temporalities in littoral spaces, such as beaches, coasts, and islands.

Guðrun í Jákupsstovu can be reached at or on her Twitter: gudrunjakups

Encountering Time: Understanding Deep Time Through Encounters and Interactions on the Beach

The ubiquity of the climate crisis has made clear that making sense of its many-formed challenges is not a matter purely reserved for the hard sciences to grapple with. While technical solutions are needed, the crisis also calls for a review of the structural narratives that have shaped our worldview through ages of empire, colonialism, and technological advancements. These are questions fit for the humanities to address. One of the challenges is that of understanding time in relation to climate change. As scholars and thinkers across the sciences and the humanities are adopting the term “the Anthropocene”, it forces a focus on geologic time that contextualises human history into a planetary history (Chakrabarty 2019; 2018). This project proposes that literary representations of the area between land and sea – beaches and coastlines – work as ideal sites for contextualising geologic time, and thus mobilize more tangible understandings of time and future in relation to climate change. The texts examined all feature engagements or encounters that take place in littoral spaces, that all, in their own way, spur tangible considerations on deep time and future. For example, through actions of beachcombing and engaging with objects found on the beach, such as fossils, flints, and plastic waste, notions of both deep past and unsettling “visions of eternity” (Pétursdóttir 2019; Boetzkes & Pendakis 2013) are invoked. Furthermore, encounters with the nonhuman in littoral spaces highlight parallel lines of earthly existence, that bring forward a more-than-human history within a planetary scale. Drawing on theories of ecocriticism, postcolonialism, and new materialism, this project seeks to ask whether these engagements and encounters at the beach can mobilize tangible understandings of time in relation to climate change, and highlight questions of how empire, colonialism, and capitalism are continually intertwined and present in the age of the Anthropocene.


Keywords: deep time, Anthropocene, archaeology, plastic ontologies, new materialism, ecocriticism, postcolonialism, capitalism, empire


Publications in the Field of the Environmental and Blue Humanities


Conference Papers

í Jákupsstovu, Guðrun. “Complicating and Materialising ‘the Flood Myth’ in Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen’s The Sea Letters“. Wet Feet? Flooding, Resilience and the Climate Crisis, University of Sheffield (online), 19 May 2021.

í Jákupsstovu,  Guðrun. “Encountering Time: Understanding Deep Time Through Encounters and Interactions on the Beach”. GAPS 2021: Science, Culture and Postcolonial Narratives, University of Oldenburg (online), 13-15 May 2021.

í Jákupsstovu, Guðrun. “Blue Extinction: Narrating the Deep Life of the Greenland Shark”. Blue Extinctions Conference, University of Sheffield, 7-8 July 2022.

í Jákupsstovu, Guðrun. “Havet og stranden i skandinavisk litteratur – Et blik på Havboka.” Arbeitstagung der Skandinavistik, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 6-8 September 2022.

í Jákupsstovu, Guðrun. “Deep Time Mythologised: Reading the Anthropocene in Morten Strøksnes’ Havboka.” EcoLit Now! International Symposium on Ecocritical Literary Studies and the Environmental Humanities, University of Oslo, 24 May 2023.


Invited Lectures

“Between Land and Sea: Literature, island imaginaries and the Anthropocene.” Invited Lecture. University of the Faroe Islands, 16 March 2021.

“Reading the Beach: The Potential of Littoral Space.” Invited Lecture. University of Rostock, 21 December 2022 (Zoom).