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Resisting the Apocalypse: Representing the Anthropocene in Indian English Literature

Yadaw, Sagnik and Roy Chowdhury, Rupsa

Since its emergence in the last half of the twentieth century, environmental
discourse in connection with the anthropogenic Climate change has always
betrayed a steady adherence to the rhetoric of the apocalypse. Apocalyptic
rhetoric, as Greg Garrard argues in his book on ecocriticism, polarizes people,
engenders paranoia, and produces crisis as much as it responds to it. In literature,
this proclivity of Western ecological thought becomes most apparent
through the emergence of what Elizabeth Rosen calls neo-apocalyptic narratives
that function as a cautionary tale while jettisoning the sense of a new
beginning that characterized the traditional stories of the apocalypse. Whereas
the spectacle of visual culture has calcified the presence of these narratives
in the western genre of Climate fiction, Indian English literature has had far
fewer confrontations with the question of the Anthropocene to have a decided
shape. Such hope moulds the heart of this paper as it takes a critical eye to
investigate the representation of ecological crises in Contemporary Indian English
literature with particular attention to the treatment of the apocalypse – as
a trope, as rhetoric, and as aesthetic. The paper takes four texts – Arun Joshi’s
The City & the River (1990), Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide (2004), Indra
Sinha’s Animal’s People (2007), and Sarnath Banerjee’s All Quiet in Vikaspuri
(2015) as examples of how the apocalypse has surfaced in Indian English literature
of ecological crises and attempts to encourage and critique different
aspects of that presence to cultivate a literature of the Anthropocene beyond
spectacular visions of disaster.

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