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      Anthropocene Presences and the Limits of Deferral: Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria and The Swan Book

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          Abstract

          Literary criticism, particularly ecocriticism, occupies an uneasy position with regard to activism: reading books (or plays, or poems) seems like a rather leisurely activity to be undertaking if our environment—our planet—is in crisis. And yet, critiquing the narratives that structure worlds and discourses is key to the activities of the (literary) critic in this time of crisis. If this crisis manifests as a ‘crisis of imagination’ (e.g. Ghosh), I argue that this not so much a crisis of the absence of texts that address the environmental disaster, but rather a failure to comprehend the presences of the Anthropocene in the present. To interpret (literary) texts in this framework must entail acknowledging and scrutinising the extent of the incapacity of the privileged reader to comprehend the crisis as presence and present rather than spatially or temporally remote. The readings of the novels Carpentaria (2006) and The Swan Book (2013) by Waanyi writer Alexis Wright (Australia) trace the uneven presences of Anthropocenes in the present by way of bringing future worlds ( The Swan Book) to the contemporary ( Carpentaria). In both novels, protagonists must forge survival amongst ruins of the present and future: the depicted worlds, in particular the representations of the disenfranchisement of indigenous inhabitants of the far north of the Australian continent, emerge as a critique of the intersections of capitalist and colonial projects that define modernity and its impact on the global climate.

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          Most cited references 18

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              Introduction: The Rising Tide of Climate Change Fiction

               S Craps,  R Crownshaw (2018)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2056-6700
                Open Library of Humanities
                Open Library of Humanities
                2056-6700
                04 February 2019
                2019
                : 5
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Potsdam, DE
                Article
                10.16995/olh.348
                Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Categories
                Representing climate: local to global

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