Fantastic metabolisms: a materialist approach to modern eco-speculative fiction

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This chapter combines the epistemological methods Terry Eagleton proposes in Criticism and Ideology with the insights of radical ecologists such as John Bellamy Foster in order to analyse a long-standing trajectory of speculative fiction that, throughout history, has addressed the environmental violence done by particular sets of socio-political conditions. Although such texts date back to The Epic of Gilgamesh, the earliest known written narrative in human civilisation, this essay focuses on the most dramatic phase of the trajectory, when a good number of writers from John Brunner to Michael Moorcock, Kim Stanley Robinson to Brian Aldiss were compelled to engage with the severe ecological ruptures of the industrial and post-industrial periods. In the nineteenth century, the adverse effects of rapid industrialisation upon both the natural world and on human society informed a new social-ecological, material awareness (out of which concepts such as the metabolic rift were born). In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, such awareness became more pronounced and more urgent, as rampant capitalist productivism began to put the planet at risk of total annihilation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA global history of literature and the environment
EditorsLouise Westling, John Parham
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-1-107-10262-0
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2017


  • Marxism
  • Science Fiction
  • environment
  • speculative fiction
  • pastoral
  • industrialisation
  • Modernity


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