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Exhaustion and Regeneration in Post-Millennial North-American Literature and Culture

by Julia Nikiel (Volume editor) Izabella Kimak (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 196 Pages
Series: New Americanists in Poland, Volume 12

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • The Facelessness of Melancholia: Rick Moody’s Black Veil
  • Imperatives of the World: Illness and Exhaustion in Paul Auster’s Oracle Night
  • Adrian Tomine’s Poetics of Understatement: Drawing Death and Doubt in Killing and Dying
  • (Re)Defining and (Re)Inventing the Literary at the Turn of the Century: Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves
  • Narrative Exhaustion and the Posthuman Narrative Self in Tao Lin’s Taipei
  • Pre-Apocalyptic Horror of Climate Change: Colonization and Oil Drilling in The Last Winter
  • Permaculture and Utopian Regeneration in Starhawk’s City of Refuge
  • To Seek Out the Upright: The Quest for Regeneration in the Latest Works of Cormac McCarthy
  • “We Are the Walking Dead,” but “We Ain’t Them”: Cognitive Exhaustion and the Figure of the Zombie in AMC’s The Walking Dead
  • How the World of TV Series Spins: Exhaustion and Regeneration in Twin Peaks: The Return
  • Animality, Animation, Animism, Anomaly | Exhaustion as Unlife in Lynch and Tagaq
  • Something Tells Me This Protest Is Far From Over: The Power of Indigenous Visual Art in the #NoDAPL Protests
  • “Viva la Santa de Cabora”: Dirt, Healing, and the New World Order in Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter
  • American Anti-Intellectualism and Artistic Creativity: Some Observations on the “Dumbing” of America at the Onset of the New Millennium
  • Turmoil and Change: A View at the Legacy of the 2007–2008 Financial Crisis and Great Recession
  • List of Figures
  • Notes on the Contributors
  • Notes on the Editors

Introduction

We live in a millennium mesmerized by theorizing ends. And beginnings – it is, after all, a new millennium. This millennium is one of burnout, one of (over)consumption, overload and the erosion of ties, identities, beliefs; of depletion, environmental catastrophe, and apocalypse; of timelessness, scarcity, deprivation; of disease and (mental) disorder; of the Exhausted Majority; of famine, exodus, war without end, the twilight of ideologies; of the exhaustion of/with capital, politics, love; of detachment, loneliness, hikikomori, and the curse of longevity; of the digital vortex and technological unemployment; of the scattering of narratives; of stupidity. Yet, this millennium is also one of kick-starters. It is the millennium of sustainability, humanitarianism, zero waste, and the slow movement; of knowledge; of spiritual regeneration and interfaith dialogue; of millennials and digital natives; of the post- and transhuman; of awareness, compassion, and social engagement; of (re)connection, community, and the local; of reworkings, adaptations, new modes of (artistic) expression; of breakthroughs and global collective intelligence.

The unprecedented scale of exhaustion and the surprising potential for regeneration this millennium has already exhibited alarm and overwhelm. Still, tempting though it may be to indulge in panic (with coeval self-pity, blame-shifting, or a sense of utter disorientation), a level approach seems called for. While there is no need to glorify what is and right off paint the town millennial pink or Gen Z yellow, “[t];he first step,” to use Yuvahl Noah Harari’s words, “is to tone down the prophecies of doom, and switch from panic mode to bewilderment. Panic,” Harari argues, “is a form of hubris. It comes from the smug feeling that I know exactly where the world is heading – down. Bewilderment is more humble, and therefore more clear-sighted” (17).

If there is something that both unites the chapters gathered in this volume and acts as a key with which to read them, it is indeed unassuming, clear-sighted bewilderment. Neither of the authors assumes they know or have all the answers. Each of them instead meticulously examines both the hubris and what springs from it, and wonders at the ongoing (post-)millennial spectacle of exhaustion and replenishment.

The first five chapters examine literary representations of recuperation and change. In the opening contribution of the collection, “The Facelessness of Melancholia: Rick Moody’s Black Veil,” Marc Amfreville discusses mourning and melancholia present in Rick Moody’s texts vis-à-vis psychoanalytical theory, ←7 | 8→concluding that exhaustion may be overcome through the practice of writing as regeneration. Subsequently, in his “Imperatives of the World: Illness and Exhaustion in Paul Auster’s Oracle Night,” Richard Merklew offers a nuanced reading of Paul Auster’s Oracle Night in the context of phenomenology of sickness and exhaustion. Małgorzata Olsza, in turn, takes up the medium of comics as the subject matter of her article titled “Adrian Tomine’s Poetics of Understatement: Drawing Death and Doubt in Killing and Dying,” showing how the narrative strand and the panel layout collaborate to express exhaustion and regeneration in Adrian Tomine’s comic. In “(Re)Defining and (Re)Inventing the Literary at the Turn of the Century: Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves,” Blanka Kotlińska describes House of Leaves as a true novel of the turn of the century inasmuch as it does not only meddle with and enhance the readers’ experience of the literary but is also aimed at reformulating and reinvigorating the tenets of a traditional novel. Finally, in “Narrative Exhaustion and the Posthuman Narrative Self in Tao Lin’s Taipei,” Miriam Fernández-Santiago investigates the (trans)humanist subjectivity and the narrative techniques of Lin’s novel, showing the multiple ways in which the narrative testifies to the exhaustion of the humanist ideal.

The following three chapters focus on the unfolding of the (pre-/post-)apocalyptic literary and cinematographic scenarios. In “Pre-Apocalyptic Horror of Climate Change: Colonization and Oil Drilling in The Last Winter,” Tatiana Prorokova argues that, with its focus on the pre-apocalypse of climate change, Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter acts as an environmental cautionary tale warning the viewers against the consequences of both growing human/nature misbalance and people’s refusal to acknowledge either their role in triggering the environmental crisis or the dangers it will bring. In “Permaculture and Utopian Regeneration in Starhawk’s City of Refuge,” Anna Gilarek examines the potential of permaculture design and philosophy to both trigger and facilitate spiritual, communal, and ecological healing and reconstruction amidst a dystopian wasteland. Finally, in “To Seek Out the Upright: The Quest for Regeneration in the Latest Works of Cormac McCarthy,” Szymon Wnuk engages in an in-depth analysis of the journey from exhaustion to regeneration depicted in three of Cormac McCarthy’s recent novels, No Country for Old Men, Sunset Limited and The Road, singling out the literal or metaphorical desert as the locus within which the struggles of McCarthy’s characters for regeneration unfold.

The subsequent section of the book consists of three chapters concerned with the portrayal and problematization of post-millennial exhaustion and regeneration in contemporary TV series. First, in “‘We Are the Walking Dead,” But ‘We Ain’t Them’: Cognitive Exhaustion and the Figure of the Zombie in AMC’s The Walking Dead,” Maxi Albrecht analyzes The Walking Dead in relation to the ←8 | 9→neoliberal project and, providing a close reading of the series’ episode “Them,” interprets the figure of the zombie as both a symptom of exhaustion and a catalyst of replenishment. Then, in “How the World of TV Series Spins: Exhaustion and Regeneration in Twin Peaks: The Return,” Tomasz Sawczuk analyzes the third season of Twin Peaks in the context of contemporary televisual exhaustion and, highlighting the analogies between the series and the art movement of Suprematism, points to the various ways in which the series reinvigorates the TV series format, both in terms of aesthetics and viewers’ experience. Twin Peaks surfaces also in Radek Przedpełski’s “Animality, Animation, Animism, Anomaly | Exhaustion as Unlife in Lynch and Tagaq.” Drawing on Deleuze’s conception of “the exhausted,” Przedpełski ponders the significance of Indigenous cosmopolitics and analyzes the series as well as Tanya Tagaq’s throat singing in terms of eco-imbued aesthetics of exhaustion.

The last four chapters in the collection look towards art and social dynamics, pondering the role of the former in sustaining, reinvigorating, and reading the latter. In her chapter titled “Something Tells Me This Protest Is Far From Over: The Power of Indigenous Visual Art in the #NoDAPL Protests,” Léna Remy-Kovach discusses the role played by visual art in the protests of indigenous groups in Canada and the US against the environmental damage wreaked within tribal grounds by the policies of the federal governments. Ewelina Bańka’s “‘Viva la Santa de Cabora’: Dirt, Healing, and the New World Order in Luis Alberto Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter” constitutes an insightful reading of Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel, which focuses on the healing practice of the Mexican healer Terresa Urea in the times of the Porifirato regime and points to the relevance of Urrea’s novel for the current fraught situation at the Mexican-American border. In her chapter “American Anti-intellectualism and Artistic Creativity: Some Observations on the “Dumbing” of America at the Onset of the New Millennium,” Edyta Frelik presents anti-intellectualism as a trend noticeable in the United States at any given point in history and reflects on the role that art and artists can possibly play in countering America’s predilection for anti-intellectualism. In the final chapter of the collection, “Turmoil and Change: A View at the Legacy of the 2007–2008 Financial Crisis and Great Recession,” Mirosław Miernik addresses the economic crisis of 2008, concentrating both on the reasons for and repercussions of the crisis for the population at large and on the literary and cinematographic responses to the crisis.

Works Cited

Harari, Yuvahl Noah. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Spiegel & Grau, 2018.

Summary

The essays included in this collection offer an overview of literary works, films, TV series, and visual art which reflect the current (post-)millennial fascination with theorizing ends and beginnings. The contributions intend to x-ray the most crucial aspects of contemporary North-American literature and culture. Addressing a variety of media, the authors of the essays gathered in the book wonder at the ongoing spectacle of exhaustion and regeneration which is playing itself out on the American stage.

Biographical notes

Julia Nikiel (Volume editor) Izabella Kimak (Volume editor)

Julia Nikiel and Izabella Kimak work at the Department of American Literature and Culture at Maria-Curie Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland. They created and coordinate the ExRe(y) project and organize its biannual conferences.

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Title: Exhaustion and Regeneration in Post-Millennial North-American Literature and Culture