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Chapter 9 - Apocalypse/Extinction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2021

Jeffrey Cohen
Affiliation:
Arizona State University
Stephanie Foote
Affiliation:
West Virginia University
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Summary

Over the past two centuries, apocalypse and extinction have become powerful secular tropes, and have been given new urgency in the context of escalating global heating and biodiversity loss. This chapter examines how the environmental humanities can analyse, complicate, democratise, and challenge these tropes. It addresses present-day speculations about the future of the biosphere, both within the field, and in wider culture through the activities of groups such as Extinction Rebellion. It explores the entanglements of these speculations with questions of justice, and offers an analysis of relationships humanity, inequality, and catastrophe in Mary Shelley’s novels Frankenstein (1818) and The Last Man (1826). The chapter ends with some suggestions about the role of the environmental humanities in an ecological emergency. In particular, it addresses how the field might contribute to the communal task of finding urgent solutions for social-environmental problems, while at the same time maintaining focus on issues of justice and rigorous critique of totalising narratives, including the language of solutions and of apocalypse itself.

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Chapter
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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References

Further Reading

Clark, Nigel, Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet (London: Sage, 2010).Google Scholar
Ghosh, Amitav, The Great Derangement (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2016).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Horn, Eva, The Future as Catastrophe: Imagining Disaster in the Modern Age, trans. Valentine Pakis (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kingsnorth, Paul, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist (London: Faber, 2017).Google Scholar
Klein, Naomi, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014).Google Scholar
Kolbert, Elizabeth, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).Google Scholar
Nixon, Rob, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scranton, Roy, We’re Doomed, Now What? (New York: Soho, 2018).Google Scholar
Vollmann, William, No Immediate Danger (Volume One of Carbon Ideologies) (New York: Penguin, 2018).Google Scholar
Yusoff, Kathryn, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 2018).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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