Caroline Edwards deposited Becoming-lithic: elemental utopian possibility in the contemporary ecocatastrophe in the group Cultural Studies on Humanities Commons 5 months, 1 week ago
This article explores an emerging cluster of ecocatastrophe narratives that locate utopian possibility within the Earth’s sub-crustal lithosphere. Texts such as N. K. Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” trilogy (2015–2017), J. G. Ballard’s The Crystal World (1966), Lars von Trier’s film Melancholia (2011), Irene Solà’s Catalan novel When I Sing, Mountains Dance (2019), and the first season of the Icelandic TV series Katla (Netflix, June 2021) uncover an inhuman ecology whose vibrant, lively agency can be discerned within the geologic temporalities of deep time. Unlike their “Hollow Earth” precursors (a late nineteenth-century subgenre of the literary utopia), in which human protagonists ventured below the Earth’s surface to discover rich worlds of utopian alterity, these contemporary lithic texts revoke their characters’ human sovereignty in images of encroaching human-lithic intimacy: a process that I call becoming-lithic. In conveying the lively potentialities of geological processes such as the rock cycle, plate tectonics, continental drift, orogenesis and subduction, igneous activity, these lithic texts encourage readers and viewers to reconsider our relationship between the geosphere and the biosphere. I trace their emerging elemental aesthetics, asking how we might parse their inhuman moments of possibility and, in the process, undertake the urgent task of decolonising utopian studies.