Date Thesis Awarded

5-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

English

Advisor

Keith Leslie Johnson

Committee Members

Richard Lowry

Varun Begley

Monica Seger

Abstract

My thesis takes J.G. Ballard’s first four novels as a set of case studies on how literature might respond to some of the problems posed by the Anthropocene. These texts have an immediate content-based relevance for ecological problems - and the historical coincidence of the texts within a period of exacerbated ecological tumult only strengthens that connection. I argue that in Ballard’s literature we find a response to catastrophe quite different from both the dominant humanist and anti-humanist tendencies characteristic of the 1960's and 70's. What we find instead as Ballard’s response to catastrophe is a unique brand of inhumanism. I seek to show the ways in which Ballard’s response to catastrophe is driven by an inhumanist desire to seek out and follow trajectories that lead one to a new relationship with the world rather than a reactionary desire to retain the status quo or revert to an earlier stage. In an attempt to synthesize Ballard’s theoretical inhumanism with his aesthetic representations of eco-catastrophe, I turned to what I considered to be “inhuman affects” – the uncanny, the weird, and the eerie. I argue that these inhuman affects might help to bridge the gap between the aesthetic and the theoretical when discussing literature and the Anthropocene.

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