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Waterlines: Migration, Ecology, Mythology

Image by Nitish Kadam

Waterlines: Migration, Ecology, Mythology

Davina Quinlivan

Something is alight, momentarily, before it plunges into the darkness of the river which has now
consumed everything. The hills are islands, deep in water, floodplains all around; ash and beech trees in
this swimming pool, the owls resting atop their branches. The Hooghly River in India enters into burbling
dialogue with the River Tillingborne
While we walk along the River Exe, the curves of time ripple backwards and my father is there, sitting
by the Irrawaddy River in Burma. He passes his hands through the bullrushes. Sometimes, he spies a

(Quinlivan, Shalimar, 2022)


At first, a river was my own inheritance, its path leading the way out of Burma for my family during the war. After this escape, other rivers entered our lives, in particular, the Thames and the Grand Union Canal, and last of all, the river Exe in Devon. This seminar puts forward the idea of a river as a space through which to travel and expand our notions of time and place, nature and nurture. Here, I ask how rivers have shaped who we are, or how certain environmental shifts have become entangled in the narrative and lived experience of migration. Alongside such ‘river stories’, I want to explore the idea of a river as a generative space for storytelling, real rivers and their abstract depiction in art, cinema and literature; I connect these ideas to the role of rivers in the migratory journeys which have unfolded, as necessity as well as part of the everyday, along the way. The seminar aims to connect various interdisciplinary threads together, surprisingly, between rivers and their associated objects, images and words; here, it is especially focused on the role of women and migration, and the themes of mythology and magical realism. Part exploration of creative non-fiction, nature writing and eco-poetry, this seminar will offer a much needed exploration of rivers, including ideas of hydrology, flooding and pollution which is also a feminist psychogeography of place, culture and contemporary nature writing.


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A Consolation – Sena Basoz. 2020.
Embrace of the Serpent. Ciro Guerra. 2015.
The Essex Serpent. Clio Barnard. 2022.
Heartship – Dorothy Cross. 2019
The Host – Bong Joon Ho. 2006.
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A River Called Titas – Ritwik Ghatak. 1973
The River – Jean Renoir. 1951
River- Robert MacFarlane. 2022

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