Although largely disregarded since the humanistic turn of ecocriticism at the beginning of the 21st century, nature writing has continued to play an important role in nurturing trans-Pacific, and transnational, literary environmentalism. Euro-American traditions dominate this literary genre, but it nevertheless involves cross-cultural traffic of ideas and thoughts. Its trans-Pacific presence, mostly through American influences on works in Japan, demonstrates in three ways how American nature writing has been cultivating Japanese literary soil and has in turn been nurtured by it, albeit less conspicuously. First, Henry David Thoreau’s influence on Japanese literary environmentalism, especially his philosophy of plain living and high thinking, helped engender a tradition of nature writing in Japan that began with Nozawa Hajime—often called the “Japanese Thoreau”—and has been developed by those who followed, including Ashizawa Kazuhiro and Takada Hiroshi. Second, interactions between pastoralism and a new mode of environmental awareness show that the seemingly American notion of “wild awareness” and the Japanese concept of aware have materialized as a new environmental sensitivity in Japan and in the United States, respectively, reflecting cross-cultural nurturing of environmental ideas, thoughts, and practices. Finally, there has been a subtle yet radical impact of American counterculture on Japanese nature writing, exemplified by Nashiki Kaho’s literary hybridity, based on her integration of the traditional with the radical.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. Please check back later for the full article.
Proletarian literature in the United States resulted from three developments: industrialization and the emergence of the first U.S. working class in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; the rise of trade unions, anarcho-syndicalism, and Socialism; aesthetic and philosophical realism and naturalism inherited from the European novel of the 19th century, and to a lesser extent, from journalism, photography, film, and documentary. These aspects merged in proletarian literature’s endeavor to represent working-class life in positivist, materialist terms mainly from an anti-capitalist and Socialist point of view. The Russian Revolution of 1917 catalyzed and named the genre by attaching to writing by the working class Marx and Engels’s term for their lives: proletarians (from Latin, for the lowest order of Roman citizens). After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Soviet endorsement of “proletkult,” an acronym for “proletarian cultural-educational organizations” (proletarskie kul’turno-prosvetitel’nye organizatsii) led to critical essays and manifestos seeking to define the politics and aesthetics of proletarian literature.
In the United States, Mike Gold’s 1921 essay “Towards Proletarian Art” was a bellwether, and the beginning of this tradition. From 1920 to 1945, writers as diverse as Gold, Claude McKay, Muriel Rukeyser, Langston Hughes, Tillie Olsen, Agnes Smedley, and Richard Wright demonstrated allegiance to the task of advancing literature by and for the working-class. Yet the genre of proletarian literature has roots in disparate places—literature of slavery, industrial writing, radical journalism, and books like Rebecca Harding Davis’s 1861 novella Life in the Iron Mills. In 1905, well before Gold’s manifesto, Upton Sinclair declared hope that his exposé of conditions for packinghouse workers in Chicago in The Jungle would do for wage laborers what Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Children did for slaves, namely lead to their emancipation. Sinclair’s term for the working class, “white slaves,” also shows how race is a constant modality, to use Stuart Hall’s term, for class experience in American proletarian literature. While the genre of U.S. proletarian literature is generally held by scholars to expire with the end of the Great Depression, its influence and modeling of commitment to working-class, anti-capitalist themes extends well into the contemporary period, as evident in writing by Russell Banks, Dorothy Allison, Simon Ortiz, Etheridge Knight, Leslie Feinberg, Jim Daniels, Sandra Cisneros, and others. Proletarian literature in the United States, broadly considered, has been one of the most hospitable genres for positive representation of the lives of women, non-white people, immigrants, and migrants, who have historically constituted a disproportionately large segment of the U.S. working class.
Heather J. Hicks
From 1950 to the 2010s, the genre known as apocalyptic fiction has grown in prominence, moving from the mass-market domain of science fiction to a more central position in the contemporary literary scene. The term “apocalyptic fiction” can be understood to encompass both depictions of cataclysms that destroy the Earth and texts that portray the aftermath of a disaster that annihilates a nation, civilization, or all but a few survivors of the human population. The term itself finds its roots in the book of Revelation, and while contemporary apocalyptic fiction tends to be largely secular in its worldview, important traces of the Christian tradition linger in these texts. Indeed, while apocalyptic fiction has evolved over the past sixty-five years in response to historical transformations in Western societies, much of it remains wedded to Revelation’s representation of women as the cause of apocalyptic destruction. The material of the 1950s reflects Cold War anxieties about nuclear war while presenting sexually liberated women as implicated in the same modernity that has created the atomic bomb. People of color are also depicted as threats that must be contained. The apocalyptic fiction of the 1960s registers a fascination with genetic, social, and literary mutation, ambivalently treating a variety of “others” as both toxic and potentially useful ambassadors to some new, postmodern condition. The 1970s see the emergence of feminist apocalypses, works that react against the sexist tendency to conflate female power and sexuality with apocalyptic menace. The 1980s introduce the “American apocalypse,” a subgenre that imagines a disaster befalling America in specifically economic terms. The 1990s, meanwhile, find combinations of the feminist and American apocalypse, while also beginning to bring environmental peril into focus. From 2000 forward, there is a renewed interest in broader, more global disasters, in part informed by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Formally, this is the era of the “metapocalypse”—apocalyptic fictions that are self-reflexive about the conventions of the genre, including those involving gender and race. Nonetheless, several of the novels in this period still unapologetically introduce figures that recall Jezebel and Babylon from Revelation. Finally, the period since 2010 has seen a revived emphasis on economic collapse precipitated by neoliberal capitalism as well as the anthropocene.
The emergence of the trade paperback in the 1980s crucially transformed the way in which Australian literature was received in North America. The publication history of Patrick White on the one hand and Glenda Adams and Peter Carey on the other, shows how younger writers actually made more of a cultural impact, despite White’s Nobel Prize, because the form in which they met the reading public was one freed from the modernist binary between high and low culture. The 1980s saw the emergence of a more globalized and more culturally pluralistic world—though also one much more pervaded by multinational capital—in which Australian writers flourished.
Women seem barely visible in the lively Australian literary scene of the 1950s and 1960s. Popular wisdom has it that after the war women were sent home and imprisoned in domesticity, but this was not entirely true. Significant numbers earned a living, and gained popular success, writing historical fiction, children’s stories, feature journalism, and radio and television scripts, but the growing separation of literary from popular writing meant that their work lacked serious critical attention, and still does. Others did not achieve publication for years, while those who did were rarely recognized as significant artists. As a writing generation, these women, in particular the novelists, were eclipsed from view, both at the time and in subsequent histories. One reason for this is that they tended to be detached from prevailing debates about national identity and from traditional Left-Right oppositions. Their sense of the social responsibility of writers led them to explore topics and ideas that were outside the postwar political mainstream, such as conservation, peace, civil liberties, and Indigenous rights. Four case studies offer some illustration of the range of literary activities undertaken by these women writers, and allow a consideration of the ways in which they engaged with their social and cultural milieux: Kylie Tennant (1912–1988), Nancy Cato (1917–2000), Judith Wright (1915–2000), and Kath Walker/Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920–1993).
First known as a kephalaion in Greek, capitulum or caput in Latin, the chapter arose in antiquity as a finding device within long, often heterogenous prose texts, prior even to the advent of the codex. By the 4th century
In the 21st century, a new genre of Anglophone fiction has emerged—the climate change novel, often abbreviated as “cli-fi.” Many successful authors of literary fiction, such as Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, T. C. Boyle, Michael Crichton, Ian McEwan, Amitav Ghosh, Barbara Kingsolver, Ursula Le Guin, Lydia Millet, David Mitchell, Ruth Ozeki, Nathaniel Rich, Kim Stanley Robinson, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Marcel Theroux, have contributed to this new genre’s efforts to imagine the causes, effects, and feeling of global warming. Together, their work pulls the issue-oriented and didactic approach of activist fiction into contact with the intensive description and site specificity of Romantic nature writing. Cli-fi knits these tendencies together into a description of the effects of a dramatic change in the Earth’s climate on a particular location and a vision of the options available to a population seeking to adapt to or mitigate those effects.
Although cli-fi is resolutely contemporary and dedicated to creating new narratives adequate to current conditions, criticism devoted to the genre has carefully documented the persistence of national, masculinist, and anthropocentric tendencies in some of its major works. The dependence of cli-fi (and the environmental activism that inspires it) on capitalist visions of social progress has also received scrutiny. Some of these habits of representation have been inherited from literary predecessors such as Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Ernest Callenbach, and J. G. Ballard. Ballard’s Drowned World has proved an especially complicated source of inspiration for this new genre of the novel. In their efforts to update the motifs of these predecessors to the needs of the present, 21st-century cli-fi writers have experimented with the temporality, central figures, and mood of their fiction. These efforts have brought distinctive types of speculative and science fiction, as well as satires of climate change activism and new hybrid realisms, under the cli-fi umbrella. Although the genre still wrestles with inherited limitations, in every permutation, cli-fi novelists have prized innovation, experimentation, and creativity. Finally, all of their varied efforts involving cli-fi unite around an expectation that humanity and the planet can survive the changes associated with the Anthropocene.
Sandra L. Beckett
Crossover literature transcends the conventionally recognized boundaries within the fiction market, blurring the borderline between adult literature and children’s literature. Books may cross from child to adult or adult to child audiences, or they may be explicitly published for both audiences. Crossover literature is by no means a recent phenomenon, but it received a high profile and a great deal of media attention with the unprecedented success of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books in the late 1990s. It was at that time that the term “crossover” was adopted by critics, the media, and the publishing industry. New words were also coined in other languages to refer to this literature. Although the genre includes adult fiction read by young readers (adult-to-child crossover), which has a much longer historical precedent, the term is often used to refer only to children’s and young adult books that appeal to adults (child-to-adult crossover).
Crossover literature is an extensive body of diverse, intergenerational works with a very long history. Borders between children’s and adult fiction have been more porous, or even non-existent, in certain cultures and time periods. Fairy tales, Middle Eastern tales, and fables have always appealed to mixed-age audiences. Children have been appropriating adult books for centuries. Classics like Robinson Crusoe and Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers) virtually passed into the children’s library. While almost every genre can cross age boundaries, the novel, and in particular the children’s and young adult novel, has monopolized attention. Moreover, crossover fiction is often equated with the fantasy novel, which played a key role in drawing public and critical attention to this literature. In most countries today, fantasy remains the dominant crossover genre. However, other genres, including short fiction, fairy tales, poetry, graphic novels, picturebooks, and comics commonly transcend age boundaries.
Initially, many saw crossover literature as merely a marketing and mass media phenomenon, but it also received critical acclaim. Crossover fiction in the early 21st century is recognized as a distinct literary genre and marketing category. It plays a major role in the publishing industry and in contemporary culture. Crossover books are responsible for hugely successful multi-generation-spanning, cross-media franchises, such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Twilight Saga, and The Hunger Games. Crossover literature is part of a broader cultural trend in which books, movies, television shows, video games, and so forth are increasingly reaching across age groups.
Tony Hughes D'Aeth
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. Please check back later for the full article.
The European colonization of the Australian continent in the late 18th century initiated dramatic environmental change, and the creative writing of Australia since that time provides a record of that change. Even inasmuch as the task of colonization involved the forcible displacement of Australia’s indigenous people from their land and livelihood, the battle quickly became imagined as one against the natural world. The formal study of literature and environment, though, is a relatively recent development and comes about with the dawning of a global environmental consciousness in the early 1960s, and even more particularly with the evolution of “eco-criticism” in the 1980s. Studying the relationship between Australian literature and the environment requires a careful negotiation between the environmental sensibilities of our current time and those of earlier eras. Nature, for instance, modulates radically, from the Enlightenment ordering of First Fleet observers like Watkin Tench and the bemused irony of Barron Field, to the Romanticism of mid-19th-century poets like Charles Harpur and Adam Lindsay Gordon, to the baroque Gothicism of Marcus Clarke in the 1870s.
The centrality of the natural environment to the Australian literary imaginary became entrenched in the 1880s with the advent of the “bush nationalism” of the Bulletin-school. In the coterie of writers connected to the Sydney Bulletin—Henry Lawson, “Banjo” Paterson, Barbara Baynton, Joseph Furphy, Miles Franklin—the natural world was encrypted in the “bush.” In Australia, this term is a shorthand for the interface of human and nature, and the cult of the bush contains within it significant (post)colonial ambivalence. The belated advent of literary modernism in the 20th century did not, as might be expected, cause the environmental topos to be replaced by urban settings. Instead, in the writing of Eleanor Dark, Patrick White, the Jindyworobaks, Judith Wright, and Dorothy Hewett, the natural world—now as a medium for the crisis of modernist subjectivity—continued to be pronounced. In the contemporary post-modernist (post-natural) era, nature might seem to have been divested of the last remnants of its metaphysical grandeur. Yet, whether in the anti-pastoral wheatbelt of John Kinsella, or the regionally inflected works of Thea Astley, Alex Miller, Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Rohan Wilson, and Kim Scott, the natural world has remained a persistent feature of Australian writing. The work of Wright and Scott, moreover, indicates that the issue of environment in Australia is transected by the relationship between indigene and settler. The indigenous universe introduces an entirely different being-in-the-world, where the idea of nature as somehow beyond and outside of everyday life is inconceivable.
Western American literature is a diverse body of writing that documents human responses to the ecological changes that have reshaped the region over the years. The literature includes narratives of contact and encounter, nonfiction nature essays, borderlands literature, popular Westerns, hard-boiled detective narratives, Dust Bowl novels, eco-memoirs, climate change fiction, and other genres. At a time when the West faces a number of environmental crises, a survey of the region provides insights into how we arrived at this point by addressing key moments in the environmental past, including struggles over land use, conflicts over resources, the historical meanings of eco-disaster, and efforts at finding solutions to these problems. In settler colonial imaginaries, the region appears as a space of promise and possibility. It offers a retreat from a hyper-modernizing world and serves as a bulwark against changes taking place elsewhere. In this way, the region is also a shifting terrain associated with the nation’s moving frontiers and contact zones, as Europeans continually pushed beyond the spaces of their previous settlements. Before the West was called the West, however, it was home to hundreds of tribal groups who did not configure the land through this geographical lens. Likewise, for some Hispanics, it was known as Aztlán, the mythic land of the ancient Aztecs, and also el Norte. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Chinese immigrants called the area in what is present-day California “gold mountain,” while from 1733 to 1867, parts of the West from Alaska to California were recognized as “Russian America.” As a place that calls forth diverse memories about encounters and conflicts, stories about dispossession and recovery, and dreams of enrichment and tales of going bust, the West remains a contested terrain whose literature carries traces of the economies and ecologies of the people who have made it their home.