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KRISTEN GLEASON, Norway, 2018-2019

Fulbright Year: 2018-2019
Country: Norway
Proposal Type: Research
Field of Study: English and Creative Writing
Title: Reimagining the Modern Arctic in Norway
UGA Degree Program: English and Creative Writing, Ph.D.
Hometown: Palos Verdes, California

Kristen Gleason has a two-pronged plan for her Fulbright experience which encompasses her passion for the environment and creative thinking and writing.

Working in the northern Norwegian city of Tromsø, Kristen—who is pursuing her Ph.D. in English and creative writing at UGA—will investigate the contemporary Arctic to continue her studies in environmental theory and aesthetics and to complete a novel that will serve as her dissertation.

“I’m interested in the way the modern and, particularly, the urban Arctic offers a way into new modes of ecological thinking that might be more adequate to confronting the challenge of certain anthropogenic features of the modern age, specifically climate change,” says Kristen, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Montana.

Saying that “American thinking about the environment is in danger of becoming regressive,” Kristen seeks to expand upon the current Western descriptions of the Arctic as a pristine wilderness, a barren wasteland, or the bellwether of ecological disaster, all of which she finds too simplistic.

“It seems crucial to me to explore the ways in which aesthetic and cross-cultural representations of the Arctic have influenced and continue to influence the way we think about the Arctic,” she says. “It is my hope that my 10 months in Tromsø would allow me to accomplish the dissemination of local and grounded representations of the Arctic by Norwegian and Sami artists, while also allowing me to craft a re-imagined outsider’s narrative about the Arctic.

“My ultimate aim is to draw attention to the complex realities of the region in order to encourage more useful forms of cross-cultural engagement regarding the very real challenges the Arctic faces.”

Tromsø, Kristen says, is the ideal locale for research on the contemporary Arctic. In addition to providing a very modern backdrop—including a thriving contemporary art scene—for her research, she will be working with several professors who are conducting cutting-edge research on the Arctic’s discourses and modernities.

The University of Tromsø “also offers a one-year program in northern studies and a number of courses on indigenous issues through the Centre for Sami Studies,” she says. “I would explore auditing or enrolling in courses specific to the contemporary Arctic during the time of my fellowship.”

Kristen also plans to connect with the Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art and Creative Writing to meet with artists and writers working there to produce—through translation and/or publication—as many narratives and artworks originating from inside the Arctic as possible.

She says her novel, which is set in a future North after the end of travel, “complicates the convention of the Arctic as utopia.”