Journal Articles

Spring Summer 2004 - Vol.34/No.3-4
The Non-Alibi of Pragmatic Utopianism and Wild Variability; or, Optimistic Variations on a Science Fiction Theme
Author : Patrick D. Murphy
Keywords : pragmatism, utopianism, science fiction, non-alibi, Mikhail Bakhtin, nanotechnology, variability
Beginning with Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of the "non-alibi" of ethical responsibility, this essay looks at the ways in which some contemporary science fiction portrays a cautiously optimistic view of the technological human future through the philosophical position of pragmatic utopianism based on wild variability. It includes discussion of fiction by Michael Crichton, Neal Stephenson, and Hiyao Miyazaki.
Ecological Discourse and the Fantastic: Mordor, Lóthlorien, and the Shire in The Lord of the Rings
Author : Stella Guo
Keywords : place, locale, globe, disembedding, deterritorialization, fantasy, utopia, dystopia
In response to such pressing ecological problems as disembedding and detertitorialization that often come with globalization, current environmental solutions tend to focus on the urgent and practical need to re-establish a sense of place within human communities. Some debates have followed, examining whether this sense of locale should be defined against or at the expense of a sense of the globe. This eco-theoretical question resonates with themes in fantasy and sci-fi literature, which critics have deemed as particularly suitable for narratives that deal with abstract ideas of cosmic significance. Among the most potent ideas explored by fantasy and sci-fi writings are those about utopia and dystopia. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien offers visions of both: while Mordor intends to bind all into one, Lóthlorien, the elusive elven country that awes and terrifies all, functions as a version of the fantastic story that allows diversity within oneness. Aragorn, the future King of Middle-earth, and Sam, the newly appointed Mayor of Bywater in the Shire, learn tremendously from their journeys into and back from the utopian Lóthlorien and the dystopian Mordor. In expounding the text from an ecological point of view, this paper speculates on the stance Tolkien’s text may take on the specific environmental debate over the intertwined or antagonistic relation between the sense of the local and that of the global. It seems that, on this issue, Tolkien's ideas are often at odds with some environmentalists’ calls that emphasize local resistance over global negotiation.
The Muse of Chaos: The Ethos of Ecology and the Poetics of Relation in Rachel Carson’s Work and Derek Walcott’s Poetry
Author : Ting-yao Luo
Keywords : botanical gaze, geological gaze, chaos, ethos, imperialism, postcolonial studies
This essay examines the role of ecology in literary studies, especially in transcultural settings. It traces the ways in which the imperial ethos of ecology plays itself out in the writing of “nature,” examining the evolution and the limitations of the botanical gaze in the context of American literature, and the subsequent critique of it from the loci of the desert wilderness and the entropic landscape of the poisoned garden. It then focuses on Rachel Carson’s work, and then addresses the radical reinvention of the ecological ethos in the “geological gaze” that characterizes an important aspect of South African literature. I argue that, in this shift, the green imperial gaze which gives way to a deep reading from below the yellow earth also makes possible a more radical concern with the ecological bearing of literary representations. On this basis, I conclude with an analysis of the poetics of relation that informs much of Derek Walcott's early poetry. Walcott’s poetry is most innovative and strong in the ways in which it brings about an openness of relations among the elements of being, transforming deep ecology into an open literary ethos where ‘subjects are free to wander and subjectivities to metamorphose.