Autumn, winter, never spring: Brexit season

Eleanor Byrne (Manchester Metropolitan University)


This essay discusses the depiction of the post-Brexit British landscape in the first three novels in Ali Smith’s season-themed State of the Nation quartet, Autumn (2016), Winter (2017) and Spring (2018). It engages with contemporary ecocritical and feminist conceptualisations of climate change, and debates about the relationship between ecological crisis and the current political landscape to consider the ways in which these subjects are embedded in Smith’s trilogy named for the seasons. It reflects on the potential for the novel form to attempt to bear witness to the present political moment and argues that Smith’s fragmented and polyvocal texts represent an ethical and politically engaged approach to the contemporary crisis, where the novel can seek to enable or rehearse dialogues between groups whose positions are entrenched and at an impasse. It discusses the ways in which the novels dramatise the necessary ways out of seemingly irreconcilable differences through a celebration of empathy, ecological awareness and hospitality.  

Keywords: Brexit, queer hospitality, refugees, environment

Full text: OAJ_issue8_byrne (pdf, 245 KB).


Biographical note 
Dr Ellie Byrne is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research and teaching covers twentieth-century British, American and postcolonial literature and theory, feminism and queer theory. With Fionna Barber she convened the Brexit Wounds symposium in 2018, sponsored by the Manchester Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (MJMCE). She has published on Hilary Mantel, Muriel Spark, Tove Jansson, Ali Smith, Queer Hospitality, Hanya Yanagihara and Jamaica Kincaid. She was co-investigator on the British Academy funded network ‘Troubling Globalisation: Arts and Humanities Approaches’ 2016–17.