Anthropocene Fictions

Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change

Adam Trexler
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Anthropocene Fictions
    Book Description:

    Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have transformed the Earth's atmosphere, committing our planet to more extreme weather, rising sea levels, melting polar ice caps, and mass extinction. This period of observable human impact on the Earth's ecosystems has been called the Anthropocene Age. The anthropogenic climate change that has impacted the Earth has also affected our literature, but criticism of the contemporary novel has not adequately recognized the literary response to this level of environmental crisis. Ecocriticism's theories of place and planet, meanwhile, are troubled by a climate that is neither natural nor under human control.Anthropocene Fictionsis the first systematic examination of the hundreds of novels that have been written about anthropogenic climate change.

    Drawing on climatology, the sociology and philosophy of science, geography, and environmental economics, Adam Trexler argues that the novel has become an essential tool to construct meaning in an age of climate change. The novel expands the reach of climate science beyond the laboratory or model, turning abstract predictions into subjectively tangible experiences of place, identity, and culture. Political and economic organizations are also being transformed by their struggle for sustainability. In turn, the novel has been forced to adapt to new boundaries between truth and fabrication, nature and economies, and individual choice and larger systems of natural phenomena.Anthropocene Fictionsargues that new modes of inhabiting climate are of the utmost critical and political importance, when unprecedented scientific consensus has failed to lead to action.

    Under the Sign of Nature: Explorations in Ecocriticism

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3693-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Contextualizing the Climate Change Novel
    (pp. 1-28)

    From 2000, a group of geologists, led by the Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen, began to argue the present period of Earth’s history should be known as the Anthropocene.¹ Before this, the period from approximately 11,700 years ago to the present was known as the Holocene, an interglacial period after the most recent ice age. According to proponents of the termAnthropocene,human activity has so altered the history of the Earth that it has become necessary to declare a new epoch to signify this impact. For Crutzen, the principal impact is the anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases, increasing atmospheric...

  5. ONE TRUTH: Science, Culture, and Construction
    (pp. 29-74)

    Hysteria, phrenology, the geocentric universe, genetically modified food, vaccines, Prozac, fluoride, DDT, and climate change. We all know those scientific things that we should not believe, technologies that hide the bare interests of patriarchy, cultural bias, religion, social hierarchy, the Enlightenment, corporations, and governments. Other things we cling to as the unobjectionable products of scientific truth. The poles of this argument can certainly be more nuanced, but the dilemma between scientific constructivism and scientific realism pervades early-twenty-first-century political debate.

    Fiction also bears the mark of these divisions. In contrast to “nonfiction,” fiction is understood as the product of social ideas,...

  6. TWO PLACE: Deluge, Floods, and Absence
    (pp. 75-118)

    For the majority of the public, climate change has remained an abstract, remote prognostication. Emerging from computer models, specialist journals, and university press releases, global warming appears first and foremost as a scientific proposition requiring elite, privileged knowledge to evaluate. As a global, rather than local phenomenon, involving changes in climate over decades rather than from month to month or year to year, the very scale of climate change challenges people’s capacity to understand it. Activists, policymakers, and scientists themselves have been understandably concerned that climate change has been all but inaccessible to the voting, consuming public. Political campaigns against...

  7. THREE POLITICS: Opposition, Bureaucracy, and Agency
    (pp. 119-169)

    Despite constant calls for a depoliticized climate science, climate change inexorably provokes politics. In the last decade of the twentieth century and the first of the twenty-first, the basic science surrounding greenhouse gases was heavily politicized, particularly in the United States. Conservative groups notoriously adopted claims of scientific uncertainty and outright denial, while liberals’ proposals were made to seem unreasonably partisan. Plans for dealing with climate change have almost always been political as well, betraying preferences for international cooperation or unilateralism, preserving the influence of wealthy countries or permitting development of poorer ones. Even nongovernmental proposals involve choosing winners and...

  8. FOUR ECO-NOMICS: Domesticity, Ecology, and Political Economy
    (pp. 170-222)

    Thinking about climate change, there is always a temptation to reduce it to a discrete, bounded question. Largely, the preceding chapters have explored just such questions: what the science of climate change is; what literary forms enable its expression; what political responses are possible. These are important questions, and many more could be asked. Nevertheless, they tend to compartmentalize climate change into a discrete set of practices. With a momentous threat, there is a tendency to jump to solutions. Faced with an anthropogenic catastrophe, perhaps the most natural responses are either denial or an immediate demand for actions that will...

  9. CONCLUSION: The Real and the Future
    (pp. 223-238)

    What does the future hold for climate fiction? Assessing this future is unusually difficult, because of the dual uncertainties of climatic and political feedback loops. Yet it seems clear that we have reached a new present, in which both authors and critics can respond to the contemporary reality of anthropogenic global warming.

    For most of the history of climate fiction, catastrophic global warming was a distant, hypothetical future. Four decades ago, when Ursula LeGuin wroteThe Lathe of Heaven(1971), climate change was but one of a number of alternative contingencies for dimension-traveling characters. Through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 239-254)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 255-260)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)