Philological Quarterly

Abstracts: Volume 93, Number 3 (2014)

Abstracts 93.3

Frederick Buell, “Global Warming as Literary Narrative”

This article explores the assembly of six fictional narratives of global warming and the catastrophes it is now bringing about. The article argues that the narratives all make lively, individualized use of a varied set of recent discursive traditions, ones enacted in areas ranging from environmental politics and ecocultural theory to geological periodization, risk theory, recent technoculture and capitalism, and contemporary post-apocalypticism. The narratives focused on are one early text, Soylent Greenb, and five contemporary novels, ones by Paolo Bacigalupi, Barbara Kingsolver, Kim Stanley Robinson, Nathaniel Rich, and Octavia Butler.   

Robert Markley, “Defoe and the Imagined Ecologies of Patagonia”

The vast regions of Patagonia in present-day Argentina and Chile fascinated British writers during the long eighteenth century. Between the equatorial coast of Brazil and the Spanish colonies in Chile there were no European outposts of any size, little wood for repairs, and thousands of miles of uncertain navigation through some of the world’s most dangerous seas.  Daniel Defoe's last novel, A New Voyage Round the World (1725), helped to shape, even as it was shaped by, early modern understandings of the southern reaches of South America and, more broadly, a global climatology that depended on complex analogies between known and unknown regions.  Defoe’s novel and its historical sources reveal some of the ways that the understanding of “climate” emerged through differential, experiences of weather conditions in remote regions of the globe. A New Voyage relies on a chain of analogical substitutions and displacements to normalize alien patterns of wind, precipitation, and temperature.  Patagonia–even more than the Caribbean and or the monsoon regions of South and Southeast Asia—reflects a widespread cultural desire to project the “normative” climatic conditions of “home” onto the blank spaces on maps of the South Seas.

Allen MacDuffie, “‘Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came’ and the Landscapes of the Anthropocene”

This essay reads “ ‘Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came’ ” in the context of Victorian concerns about ecological breakdown and the human impact on the environment. It argues that the poem’s blasted, highly anthropomorphized landscapes express something of the strange new epistemology of what would come to be known as the “Anthropocene.” Through its upending of teleological narrative drive, and its emphasis on the inescapable warping pressures of human mediation, “Child Roland” represents a significant imaginative response to an emerging environmental crisis.

Grace Moore and Tom Bristow, “Alert, but Not Alarmed: Emotion, Place, and Anticipated Disaster in John Kinsella’s ‘Bushfire Approaching’”

This essay examines John Kinsella’s prize-winning poem “Bushfire Approaching.” Drawing on Brian Massumi’s work on anticipated disaster—in particular his attention to trauma-survivors haunted by “the smoke of future fires”—we analyze Kinsella’s treatment of debates surrounding climate change in Australia.  Fire in ‘Bushfire Approaching’ is both symbolic and real, representing burning in the past, present and future.  The poem’s articulation of place, space and time captures oppositions between the willed amnesia attributed to many fire survivors, along with a vision of a future punctuated by repeated climatic catastrophes.  Deploying affect theory and close reading through an ecocritical lens, we interpret the bushfire as a signifier of the complex relationship between climate change and custodianship of the land. This approach situates Kinsella’s poetry within a broader discussion of the bushfire as a natural phenomenon, while we also consider the poet’s deep respect for fire and its role in Australian ecology.

Rachel Rochester , “We’re Alive: The Resurrection of the Audio Drama in the Anthropocene”

We’re Alive, an audio drama podcast downloaded more than 20 million times, initially seems to be a narrative of conventional zombie apocalypse. Upon closer examination of the podcast and the responses of its listeners, however, We’re Alive appears to be uniquely equipped to engage its audience with issues surrounding climate change and environmental degradation. This article examines the ways in which We’re Alive encourages listeners to confront, process, and imagine solutions to real-world environmental issues within the dynamic soundscape of the podcast’s alternative reality: a process that makes them all the more capable of doing so in their extra-textual lives.

P. Saxton Brown, "The Garden in the Machine: Video Games and Environmental Consciousness”

 “The Garden in the Machine” looks at how video games might raise environmental consciousness and compel thought about human-environment relations. Although games are deeply embedded within networks of exploitation and environmental degradation, they might provide a basis for thinking environmental issues in three ways: as procedural arguments, as spatial allegory, and as simulated, ethically disposed boredom. While independent games like Fort McMoney (2014) attempt to overtly intervene in discourses about oil, energy, and environmental degradation, many popular games like Far Cry 4 (2014) offer a more complex simulation of natural spaces that might be read as allegories for the discursive position of “nature” in modern society. Finally, a third type of game, exemplified by Proteus (2013), forces its users to withhold from the violent exploitation of nature, compelling instead a contemplative attitude toward the world.