Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Sally Bachner, Krishna Winston

Major

English

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

I have chosen to study three contemporary novels that may be characterized as “Climate Fiction,” an emerging literary category that explores the causes and consequences of catastrophic climate change. I undertake close readings of Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2003), The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (2006), and Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler (1993) in order to achieve a better understanding of climate-change fiction and post-apocalyptic dystopia. Through my analysis I demonstrate that Oryx and Crake, The Road, and Parable of the Sower belong to a growing category of environmental literature, characterized by extrapolation from current trends, that denounces our treatment of the natural world and shows us what we stand to lose if we do not change our present behavior. These novels take up traditional tropes of apocalypse and nature-writing and re-present them in light of contemporary concerns about climate change. For these authors, I contend, climate change represents not merely an environmental shift, but a radical reorganization of society that requires us to reassess our concepts of “progress” and “civilization” if we intend to survive. In sum, I read Oryx and Crake, The Road, and Parable of the Sower as exemplars of a larger cultural effort to comprehend and forestall ecological apocalypse, understood not only as an alteration of the physical world, but as the failure of modern civilization and its associated principles. In conclusion, I propose that Climate Fiction, building on traditional elements of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, attempts to undermine dominant paradigms and change our relationship to the natural world by reexamining our present practices and hinting at alternative ways of living and being.

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