Melting, Blurring, Moaning. Annihilation as Narrative Adaptation to Planetary Crisis?

Jørgen Bruhn, Heidi Hart

Abstract


In Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Annihilation and its eponymous 2018 film adaptation directed by Alex Garland, traditional narrative hierarchies and binaries disintegrate, both in thematic material and at the syntactic and (in the film score) musical levels. Words are written with fungus, a bear screams with a human voice, a woman sprouts stems where her veins should be, and a monstrous, flower-like mouth roars humanoid doubles into being. This article applies three lenses to explore this example of narrative genre as a cultural adaptation to the Anthropocene crisis: first, a multispecies perspective of the ‘weird’ storytelling that de-centers the human perspective in order to foreground sensory subjectivities; second, an adaptation studies approach that includes this tradition’s implicit biological connotations; and finally, a musicological analysis of the film score’s unsettling materiality.

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