Dissolving Boundaries in the Anthropocene

Book review:

Kérchy, Anna, ed. Interspecies Dialogues in Postmillenial Filmic Fantasies, special issue of AMERICANA E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary. 13.2 (2017)

Kérchy, Anna, ed. Posthumanism in Fantastic Fiction. AMERICANA eBooks, 2018. 237 pages. ISBN 978-615-5423-46-8. EPUB. Open Access.

Migrants and Disaster Subcultures in the Late Anthropocene: An Ecocritical Reading of Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels

Affected by a shocking concatenation of ecological, economic, and political disasters, black, white, and multiracial characters in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998) seek to cope with apparently insurmountable difficulties. These Afrofuturist Parable novels render a disintegrating US society in the 2020s-2090s, which is torn by internal and external chaos: it shows visible signs of pandemonium involving the crisis of individual, communal, and ecological survival. This ecocritical reading seeks to explore how Butler’s novels make up the fictional tapestry of an evolving human risk narrative whose anthropogenic effects on the planet might threaten an “ecological holocaust” (Charles Brown) unless fundamental green changes spur radically alternative modes of thinking and living. Throughout this paper, I am interested in how Butler’s texts address and construct the interaction of the human and the non-human world to create a storyworld in which distinct characters operate not only according to the logic of the narrative in their local places and (semi)private/communal spaces, but also as distinct configurations of the Anthropocene, that is, as agents of a larger story of humans. (EF)

“If the world is dystopic, why fear an apocalypse?”

Book review:

MacCormack, Patricia. The Ahuman Manifesto: Activism for the End of the Anthropocene. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020. 224 pages. ISBN 9781350081093. E-book. £15.83.

John Williams’s Stoner and Literature as Dark Matter in the Age of Educational Managerialism

The tension between Bildung and more utility-oriented dimensions of education is nothing new. For instance, Friedrich Nietzsche addressed the issue in a series of lectures despising nineteenth-century tendencies to let education be controlled by external forces. The contemporary literature teacher may feel inclined to endorse some of Nietzsche’s sentiments. What will remain of the subject of literature in the age of massification, learnification, and criterion-referenced teaching in secondary and tertiary education? Through an analysis of certain aspects of John Williams’s Stoner, the article considers a few central questions: why is the devoted literature teacher forced into a hypocritical position, pretending to do a set of stated things (learning outcomes), while actually doing (or wanting to do) something completely different? Is it not precisely what cannot be put into words that is the actual driving force of the study of literature? The article suggests that this Gordian knot cannot be untied and should not be cut, but also that the attempts to untie it are in themselves vitalizing forces that ought not to be neglected within literary studies and teaching. (JW)