Starting from the observation that the notion of the Anthropocene invites us to alter the ways in which we imagine human life (and the relations between different human lives), this essay argues that transnational accounts of literature and culture—in the fairly new field of oceanic studies, for instance—need to expand their scope from intercultural relations to include the relationships between different (human) forms of life and (human as well as nonhuman) life forms. The essay develops this argument through a dialogue between J. M. Ledgard's planetary novel Submergence from 2011 and contemporary theories of the posthuman (Ray Brassier, Eugene Thacker) and the Anthropocene (Ian Baucom, Dipesh Chakrabarty), in order to demonstrate that the literary novel has a vital role to play in the imagining of new forms of (non)human relatedness. Developing Submergence's distinction between the (radically nonhuman) ocean and the (human-related) sea, the essay puts forward the argument that human life in the Anthropocene is marked by what the essay theorizes, with the help of Emmanuel Levinas, Giorgio Agamben, and Walter Benjamin, as “immemorial life”: a relation to radically nonhuman life forms that cannot be actualized in the imagining and remembering of human life in the Anthropocene.
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Pieter Vermeulen; “The Sea, Not the Ocean”: Anthropocene Fiction and the Memory of (Non)human Life. Genre 1 July 2017; 50 (2): 181–200. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-3890028
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