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Environmental Catastrophe as Morphogenesis: Inhuman Transformations in Ballard’s Climate Novels

Department of Literature, Art and Media Studies, University of Konstanz, 78457 Konstanz, Germany
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010052
Received: 20 January 2019 / Revised: 16 February 2019 / Accepted: 4 March 2019 / Published: 9 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue J. G. Ballard and the Sciences)
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Abstract

This paper offers a discussion of J. G. Ballard’s first four novels, The Wind From Nowhere (1962), The Drowned World (1962), The Drought (1965), and The Crystal World (1966) that centers on their portrayal of environmental transformation. Drawing on revised conceptualizations of the second law of thermodynamics and recent materialist scholarship, I illustrate how Ballard invokes material transformations that are ambivalently coded as terminal stasis and morphogenesis. In anticipations of the paradigm of the Anthropocene and ecocritical approaches to global climate change, Ballard’s novels re-embed the human in an ecology of inhuman forces and modes of self-organization that radically challenge entrenched ontological divisions and systemic boundaries. Particular attention is paid to the ways in which emergent structures, such as hurricanes and crystals identify his landscapes as dissipative systems far from equilibrium and rife with potential for the spontaneous generation of form. This resonance with scientific frameworks reveals itself in poetic registers that parallelize metaphors of life and death, and hinge on an estrangement of not only landscape, but also temporality, thus literalizing what it might mean to understand the human as a geological subject in the age of the Anthropocene. View Full-Text
Keywords: Ballard; Anthropocene; entropy; complexity theory; ecocriticism; inhuman life; thermodynamics; dissipative structures; crystals; meteorology; climate change; new materialism; prehumanism; science fiction Ballard; Anthropocene; entropy; complexity theory; ecocriticism; inhuman life; thermodynamics; dissipative structures; crystals; meteorology; climate change; new materialism; prehumanism; science fiction
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Ingwersen, M. Environmental Catastrophe as Morphogenesis: Inhuman Transformations in Ballard’s Climate Novels. Humanities 2019, 8, 52.

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