Literature and Global Warming

Gregers Andersen

Abstract


Literature and literary studies now have one basis and goal: to nurture our common bonds to the planet – to replace the imaginaries of exclusionist familialism, communitarianism, nationhood, ethnic culture, regionalism, globalization or even humanism, with the ideal of planetarism. These sentences written by the Japanese literary critic Masao Miyoshi show how the peril of the planet due to global warming is working its way into literary fiction and literary criticism. In fact it seems fair to say that the old idea of national identity and even the relatively new notion of globalization today is being challenged by a stronger feeling of planetary identity due to global warming, which is present in both literary fiction, literary criticism and cultural theory. So this raises two questions. How does this planetary identity or planetary consciousness present itself in contemporary literary fiction, literary criticism and cultural theory? And how do we as researchers in the field of comparative literature deal with the fact that global warming increasingly is becoming a motive in the cultural objects, we analyze and work with? In my presentation I will try to answer these two questions. First by presenting some of the reoccurring themes and discussion-points connected to the representation of global warming in contemporary literary fiction. This also involves examples of how the political, ethical and aesthetical dimensions of global warming are being addressed by cultural theory. Second I will argue that ecocriticism, even though it is gaining ground as a critical practice, yet haven’t provided the analytical tools that meet the challenges connected to the thematization of global warming in contemporary literary fiction. The main reason for this being that ecocritics find it hard to accept the literary value of science fiction, eco-thrillers and other kinds of disaster-fictions that do not present nature as a hermetic domain, but rather as territorialized by culture.

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