Anthropoaesthetics and Anthroponatures: Green Unpleasant Landscapes and Climate Catastrophe in Clare Morrall’s When the Floods Came
Environmental disasters, and societal and financial collapses are part of the unprecedented social and ecological crises of the twenty-first century, and inevitably find expression in contemporary British climate fictions (cli-fi) which crystallise around the ramifications of drastic climatological alterations and their impacts upon human and nonhuman life. Scrutinising When the Floods Came (2015) in the context of the literary challenges posed by the Anthropocene as the new human era, I contend that twenty-first-century British climate change novels deploy flood narratives not just as the very repercussion of climate change, but as cautionary fables of the Anthropocene so as to emphatically highlight both the way that late capitalism and human cultures have manipulated and exploited the “natural” world and the way that humans have based their cultures on an anthropocentric understanding of “nature.” In this sense, it is noteworthy to ask these preliminary questions: How do contemporary British cli-fi narratives, including Morrall’s, reveal about the portrayal of “nature”? Is it verdant, benevolent, and impeccable, or dark, cold, disturbing, and hostile? What if nature is always already multinatural? Underpinning these questions, I approach multinatural landscapes in When the Floods Came through the prism of ecocritical aesthetics, regarding permeable boundaries between the pastoral vision of a green, beautiful, idyllic, and pleasant nature and an ugly, horrifying, hellish, and dark nature. By drawing on contemporary ecotheories about green and dark ecologies, the core of my argument is that Morrall carves out a literary space through which we might point to the coexistence of contrasting elements, such as life and death, light and dark, order and chaos, beauty and ugliness, which ecocritically challenges the anthropocentric understanding of nature, while also presents an understanding of “anthropoaesthetics.” In this case, the unlikely places of the novel emerge as an interzone between dark and green ecologies, underlying the multinatural transformation of environments and ruins. The futuristic world that Morrall envisages shows how the Polanski family, that is, Popi, Moth, Roza, Boris, Delphine and Lucia, eke out a fragile existence in an abandoned tower block periodically surrounded by flood waters in the decaying wasteland that was once Birmingham city. However, outside a danger is waiting, the Hoffman virus that wiped out most of the population and rendered many survivors infertile twenty years ago. Thus, Britain is largely cut off from the world due to the deadly virus’s impact. Apart from this, the world where they inhabit presents cold and sometimes hostile environments: The north of the country is believed uninhabitable, the flood waters have almost destroyed London, summers are too hot to go out, and the snows arrive earlier each year. While Morrall extrapolates the current ecological and technological concerns into the future, she conveys the astonishing human capacity for survival and existence, showing how people become resilient even though their fate is uncertain. Presenting the novel as a dystopian climate change fiction, this study concludes that When the Floods Came is not only a stunning meditation on multinatural ecologies and survival, but also a haunting parable about drastic climate change.
Ağın, B. (2018). Animated Film as an Eloquent Body: Seth Boyden’s An Object at Rest as Mattertext. MCBÜ Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 16 (2), 27-46. https://doi.org/10.18026/cbayarsos.424052
Bonneuil, C. & Fressoz, J. (2016). The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History and Us. Verso.
Boxall, P. (2013). Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
Bracke, A. (2019). Flooded Futures: The Representation of the Anthropocene in Twenty First-Century British Flood Fictions. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 60 (3), 278-288. https://doi.org/10.1080/00111619.2019.1570911
Byrant, L. R. (2013). Black. In J. J. Cohen (Ed.), Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green (pp. 290-310). University of Minnesota Press.
Christensen, N. A. (2014). Facing the Weather in James Galvin’s The Meadow and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 21 (1), 192-204. https://doi.org/10.1093/isle/isu041
Clark, T. (2014). Nature, Post Nature. In L. Westling (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment (pp. 75-89). Cambridge University Press.
Cohen, J. J. (2013). Introduction: Ecology’s Rainbow. In J.J. Cohen (Ed.), Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green (pp. xv-xxxv). University of Minnesota Press.
Dawson, A. (2015). The 2000s. In S. Arata, M. Haley, P. Hunter & J. Wicke (Eds.), A Companion to the English Novel (pp. 71-86). Wiley-Blackwell.
Edwards, C. (2009). Microtopias: The Post-Apocalyptic Communities of Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse. Textual Practice, 23 (5), 763-786.
Goodbody, A., & Johns-Putra, A. (2019). Cli-fi: A Companion. Peter Lang.
Göçmen, G. (2016). Jude the Liminal: A Catastrophic Pursuit? Ankara Üniversitesi DTCF Dergisi, 56 (2), 287-301. https://doi.org/10.1501/Dtcfder_0000001491
Hayley. (Interviewer). (2016, January 12). Interview with Clare Morrall. Rathertoofondofbooks. Retrieved from https://rathertoofondofbooks.com/2016/12/01/interview-with-author-clare-morrall bookreview-of-whenthefloodscame/
Hulme, M. (2010). Four Meanings of Climate Change. In S. Skrimshire (Ed.), Future Ethics: Climate Change and Apocalyptic Imagination (pp. 37-58). Continuum.
James, D. & Tew, P. (2009). Introduction: Reenvisioning Pastoral. In D. James & P. Tew (Eds.), New Versions of Pastoral: Post-Romantic, Modern, and Contemporary Responses to the Tradition (pp. 13-28). Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Jones, G. (2016, March 19). When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall review. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/19/when-the-floods came-by-clare-morrall-review
Kidd, J. (Interviewer). (2016, February 9). Interview with Clare Morrall. The Independent.
Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/arts entertainment/books/features/clare-morrall-reveals-the-strange-places-the-ideas forwhen-the-floods-came-from-and-her-interest-in-a6855956.html
Lorimer, J. (2015). Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature. University of Minnesota Press.
Miles, M. (2014). Eco-Aesthetics: Art, Literature and Architecture in a Period of Climate Change. Bloomsbury.
Morrall, C. (2015). When the Floods Came. Sceptre.
Morton, T. (2007). Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. Harvard University Press.
----. (2010). The Ecological Thought. Harvard University Press.
----. (2016). Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence. Columbia University Press.
Neimanis, A. & Walker, R. L. (2014). Weathering: Climate Change and the “Thick Time” of Transcorporeality. Hypatiai, 29 (3), 558-575.
Tearle, O. (2016). Other Mothers and Fathers: Teaching Contemporary Dystopian Fiction. In K. Shaw (Ed.), Teaching 21st Century Genres (pp. 109-127).Palgrave.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Kerim Can Yazgünoğlu
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.