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Chapter 15 - Ecology, Ethics, and the Apocalyptic Lyric in Recent American Poetry

from Part II - American Apocalypse in (and out of) History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 December 2020

John Hay
Affiliation:
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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Summary

While the etymology of apocalypse is closely associated with that of revelation (both signify unveiling or revealing), the latter term also evokes the complete opposite—a reveiling or recovering. And if we look closely at how apocalypse figures in recent literature and literary theory that concerns itself with our imagination of cataclysm—particularly ecological and financial—we find an apocalypticism that understands both crisis and our path to averting it as a matter of embracing ignorance and unknowability over knowledge or knowability. In a host of recent works of poetry that have sought to imagine a horizon of political and environmental change, the horizon is frequently all we are permitted to imagine because what lies at or beyond it is supposedly inaccessible to human understanding. This tendency, which is consonant with some recent developments flying under the broad banner of the New Materialism, deserves a new name: the agnotological turn. This chapter focuses on two recent works of American poetry that push in important ways against that turn: Rebecca Gayle Howell’s Render / An Apocalypse (2013) and Jane Gregory’s Yeah No (2018)

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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