SALLOW EARTH THEORY1 KEITH LESLIE JOHNSON The Hollow Earth fictions of the late-18th and early-19th centuries, from Casanova's Icosaméron to Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, were at some level grappling with a world made strange by new sciences like volcanology, paleontology, and geochemistry. The ground beneath our feet was revealed as a weird repository of secrets and unfathomable energies. The fictions of the late-20th and early-21st centuries, from Silko's Almanac of the Dead to Powers' The Echo Maker, similarly register the impact of a new and uncanny understanding, an ecological consciousness revealing the world as a weird system of dependencies between organic and inorganic matter. The Earth in these later fictions is not hollow, but sallow--toxified not only by industrial effluvia, but household aerosols and cosmetics: wholly quotidian microdisasters and chemical exposures. The point of these fictions--what Heather Houser calls "ecosickness narratives" in her timely study--is to rally us to a heightened awareness of our ineluctable relation to the environment and the consequent dangers of its contamination, to reveal the profound permeation of the individual human life within the grand scheme of Nature, to "show that it is impossible to approach somatic and ecological injury as isolated
symploke – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Jan 8, 2016
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