New Doctoral Thesis: Ryan Palmer, Enchanting Irruptions: Wonder, Noir, and the Environmental Imaginary
This thesis investigates narratives of re-enchantment and disenchantment in three contemporary U.S. novels, Lydia Millet’s Mermaids in Paradise, Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, and Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.
Drawing on key concepts from ecocritcism and affect theory, I argue that these novels interrogate narratives and affects associated with questions central to the Anthropocene: climate-related dilemmas, questions of environmental justice, and animal ethics. Situating these texts in relation to environmental discourses, I show how affects of wonder and re-enchantment are produced within them through the insertion of anti-mimetic narrative objects into otherwise representationally realistic fictional worlds. These incursions, and the affective shifts they produce, challenge and interrupt in the novels narratives of ecological dread and disenchantment, which I link to the techniques and affects of noir. In each chapter of this study, I show how the dialogical interplay between disenchantment and re-enchantment disrupts preconceptions and assumptions about aspects of ecological crisis, and engenders or reinforces political commitments to environmentally related issues. Chapter One focuses on interspecies politics and animal rights in Mermaids in Paradise, environmental justice is central to the analysis of Tropic of Orange in Chapter Two, and the political dynamics of countercultural environmentalism inform my reading of Inherent Vice in Chapter Three. Throughout, I explore the potential of re-enchantment to suggest an alternative to disenchanted and apocalyptic narratives concerning the environment, and to articulate a productive politics for contemporary ecofiction.
The thesis will be publicly defended on 27 January, 2018 at 10:00 in Geijersalen.