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From Ducks, Newburyport to zombie movies and the Fast and Furious franchise, how climate anxiety permeates our culture
The art and literature of our time is pregnant with catastrophe, with weather and water, wildness and weirdness. The Anthropocene - the term given to this geological epoch in which humans, anthropos, are wreaking havoc on the earth - is to be found bubbling away everywhere in contemporary cultural production. Typically, discussions of how culture registers, figures and mediates climate change focus on 'climate fiction' or 'cli-fi', but The Anthropocene Unconscious is more interested in how the Anthropocene and especially anthropogenic climate destabilisation manifests in texts that are not overtly about climate change - that is, unconsciously. The Anthropocene, Mark Bould argues, constitutes the unconscious of 'the art and literature of our time'.
Tracing the outlines of the Anthropocene unconscious in a range of film, television and literature - across a range of genres and with utter disregard for high-low culture distinctions - this playful and riveting book draws out some of the things that are repressed and obscured by the term 'the Anthropocene', including capital, class, imperialism, inequality, alienation, violence, commodification, patriarchy and racial formations. The Anthropocene Unconscious is about a kind of rewriting. It asks: what happens when we stop assuming that the text is not about the anthropogenic biosphere crises engulfing us? What if all the stories we tell are stories about the Anthropocene? About climate change?
About the Author
Mark Bould is a Reader in Film and Literature at UWE Bristol. He is the author of four books of film theory and has won both the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Lifetime Achievement Award for Critical Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy (2016) and the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts Distinguished Scholarship Award (2019). He has written for Big Echo, the Boston Review, Electric Sheep, Fabrikzeitung, Film International, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Mithila Review, Salvage and Vector. He is a former Editor of Science Fiction Film and Television, a journal he founded, and of Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory. He co-founded and co-edits the Studies in Global Science Fiction monograph series for Palgrave Macmillan.
“A scintillating work of boisterous melancholy.” —China Miéville, author of October
“Mark Bould’s provocation kicks off a thrill-ride roller coaster of ideas, speeding us from one savvy insight to another about culture in the era of climate change. An essential read for anyone wanting to better understand what we know and don’t know about what comes next.” —Imre Szeman, author of On Petrocultures
“If The Anthropocene Unconscious weren’t so fun to read, it might be too terrifying to think about. This is a book people will be quoting for the next twenty years.” —Gerry Canavan, co-editor of Green Planets
“Bould’s work is as impactful in the twenty-first century as Jacques Derrida’s landmark thesis of nuclear culture was three decades ago.” —Anindita Banerjee, author of We Modern People
“Brilliant. A sharp, original, irreverent, and deadly serious exploration of climate’s pervasive presence in all modern culture. Bould’s critical elicitation of climate change across a wide range of genres, places and texts offers a novel methodology for reading, categorizing, and interpreting Anthropocene culture and the banal monstrosities of its attendant carbon capitalism. The result is a highly prescient critique of its root causes and a better means to fully realize the past, present and future effects of its unfolding catastrophes.” —Graeme Macdonald, University of Warwick
“A vision from the future, a retrospective analysis of our present situation, a requiem for a world we have already lost. This is a deeply personal missive—and one that carries a powerful message: we conflate the fact and fiction of global destruction at our peril.” —John Gilbey, Times Higher Education
“[Bould] is particularly good on film and its qualities … while [his] critical arguments are carefully made, he is clear that his method includes reading an awareness of the Anthropocene into the cultural gems he examines.” —Jon Turney, The Arts Desk
“Worthy and timely … [The Anthropocene Unconscious] provide[s] us with a cultural critique that has the potential to reshape the way we think about all cultural forms, and the climate—literally—in which they are produced.” —Leila Sackur, It’s Freezing in LA
“Ebullient … meshing high-theory with casual lyricism … Bould’s eco-socialist commitments seem increasingly inescapable.” —Lola Seaton, New Statesman
“A swift, wide sweep … the book’s central argument is vital: our culture is submerged in climate catastrophe.” —Oscar Rickett, i newspaper
“Climate change, to Bould, is always on the peripheries of art, even if we can’t confront it face-on, even if we would like to forget it, even when we think we were safe” —Lauren Sneade, Economy, Land & Climate Insight
“Bould puts forward a compelling argument about what cultural criticism in the Anthropocene should be, and he does so with the hope of curtailing some of the slow violence and injustices of the many widely and unevenly distributed effects of climate change.” —Alison Sperling, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A clear call to action, an attempt to awaken us from our slumber.” —Science Fiction Studies