Ecological catastrophe has challenged the contemporary novel to find forms that convey the scale and affective conditions of life amid looming planetary devastation. While sincere tragedy has been the dominant mode and tone of the novel's approach, recent scholarship has explored the possibilities of the comic, which presents its own limitations and ethical problems. This article argues that Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake moves past these limitations of genre and tone through engagements with the more complicated tragicomic sensibility of Samuel Beckett. The tragicomic first offers Atwood a mode that better conveys the complexity of mixed possible fortunes and futures amid ecological catastrophe while it also better evokes the strange, often contradictory affects of life in the Anthropocene. Yet Atwood sees greater promise in Beckett's tragicomedy beyond his mere endurance of unchangeable existential conditions. She instead repurposes the tragicomic for the ecological and political needs of the contemporary to produce “survival laughter,” an attitude that recognizes the tragic conditions of catastrophe but simultaneously uses comedy to protect the psyche from despair in the face of devastation. Unlike Beckett's laughter that merely endures entropic decline, Atwood's survival laughter opens the possibility for dynamic, creative action oriented to the hope of transformation and flourishing, even amid seemingly total loss. Through tragicomic survival laughter, Atwood moves the ecological novel beyond its dominant mode of sincere tragic disaster while also avoiding the pitfalls of pure comedy to instead imagine more integrated and realistic forms of ecological resilience that powerfully combine mitigation and adaptation.

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