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SCENE STIR: How we begin to see the biosphere in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This essay marks the degrading biosphere in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and argues that its narrative disclosure is meaningfully explored using the idea of a growing ecological awareness. The book depicts agentive nonhumans that are unseen or under-attended by the novel’s humans. I suggest this literary presentation of the biosphere is best understood as after the discovery of global warming when matters of ecological concern “intruded,” to use Timothy Morton’s word, on a human-only society with underequipped modes of historical thought. To construct my reading, I motivate recent work in object-oriented philosophies that would eschew anthropocentric metaphysics. I unpack Cloud Atlas’ ecological vision using Morton’s philosophy in which he explores the conceptual and aesthetic consequences of the hyperobject – a thing that is massively distributed in time and space relative to humans.

My analysis will examine passages and techniques that construct Cloud Atlas’ “scenery,” and I argue that they evoke a degrading biosphere that interacts substantially with the human-only personal dramas. Features of the book’s formal construction allow for the animation of this scenery in the reader’s cross-novel interpretation. I look at how characters narrate this scenery to build my argument that the novel’s ecological vision makes claims on its storytelling characters. But as those characters still miss the long-view historical perspectives afforded the reader, they are shown to want community. I end by ruminating on how Cloud Atlas, which would “stretch” the literary novel, questions what the novel is at this ecological moment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Cloud Atlas; nonhumans; Anthropocene; Timothy Morton; Bruno Latour; object oriented ontology
National Category
General Literature Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-114800OAI: diva2:794221
Available from: 2015-08-26 Created: 2015-03-10 Last updated: 2015-08-26Bibliographically approved

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