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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century

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Daniel Finch-Race and Stephanie Posthumus

This book expounds fruitful ways of analysing matters of ecology, environments, nature, and the non-human world in a broad spectrum of material in French. Scholars from Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States examine the work of writers and thinkers including Michel de Montaigne, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gilbert Simondon, Michel Serres, Michel Houellebecq, and Éric Chevillard. The diverse approaches in the volume signal a common desire to bring together form and content, politics and aesthetics, theory and practice, under the aegis of the environmental humanities.

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Writing (on) Environmental Catastrophes: The End of the World in Éric Chevillard’s Sans l’orang-outan and Michel Houellebecq’s La Possibilité d’une île (Anaïs Boulard)

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Anaïs Boulard

Writing (on) Environmental Catastrophes: The End of the World in Éric Chevillard’s Sans l’orang-outan and Michel Houellebecq’s La Possibilité d’une île

Abstract: As a result of industrialisation and modern ways of living, today’s world has seen many changes. According to geologists, such changes are so significant that our current geological epoch, the Holocene, has given way to another one, the Anthropocene. This scientific hypothesis gives rise to the sense that the world has entered the last stage of a global disease, with human activity threatening the very survival of the planet. As the world faces overwhelming environmental issues, western literature addresses the possibility of the end of the world through the description of catastrophes. The idea that our planet has reached its limits is a trait of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres that have become mainstream in North American literature. Arising from an eschatological anxiety related to an era of ecological phenomena, this literature, which is read by the general public as much as academics, invokes images of natural and urban destruction, human misery and loneliness. This chapter focusses on the writing of environmental catastrophes and the end of the world in two French novels: Michel Houellebecq’s La Possibilité d’une île [The Possibility of an Island] (2005) and Éric Chevillard’s Sans l’orang-outan [Without the Orangutan] (2007). These contemporary texts imagine the world before and after one or several catastrophes, making the narrative oscillate between pre-apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic times. The description...

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