Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask iek: SIC 10
In this chapter, Hageman explores what Slavoj Žižek’s critique of contemporary ecological thinking has to offer the field of literary ecocriticism. Identifying the three main ideas of traditional ecocriticism—that nature not only exists but is a harmonious, organic totality; that human beings have become unnatural, alienated from nature; and that ecological awareness and action are blocked simply by false consciousness—Hageman demonstrates how Žižek’s call for an “ecology without nature” (a call that is of a piece with his insistence that “nature does not exist”) enables us to both identify and critique the mechanophobic master narrative underwriting these ideas. He does so by way of a Žižek-inflected ecocritical reading of Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), the text that coined the term robot to signal artificial human beings/laborers, and whose narrative is structured around an organic/machinic confrontation that puts the future of human and posthuman ecologies alike at stake.