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Chapter 9 - Weird Ecologies and the Limits of Environmentalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2023

Dustin Friedman
Affiliation:
American University, Washington DC
Kristin Mahoney
Affiliation:
Michigan State University
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Summary

In the context of art and literature, the term "weird" refers to a sense of anxiety or terror regarding an ecological force seemingly acting on indeterminate motivations with little or no concern for people. A diversity of factors contributed to the 1890s flourish of the weird, including the growing economic investment in environmental policy, the rise of popular occulture, and the strong general interest in the biological, geological, meteorological, and astronomical sciences that were inspiring new notions of, among other subjects, the possibility of nonhuman consciousness. While not part of an overt environmentalist initiative, the weird nevertheless brings forward perspectives on animal, vegetal, and atmospheric ontology in which natural elements are subjects worthy of recognition and respect. The fin-de-siècle weird was driven not by the question of what protections or rights should be extended to nonhuman elements of the ecologies in which we participate, but rather, more disconcertingly for many, by considerations regarding what agency these other forces – many mysterious or yet unrecognized – enact and perhaps even assume for themselves.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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