‘In the eyeblink of a planet you were born, died, and your bones disintegrated’: scales of mourning and velocities of memory in Philipp Meyer’s American Rust

Bond, L. (2017) ‘In the eyeblink of a planet you were born, died, and your bones disintegrated’: scales of mourning and velocities of memory in Philipp Meyer’s American Rust. Textual Practice, 31 (5). pp. 995-1016. ISSN 0950-236X

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As Dipesh Chakrabarty (2009) has famously argued, the advent of climate change requires us to think questions of capital alongside ideas of species. However, Tom Cohen (2012) contends, critical accounts of climate change have exhibited a tendency to collapse the ecological into the economic, reinscribing the privileged epistemological and ideological homelands of liquid modernity (Bauman). Such slippages underscore the manifold conceptual insecurities inherent in imagining the era of the Anthropocene, which unsettle the fundamental categories of historical experience. As Robert Markley (2012) asserts, the Anthropocene “poses questions about […] different registers of time”, most specifically, how to negotiate the complex interrelation – and simultaneous irreconcilability – of embodied time, historical time, and climatological time. Timothy Clark (2012), meanwhile, foregrounds the seismic “derangements of scale” engendered by the continuous shifts between local, national, and global spaces that are required by any attempt to examine the causes and consequences of climate change. Finally, Ursula Heise (2004 and 2008), among others, contends that the imbrications of the Anthropocene pose a challenge to established modes of narrative and cognition. Bearing these observations in mind, this article examines the ways in which Philipp Meyer’s (2009) American Rust attempts to reckon with the shifting dynamics of the Anthropocene without abandoning the ecological to the economic or collapsing disparate temporal and spatial scales of historical and geological change. Exploring the social and environmental degradation of the American Rustbelt that accompanied the deregulation of the market in the late 1970s, Meyer posits the post-industrial era as a period of conjoined economic and ecological precarity. Continually shifting beyond its apparent historical and geographical roots in late-twentieth-century America, the narrative veers restlessly across diverse temporal and spatial scales, linking the casualties of the Rust Belt to other stories of dispossession and dislocation. Ultimately, I argue, Meyer’s novel suggests that the study of literary planetary memory must examine not just the scales, but the speeds that inform cultural and critical practices of remembrance, analysing the uneven memorative velocities that shape the imagination and thought of diverse forms of suffering and loss across human and more-than-human milieux.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: memory; mourning; scale; speed; myth; nation; wilderness narrative; American pastoral;
Subjects: University of Westminster > Social Sciences and Humanities
SWORD Depositor: repository@westminster.ac.uk
Depositing User: repository@westminster.ac.uk
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 15:49
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2017 14:40
URI: http://westminsterresearch.wmin.ac.uk/id/eprint/18077

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