Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 March 2022
This chapter considers the possibility of a form of literary realism fit for the Anthropocene, which would not only allow readers to participate and intervene in the disclosure of climate catastrophe but would also position them within a climate-conscious collective. It begins with a brief discussion of realism, particularly its reliance, as analysed by Fredric Jameson, on an interplay between readerly engagement with actions and consequences and readerly empathy with experiences and emotions. This realist effect is both rich in ethical potential for addressing climate crisis and deepens this crisis’s anthropogenic arrogance. In considering a new form of realism that would avoid this dilemma, the chapter deploys Gerard Genette’s structuralist theories of transtextuality, arguing for the relevance of these ostensibly external, but deeply integrated, aspects of narrative in extending realism’s ethical effects while building a collective consciousness. Using this as a framework, it then discusses two authors whose work, textually and transtextually speaking, responds in some way to climate crisis: Kim Stanley Robinson and Liu Cixin.