Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Climate and Crises

Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse, 1st Edition

By Ben Holgate


234 pages

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pub: 2019-02-12
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Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse makes a dual intervention in both world literature and ecocriticism by examining magical realism as an international style of writing that has long-standing links with environmental literature. The book argues that, in the era of climate change when humans are facing the prospect of species extinction, new ideas and new forms of expression are required to address what the novelist Amitav Gosh calls a "crisis of imagination." Magical realism enables writers to portray alternative intellectual paradigms, ontologies and epistemologies that typically contest the scientific rationalism derived from the European Enlightenment, and the exploitation of natural resources associated with both capitalism and imperialism. Climate and Crises explores the overlaps between magical realism and environmental literature, including their respective transgressive natures that dismantle binaries (such as human and non-human), a shared biocentric perspective that focuses on the inter-connectedness of all things in the universe, and, frequently, a critique of postcolonial legacies in formerly colonised territories. The book also challenges conventional conceptions of magical realism, arguing they are often influenced by a geographic bias in the construction of the orthodox global canon, and instead examines contemporary fiction from Asia (including China) and Australasia, two regions that have been largely neglected by scholarship of the narrative mode. As a result, the monograph modifies and expands our ideas of what magical realist fiction is.


“The most exciting recent scholarship on magical realism expands beyond the previously exclusive focus on postcolonial political concerns into areas such as trauma theory, post-Memorial Holocaust literature, historicism, religion, YA and children’s literature, and, now, ecocriticism. Holgate is one of the first scholars to seriously explore the intersection of ecocriticism and magical realism. Additionally, Holgate undertakes the much-needed focus on magical realism’s development in Australasia and Asia. Because of the direction magical realist scholarship is heading and because of the gaps this book fills, Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse is timely and will certainly impact future scholarship.”

- Associate Professor Kim Anderson Sasser (Wheaton College), Author of Magical Realism and Cosmopolitanism: Strategizing Belonging

“Holgate’s study is both timely and innovative. It examines the often-overlooked traces of environmentalism in magical realism, drawing upon significant contemporary postcolonial and indigenous works from Asia and Australasia. Holgate has a knack to produce work that is carefully researched and written in a considered and accessible style.”

- Dr Maggie Bowers (University of Portsmouth), Author of Magic(al) Realism

"Holgate's study of the relations between magical realism and ecological issues has valuable things to teach us about both discourses. In a series of detailed, persuasive readings, Holgate shows just how central a theme the environment has been in magical realism, and just how much magical realism has to tell us about the environment and our relations with it. This book will set the standard for current research into magical realism."

- Dr Christopher Warnes (St John's College, University of Cambridge), author of Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence

Table of Contents

Introduction: A crisis of imagination

Chapter One:

‘Expanded reality’: Alexis Wright’s revitalisation of Dreamtime narratives

Chapter Two:

Sublime wilderness: Embracing the non-human in Richard Flanagan’s Tasmania

Chapter Three:

‘The oneness is still with us’: Oceanic mythology in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider

Chapter Four:

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination:’ Reconciliation in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People

Chapter Five:

Mosquitoes and malaria: Counter-science and colonial archives in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome

Chapter Six:

Purity and parody: Mo Yan’s resistance to Western magical realism in pursuit of his own Chinese style

Chapter Seven:

Planetary perspective: Addressing climate change in Wu Ming-yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes


About the Author

Ben Holgate is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. Previously, he was Associate Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Oxford.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in World Literatures and the Environment

Routledge Studies in World Literatures and the Environment

Since the dawn of human artistic and cultural expression, the natural world and our complex and often vexed relationships with the other-than-human have been essential themes in such expression. This series seeks to offer an encompassing approach to literary explorations of environmental experiences and ideas, reaching from the earliest known literatures to the twenty-first century and accounting for vernacular approaches throughout the world. In recent decades, it has become clear that highly localized, non-Western forms of literary expression and scholarly analysis have much to contribute to ecocritical understanding—such studies, as well as examinations of European and North American literatures, are encouraged. Comparative treatments of literary works from different cultures, cultural expression in various media (including literature and connections with visual and performing arts, ecocinema, music, videogames, and material culture), and interdisciplinary scholarly methodologies would be ideal contributions to the series. What are the lessons regarding human-animal kinship that can be gleaned from indigenous songs in Africa, Amazonia, Oceania, the Americas, and other regions of the world? Which discourses of toxicity in the urban centers of contemporary East Asia and the post-industrial brownscapes of Europe and America might gain traction as we seek to balance human and ecological health and robust economies? What are some of the Third World expressions of postcolonial ecocriticism, posthumanism, material ecocriticism, gender-based ecocriticism, ecopoetics, and other avant-garde trends? How do basic concepts such as "wilderness" or "animal rights" or "pollution" find expression in diverse environmental voices and become imbricated with questions of caste, class, gender, politics, and ethnicity? The global circulation of culturally diverse texts provides resources for understanding and engaging with the environmental crisis. This series aims to provide a home for projects demonstrating both traditional and experimental approaches in environmental literary studies.

Series Editors:

Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Swarnalatha Rangarajan, Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Previous Editors:

Matthew Wynn Sivils, Iowa State University, USA

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