1st Edition

Cosmological Readings of Contemporary Australian Literature Unsettling the Anthropocene

By Kathrin Bartha-Mitchell Copyright 2024
    212 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book presents an innovative and imaginative reading of contemporary Australian literature in the context of unprecedented ecological crisis.

    The Australian continent has seen significant, rapid changes to its cultures and land-use from the impact of British colonial rule, yet there is a rich history of Indigenous land-ethics and cosmological thought. By using the age-old idea of ‘cosmos’—the order of the world—to foreground ideas of a good order and chaos, reciprocity and more-than-human agency, this book interrogates the Anthropocene in Australia, focusing on notions of colonisation, farming, mining, bioethics, technology, environmental justice and sovereignty. It offers ‘cosmological readings’ of a diverse range of authors—Indigenous and non-Indigenous—as a challenge to the Anthropocene’s decline-narrative. As a result, it reactivates ‘cosmos’ as an ethical vision and a transculturally important counter-concept to the Anthropocene. Kathrin Bartha-Mitchell argues that the arts can help us envision radical cosmologies of being in and with the planet, and to address the very real social and environmental problems of our era.

    This book will be of particular interest to scholars and students of Ecocriticism, Environmental Humanities, and postcolonial, transcultural and Indigenous studies, with a primary focus on Australian, New Zealand, Oceanic and Pacific area studies.

    Introduction: Literary Cosmology in the Anthropocene 

    Part I: CONTEXT / THEORY: From Chaos to Cosmos to Anthropocene? 

    Chapter 1: Cosmos within and beyond the Environmental Humanities

    Chapter 2: Cosmos Today: Modern, Transcultural, (Dis)enchanted 

    Part II: COLONISATION / EXPLOITATION: Reimagining Agriculture and Extraction 

    Chapter 3: Remembering the Language of Colonial Agriculture: Carrie Tiffany’s Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living 

    Chapter 4: Resisting Mining and Regenerating Country through the Wiradjuri Language: Tara June Winch’s The Yield 

    Part III: BIOETHICS / TECHNOLOGY: Revising Human Mastery Narratives 

    Chapter 5: Testing the Limits of Apocalyptic Climate Fiction: Briohny Doyle’s The Island Will Sink 

    Chapter 6: Reconsidering Evolution and Queering Environmentalism: Ellen van Neerven’s “Water” 

    Part IV: ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE / CUSTODIANSHIP: Towards a Sovereign Cosmopolitics 

    Chapter 7: Remembering the Opposite of Oppression: Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains 

    Chapter 8: Aquatious Mobilisation of Indigenous Sovereignty: Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip 



    Kathrin Bartha-Mitchell is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of New English Literatures and Cultures, Goethe University Frankfurt. Her areas of focus are transcultural Anglophone Literature, Ecocriticism and Intergenerational Justice. She earned her PhD within the joint programme between Goethe and Monash University in Melbourne.

    "Kathrin Bartha-Mitchell’s Cosmological Readings of Contemporary Australian Literature is an important new work of Australian ecocriticism. Drawing on recent work on literature and the Anthropocene, Bartha-Mitchell’s book offers a model for reading Australian literature cosmologically. Bartha-Mitchell’s readings emphasise interconnections between beings, agencies and systems that work against the traditional humanistic focus of western prose fiction and offer a critical new dimension to Australian literary studies."

    Tony Hughes-d’Aeth, Chair of Australian Literature, The University of Western Australia

    "An innovative intervention in the environmental humanities, this thought-provoking study of contemporary Australian literature makes a powerful case for the generative concept of cosmos and, more broadly, for the importance of literary studies within the wider field." 

    Diletta De Cristofaro, Assistant Professor, Northumbria University, UK