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Framing by Unveiling: Apocalyptic Extrapolation and Hybridity in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0126-5655
2014 (English)In: Framing Nature: Signs, Stories, and Ecologies of Meaning, 2014Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

As we face the prospect of imminent ecological disaster, the apocalyptic mode appears to be one of the dominant ways of framing nature and ecological discourse. Lawrence Buell famously called apocalypse in The Environmental Imagination “the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal” (287). Due to the grand scale often employed in apocalyptic narrative, Ursula K. Heise describes it in Sense of Place and Sense of Planet as “a particular form of imagining the global” (141). Additionally, in Why We Disagree about Climate Change Mike Hulme identifies “presaging apocalypse” as one of the four predominant narrative modes employed to frame climate change. In this paper I do not just use apocalypse in its modern sense as a synonym for catastrophe, but also return to the original meaning of the word to discuss the manner in which unveiling works as a framing device in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. Further, I argue that Atwood’s apocalyptic imagination is informed by the idea that meaning is created through hybridity and that her apocalyptic extrapolation provides an alternative, albeit ambiguous, to the nostalgia often associated with an environmental impetus.

Atwood’s speculative trilogy – Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013) – has a post-apocalyptic setting, but also includes frequent flashbacks to a pre-apocalyptic world that is recognisably an extrapolated version of our own. In this near-future world current technologies as well as environmental concerns have had time to develop to their full dystopian (and utopian) potential. A speculative text is always to some extent at least doubly framed, since the intratextual world is by and large shown to be other by means of comparison to the historical situation at the text’s conception. Within an outer frame of comparison created through apocalyptic extrapolation, Atwood reveals a possible future principally based on the prevailing apocalyptic framing of nature. In the MaddAddam trilogy our contemporary fear of the hybrid is also exploited: by framing nature as hybrid (variable, changeable, dynamic) the boundaries between human–nonhuman and natural–artificial become blurred. In the trilogy hybridity and apocalypticism are intimately connected, and post-apocalyptic survival depends to a large degree on the acceptance of a hybrid framing of human and nonhuman nature.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keywords [en]
Apocalypse; Environmentalism; Hybridity; Margaret Atwood
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
English
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-32027OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-32027DiVA, id: diva2:715323
Conference
Framing Nature: Signs, Stories, and Ecologies of Meaning - European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture, and the Environment Biennial Conference & Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies IX Conference. Tartu, 29 Apr.-3 May 2014
Available from: 2014-05-03 Created: 2014-05-03 Last updated: 2017-11-15Bibliographically approved

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