EASLCE 18th Webinar
Realism(s) in the Anthropocene: Representational and Ethical Challenges
Dr Adeline Johns-Putra, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China & University of Hong Kong
Time and Date: 16 April 2021 – 11am CET (Central European Time)
This webinar is concerned with the capacity of literary realism to address the representational and ethical dilemmas of the Anthropocene: the challenge to dislodge humans from their long-held position of exceptionalism, while at the same time deploying and re-centring human agency and moral responsibility to address the climate crisis and its intertwined ecological emergencies. In other words, if literary representation is to do justice to the state of the planet (and its human and nonhuman species), it must simultaneously de-centre and re-centre the human. This webinar asks if the ubiquitous mode of fictional realism is adequate to this task, given realism’s historical preoccupation with human-sized and human-scaled lifetimes, relationships, problems, hopes, fears, and dreams. Bringing together scholarship on the Anthropocene, history, and time (Chakrabarty) with recent scholarship on the dialectics of realism (Jameson), we will go on to interrogate literary realism and consider its potential new directions.
Required reading – new directions in realism
- Baucom, Ian. 2015. “‘Moving Centers’: Climate Change, Critical Method, and the Historical Novel”. Modern Language Quarterly 76: 137-57.
- Johns-Putra, Adeline. 2018. “The Rest is Silence: Postmodern and Postcolonial Possibilities in Climate Change Fiction”. Studies in the Novel 50 (1): 26-42.
- Johns-Putra, Adeline. 2019. “Climate and History in the Anthropocene: Realist Narrative and the Framing of Time”. In Climate and Literature. Ed. Adeline Johns-Putra. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 246-62.
- Johns-Putra, Adeline. Forthcoming. “‘We Have Lost Yardsticks by Which to Measure’: Arendtian Ethics and the Narration of Scale in the Anthropocene”. In Narratives of Scale in the Anthropocene. Ed. Gabriele Dürbeck and Philip Hüpkes. London: Routledge.
- Marshall, Kate. 2015. “What are the Novels of the Anthropocene?: American Fiction in Geological Time”. American Literary History 27 (3): 523-38.
(Optional) Background reading
- Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2009. “The Climate of History: Four Theses”. Critical Inquiry 35 (2): 197-222.
- Jameson, Fredric. 2015. “The Twin Sources of Realism: The Narrative Impulse” and “The Twin Sources of Realism: Affect, or, The Body’s Present”. In The Antinomies of Realism. London and New York: Verso. 15-44.
The key questions to discuss include:
To what extent can the anthropocentrism of conventional realism still be considered fit for purpose?
What are the ethical and critical implications for meta-fictional, postmodern, self-aware, or reflexive realisms?
Considering the risks of cynicism and emotional detachment with regard to a meta-fictional or self-aware realism, can we, alternatively envision an emotionally and ethically engaged, ecocentric realism?
featured photo: Yann Allegre
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