Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Adrian J. Ivakhiv
Within Cartesian dualism’s traditional nature/culture divide, nature today proves uncanny: both in the uncanny return of human impact through anthropogenic climate change and in the uncanny recognition that that which was other was never really other at all. Contemporary ecocriticism, in theorizing the breakdown of this nature/culture divide, is thereby “post-naturalist.” Ecocritic Timothy Morton speaks toward this denaturalization in his work Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. Drawing upon object-oriented ontology, Morton proposes hyperobjects, or objects massively distributed in time and space, as a means of reconceptualizing climate change as distinct from its manifestations in ecological crises. The imaginative challenge, Morton explains, is then in thinking connectivity, or, more specifically, in thinking ecology beyond nature and climate beyond weather. Similarly, environmentalist Amitav Ghosh argues in The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable that societal faith in the “regularity of bourgeois life” informs our uniformitarian expectations within the Anthropocene, or the geological era defined by the predominance of human impact upon our natural systems. The modern novel, Ghosh argues, relies on a scaffolding of probability and thereby conceals the improbable reality of anthropogenic climate change today.
Following Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985) as an exemplary case of ecological crisis and its concealment within the modern novel, my thesis project explores the relationship between the post-naturalist environmental imagination and the anthropocentric, or “human-centered,” belief in the ordinary’s bourgeois regularity. Tracing the anthropocentric subject’s interface with anthropogenic climate change as hyperobject within the novel, I then propose Bakhtinian ecology as a means of understanding ecological crisis within the ordinary as already ordinary. As a subversive thinker of both societal disruption and structural denaturalization, Mikhail Bakhtin’s importance to ecocriticism within the Anthropocene is self-evident. Further contextualized within White Noise, the Bakhtinian potentiality is multifold: in ecological dialogics’ epistemological renegotiation; in the carnivalesque denaturalization of societal structure in crisis; and, in grotesque realism’s uncanny connectivity. Respectively, these three Bakhtinian threads map onto the three sections of DeLillo’s novel: “Section I: Waves and Radiation”; “Section II: The Airborne Toxic Event”; and, “Section III: Dylarama.” Through this reading, I track how privileged protagonist Jack Gladney is forced to confront the uncanny connectivity of post-naturalist ecology; and, in his later attempt to distance himself from the crisis through racial othering, I argue that the ordinary’s reliance upon othering crises enables a concealment of environmental racism already present within the global ecological crisis.
Number of Pages
Gray, Kelly, ""Saved? What is saved?": The Potentiality of Bakhtinian Ecology in DeLillo's White Noise" (2020). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1226.