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This introduction sets out the volume’s main contention that any analysis of climate and literature must not only deal with the many ways in which climate has been conceptualised but also frame those conceptualisations as a pre-history to climate emergency. It chronicles first the vexed genealogy of climate and literature, showing how this history proceeds unevenly through expectations around, variously, climate’s agency as a felt presence, its status as data or index, and its betokening of an impossibly complex global system. It then considers the literary and literary-critical fields, arguing for the need to contextualise these both in the here and now of climate crisis and in the longer pre-history of climate concepts. It then introduces the chapters in this volume, which simultaneously look back on this terrain and forward into a fraught world. Ultimately, if the history of climate and literature is one of climate’s various conceptualisations as agency, index, and system, this introduction, like the volume as a whole, argues for the potential of literature to depict systems conversion – not merely the future potential for disastrous global environmental failure but rather the means to reinvent it.
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