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Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät

Professur für Amerikanistik (Nordamerikastudien) - Prof. Dr. Jeanne Cortiel

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Subproject 2: "Narrating the Anthropocene: Globalization and Environmental Risk in U.S. American Climate Change Narratives"

Researcher: Lukas Büttcher

This subproject examines the participation of U.S. American climate change narratives, i.e. novels and short stories, in discourses of globalization and environmental risk. Central to this study is a concept of globalization developed by scientists Paul Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer and published in 2000: based on studies of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases that point toward global warming, and, ultimately, anthropogenic climate change, they argue that human intervention in and alteration of the planetary ecosphere has ushered in a new geological age, the Anthropocene. As a result of scientific-technological advances that made the age of industrialization, i.e. the age of an ever-expanding fossil-fuel economy, possible, the Anthropocene symbolizes global environmental connectedness, including the global dimension of environmental risk.

While in geology the concept of the anthropocene is still debated, ecocriticism and other environmentally oriented disciplines have very recently begun to work with it in order to address environmental issues that must be understood as global in scope. Among the issues discussed are (1) the question of an environmental ethics that does not only go beyond traditional interpersonal ethics (which excluded non-human nature from its moral universe), but takes also rigorously into consideration the global interdependencies of all species, and (2) the question of the development of a planetary consciousness that develops into some kind of “eco-cosmopolitan” citizenship (Heise 2008).

This study of North American climate change novels and short stories rests on the premise that fictional texts are particularly well suited to deal with and dramatize the complexity, and diversity, of individual and communal global risk experience in ways that work with and at the same time transcend factual, scientific representation. The study will thus investigate how the major claim of the Anthropocene concept – the geological, and with it the biological and chemical, domination of human power – is explored in the texts. It will look at the narrative techniques used to address the ecological, scientific, socio-economic, political, and cultural implications of living in the Anthropocene, and it will examine its global ethical implications. Of particular interest will be the question how strongly the climate change risk narrative relies on the apocalyptic mode – a mode that has been very important, maybe even dominating, in non-fictional writing about climate change (Skrimshire 2010). In this respect, the project will draw on and contribute to insights from the other subprojects on how apocalypse has shaped risk discourse.

Verantwortlich für die Redaktion: Univ.Prof.Dr. Jeanne Cortiel

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