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Title: The war on terroir : biology as (unstable) space in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy
Authors: Ward Sell, Aran
Keywords: Terroir
Biology in literature
Literary discourse
Issue Date: 2018-02
Publisher: University of Malta. Department of English
Citation: Ward Sell, A. (2018). The war on terroir : biology as (unstable) space in Jeff Vander Meer's Southern Reach trilogy. Antae Journal, 5(1), 86-100.
Abstract: Islands that turn out to be sea monsters, worlds encircled by serpents, poetic personification of skies and landscapes: metaphors of natural space as a living creature are nothing new. But the work of contemporary ‘weird fiction’ writer Jeff VanderMeer creates a radical new politics of biogeography for an Anthropocene audience: the encoding of our spatial environment as not just a single creature, but a living ecosystem dependent on a non-reducible complex interaction of micro-organisms, organic intelligences and climatic conditions. Focusing on VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, this article considers the implications of ‘Area X’, which is simultaneously a geographical space, a hostile intelligence, and an invasive “terroir”. This terroir, a term taken from wine-making to mean the sum of all interacting environmental elements (organic and otherwise), attempts to reintegrate the trilogy's human characters into these interactions—to remodel them into a non-discrete, functioning element of an ecosystem—through parasitic infestation, decomposition and hyper-accelerated evolution. I consider the acknowledged influence on VanderMeer's work of Rachel Carson, Jean Baudrillard and the anarchist Invisible Committee, to elucidate how the inherent instability of Area X's biogeographical spaces provides a decentred perspective on climate change and human interventions in the natural world, displacing anthropocentric cultural readings of the Anthropocene even as it illustrates the profound danger that human intelligence poses to the co-dependent ecosystems which sustain it.
Appears in Collections:Antae Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1
Antae Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1

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