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Chapter 4 - Contemporary

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2022

Will Abberley
Affiliation:
University of Sussex
Christina Alt
Affiliation:
University of St Andrews, Scotland
David Higgins
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
Graham Huggan
Affiliation:
University of Leeds
Pippa Marland
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
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Summary

Chapter 4 examines contemporary nature writing, initially focusing on the ‘new nature writing’ of the past few decades. It argues that this writing, ostensibly an attempt to engage with the ‘post-natural’ conditions of the Anthropocene, is haunted by a feeling of inadequacy in relation to its predecessors and marked by the frustrations of ‘late style’. Indeed, many British writers of the period are best seen as ‘late Moderns’, expressing deep-seated anxieties about themselves, their writing, and their position in a rapidly diminishing natural world. This thesis is examined in relation to writers whose work simultaneously attempts to recall the wild and reflects on the impossibility of that exercise; other writers are then brought in to examine those contemporary post-industrial landscapes that might create the conditions of possibility for a ‘new wild’. The second half of the chapter pursues this line of argument, but in relation to another popular subgenre, animal writing, which is seen as containing regenerative potential but also as communicating unsettling insights into the always unstable relationship between animal others and human selves. The chapter then concludes with some reflections on a different kind of violence, the violence of the elements, which in today’s era of accelerated climate change is both significantly influenced by human beings and beyond the bounds of human control.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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