Abstract

This essay theorizes an addiction to ecological anxiety that is characteristic of cultural reactions to climate change and made especially palpable in a time of pandemic. Borrowing from J. M. Coetzee’s identification in Franz Kafka of an epistemology of ever-evolving crisis, the essay surveys the growing corpus of scholarship on the Anthropocene, and, in particular, of quarantine writing, to examine the viral nature of first-person accounts of the ecocatastrophic, revealing a perpetual subjunctivity resistant to the ontological prioritization of the actual over the virtual. While such symptomatic thinking might seem to fulfill a psychologically inoculative function against impending catastrophe, the essay contends that it ultimately becomes a kind of autoimmune disorder: a prophetically self-fulfilling panic that makes it increasingly difficult to fathom, let alone to take action against, our current ecological and political crises.

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