Skip to main content

Posthuman(ist), Affective and Global Turns in Ecofiction and Ecocriticism: Philip Armstrong’s “Litter”

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
American Studies after Postmodernism

Part of the book series: Renewing the American Narrative ((RAN))

  • 67 Accesses

Abstract

The essay provides a posthumanist reading of Philip Armstrong’s short story “Litter,” published in the volume, Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction in 2014. A prologue to the main argumentation presents the whole collection as a sample of world literature, and the perspectives of world literature and posthumanism as the most relevant and promising in current literary studies. The interpretation of the short story tries to answer the question of how literature may contribute to the urgent needs of the ongoing crisis of the Anthropocene by emphasizing the efficacy of Armstrong’s use of the techniques of narrative empathy in staging a posthumanist approach to the animal question.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. 1.

    I am here using Christopher K. Coffman and Theophilus Savvas’s expression for what has been otherwise called the “transnational” or “planetary” turn in American writing (2021, 12).

  2. 2.

    When I use the label “world literature” to define one of the two main perspectives I am using in this essay, I mean the revitalization of an old approach to the writing and the evaluation of literature that was initiated in the beginning of the twenty-first century and has been carried on by David Damrosch and the Harvard Institute of World Literature. As it is well known, the idea of a global approach to literature was already being consciously formulated by Goethe in his idea of a Weltliteratur, and has by now, happily, been developed in manifold directions, ranging from the overcoming of a postcolonial theoretical frame to the methodology of digital humanities.

  3. 3.

    The link to their “Books” lists the following sections: All Books, Literary Fiction, Ecofiction, Books about Animals, VegLit, Young Adult, Short Stories, Oregon, Books for Writers.

  4. 4.

    A “third edition of the pioneering book series” has now been issued (Ashland Creek Press website).

  5. 5.

    For a rapid outline of the development of affective criticism, see Weik von Mossner 2020, 133.

  6. 6.

    Pilar Martinez Benedì, in her useful reflection on the intersection of cognitive sciences with literary studies that has resulted in cognitive literary criticism, reminds us that the inextricability of perception, cognition, and action was already posited by the ecological approach to human perceptual systems of James Jerome Gibson (1979; see also Raymond W. Gibbs Jr’s survey of the ensuing theories aligning perception with action). Moreover, the current theories of embodiment are strongly influenced by American pragmatism: see, for example, John Dewey’s frequent use of the expression “body-mind” to counter the Cartesian binary of mind and body (Martinez Benedì 2018, 55).

  7. 7.

    Projection is the “ability to put oneself in the position of some other person, animal, or object, and imagine that sensation of being in that situation”; perspective-taking is the “visualizing [of] what the world looks like from another’s vantage point”; “empathic accuracy” is “the ability to figure out what someone is thinking or feeling from their expressions, behavior, or circumstances” (Pinker 2011, 860–61).

  8. 8.

    This is how Diane Coole prefers to indicate Latour’s actants (derived from A. J. Greimas’s narratology) in order to temper the emphasis on the humanistic connotation of the term. “Agentic capacity” accommodates better anything that has the ability “to make a difference, produce effects and affects, alter the course of events by their actions” (2013, 459).

References

  • Armstrong, Philip. 2014. Litter. In Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction, ed. John Yunker, 107–115. Ashland, OR: Ashland Creek Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ashland Creek Press website. https://www.ashlandcreekpress.com.

  • Barad, Karen. 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Braidotti, Rosi. 2019. A Theoretical Frame for the Critical Posthumanities. In Transversal Posthumanities, Special Issue of Theory, Culture and Society Transversal Posthumanities 36 (6): 1–31.

    Google Scholar 

  • Braidotti, Rosi. 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Buell, Lawrence. 2007. Ecoglobalist Affects: The Emergence of U.S: Environmental Imagination on a Planetary Scale. In Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature, ed. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell, 227–48. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Calarco, Matthew. 2015. Thinking through Animals: Identity, Difference, Indistinction. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Coffman, Christopher K., and Theophilus Savvas, eds. 2021. After Postmodernism: The New American Fiction. London and New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coole, Diana. 2013. Agentic Capacities and Capacious Historical Materialism: Thinking with New Materialisms in the Political Sciences. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 41 (3): 451–69.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ecofictology. YouTube Channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mdAq5Wf9zI

  • Gaard, Greta. 2020. New Ecocriticisms: Narrative, Affective, Empirical and Mindful. Ecozon@ 11 (2): 224–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibbs, W. Raymond, and Jr. 2005. Embodiment and Cognitive Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibson, James Jerome. 1979. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Horowitz, Alexandra. 2009. Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know. New York: Scribner.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iovino, Serenella, and Serpil Oppermann. 2014. Introduction: Stories Come to Matter. In Material Ecocriticism, ed. Serenella Iovino and Serpil Oppermann, 1–17. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • James, Erin. 2015. The Storyworld Accord: Econarratology and Postcolonial Narratives. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Keen, Suzanne. 2006. A Theory of Narrative Empathy. Narrative 14 (3): 207–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keen, Suzanne. 2013. Narrative Empathy. In The Living Handbook of Narratology, eds. Hühn, Peter et al. Hamburg: Hamburg University. https://www-archiv.fdm.uni-hamburg.de/lhn/node/42.html. Accessed September 14, 2022.

  • Latour, Bruno. 2014. Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene. New Literary History 45 (1): 1–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martinez Benedì, Pilar. 2018. The Insuperability of Sensation: Indagini letterarie tra mente, corpo e affect. Napoli: La scuola di Pitagora.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking.

    Google Scholar 

  • Plumwood, Val. 2000. Being Prey. Utne Reader 100 (July-August): 56–61.

    Google Scholar 

  • Raymond, Midge. 2014. An Interview with Among Animals contributor Philip Armstrong (“Litter”). 27 March. https://www.ashlandcreekpress.com/blog/2014/03/27/an-interview-with-among-animals-contributor-philip-armstrong/. Accessed May 17, 2022

  • Spencer, Antonia. 2020. Ecocriticism and ‘Thinking with Writing’: An Interview with Tim Ingold. Ecozon@ 11 (2): 208–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Uexküll von, Jakob. 1992. A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men: A Picture Book of Invisible Worlds. 1957. Semiotica 89 (4): 319–91.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yunker, John, ed. 2014. Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction. Ashland, OR: Ashland Creek Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weik von Mossner, Alexa. 2020. Affect, Emotion, and Ecocriticism. Ecozon@ 11 (2): 128–36.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weik von Mossner, Alexa. 2017. Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolfe, Cary. 2003. Animal Rites: Animal Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolfe, Cary. 2010. What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paola Loreto .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2024 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Loreto, P. (2024). Posthuman(ist), Affective and Global Turns in Ecofiction and Ecocriticism: Philip Armstrong’s “Litter”. In: Tsimpouki, T., Blatanis, K., Tseti, A. (eds) American Studies after Postmodernism. Renewing the American Narrative. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-41448-0_6

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics