About This Issue


  • Editors / Herausgeber*innen


Ever since we launched DIEGESIS in 2012, the cross-disciplinary field broadly described as narrative theory has continued to expand. Among the most productive new concepts currently under debate is the Anthropocene. Judging by the responses to our call for papers, the nexus of storytelling and the climate crisis is indeed a major concern, and we’re happy to present seven papers which demonstrate the variety of topics and approaches stimulated by this global issue.

Jørgen Bruhn and Heidi Hart (“Melting, Blurring, Moaning. Annihilation as Narrative Adaptation to Planetary Crisis?”) introduce readers to Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Annihilation (2014) and its film adaptation by Alex Garland (2018). These fictional responses to the ecological crises of the Anthropocene have been described as prime examples of a ‘weird’ aesthetics. Drawing on theories and concepts from different academic discourses (biology, ecology, narratology, and musicology), they demonstrate how VanderMeer and Garland subvert anthropocentric binaries, challenging traditional notions of what constitutes a species.

Marco Caracciolo (“Negotiating Stories in the Anthropocene”) discusses Amitav Ghosh’s claim that the novel as a genre is unable to engage effectively with climate change. Building on the work of Luc Herman and Bart Vervaeck, as well as Hubert Zapf’s ecocritical approach, Caracciolo widens the perspective, encouraging us to consider the Anthropocene as a formal challenge not just to fiction, but also to narrative non-fiction like Nathaniel Rich’s Losing Earth. Adam Grener (“War and Peace in the Anthropocene”) is rather critical of Ghosh’s dismissal of realism, emphasizing with reference to Georg Lukács the historical – and historicizing – tradition of realist fiction. His reading of Richard Powers’s The Overstory (2018), which he places in the tradition of the work by Scotts, Tolstoi, and Eliot, shows how the novel helps to reimagine spatiotemporal dimensions of climate change.

In her response to Caracciolo’s essay, Erin James (“The Value of ‘Old’ Stories”) supports the current interest in, and search for, new narrative forms, but also puts emphasis on the cognitive value of ‘old’ narratives as a tool for thinking and worldmaking. She points out how ‘old’ narratives – from the realist novel to superhero films – have helped us to imagine endlessly renewable worlds; seen in this way, narrative theory and analysis become instruments of environmental critique. Stephanie Langer (“Das Epos vom Anthropozän”) likewise pays attention to an ‘old’ genre, namely the epic. Reading Raoul Schrott’s Erste Erde. Epos (2016) as an innovative contribution to a poetics of the Anthropocene, she points out how generic heterogeneity, the lack of a centralizing plot, a wide range of characters and voices, and stylistic experiments serve to imply parallels between the emergence of life forms and literary forms, and thereby pose a challenge for narrative theory.

Brian J. McAllister (“The Rhetoric of Emergence in Narrative”) engages with critics who consider emergence unnarratable and claim that narrating emergence necessarily leads to distortions and “scale framing.” He argues that we should not dismiss narrative too easily, exiling the ecological concerns of the Anthropocene to a “narratological no-man’s land.” Rhetorical narratology, he holds, offers the vocabulary and framework needed to come to terms with complexity.

In the final contribution to this issue, Judith Meurer-Bongardt (“Die Kunst auf einem beschädigten Planeten zu leben”) explores links between the essentially anthropocentric nature of literature and discourses of the Anthropocene. Her exemplary readings of three novels by Swedish and Finnish authors show that the project of narrating the unthinkable lies at the heart of dystopian fiction, which has always sought to challenge anthropocentrism.

In addition to these contributions, we offer the final installment of our “My Narratology” series, an interview with Frederick Luis Aldama; and, to complete the issue, reviews of three recent publications – Narratology and Ideology. Negotiating Context, Form, and Theory in Postcolonial Narratives, edited by Divya Dwivedi, Henrik Skov Nielsen and Richard Walsh (2018), Elizabeth Alsop’s Making Conversation in Modernist Fiction (2019), and Narrative Complexity. Cognition, Embodiment, Evolution, edited by Marina Grishakova and Maria Poulaki (2019).

Finally, please allow us a few words about the future of DIEGESIS. Eight years have passed since the first issue – time for an urgently needed overhaul. While the website will remain active at all times, our technical team will introduce new content management and publishing tools over the coming months, in order to improve both stability and workflow behind the scenes. For this reason, there will be no summer issue – DIEGESIS 10.1, our anniversary issue, will be published in December 2021. Our archive will, of course, remain open to readers – happy browsing!