“Fabric of the Universe Is Comin’ Unraveled”: Beasts of the Southern Wild, from Flesh to Planet

  • Christopher Lloyd


This chapter argues that Benh Zeitlin’s film Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), in its scalar attention to flesh and the planet, dramatizes corporeal legacies that inhere in, and transcend, the US South. Beginning with a consideration of the non/human beasts in “the Bathtub” (the film’s island location), the chapter then goes on to show how a big storm that displaces the protagonists evokes memories of Hurricane Katrina in particular and the crisis of the Anthropocene in general. Exploring the overlaps between humans, animals, matter, and environment will reveal how Beasts scales up and down from racialized flesh to a planetary perspective.


Hurricane Katrina Posthuman Climate change Anthropocene Benh Zeitlin Beasts of the Southern Wild 


  1. Adams, Carol J. 2015. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beasts of the Southern Wild. 2013. Directed by Benh Zeitlin. 2012. Studiocanal.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, Robert C., and Robert M. Ficociello. 2017. America’s Disaster Culture: The Production of Natural Disasters in Literature and Pop Culture. New York: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  4. Berlant, Lauren. 2011. Cruel Optimism. Durham/London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bond, Lucy, Ben De Bruyn, and Jessica Rapson. 2017. Planetary Memory in Contemporary American Fiction. Textual Practice 31 (5): 853–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Breslow, Jacob. 2017. The Queer Story of Your Conception: Translating Sexuality and Racism in Beasts of the Southern Wild. In Queer in Translation, ed. B.J. Epstein and Robert Gillett, 129–143. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Bullard, Robert. 2000. Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  8. Can’t Stop the Water. 2013. Directed by Jason Marshall Ferris and Rebecca Marshall Ferris. Accessed 1 June 2018.
  9. Cecire, Natalie. 2015. Environmental Innocence and Slow Violence. WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 43 (1–2): 164–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clark, Timothy. 2015. Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  11. Craps, Stef. 2017a. Climate Change and the Art of Anticipatory Memory. Parallax 23 (4): 479–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. ———. 2017b. Introduction. In Memory Studies and the Anthropocene: A Roundtable, by Stef Craps et al., Memory Studies, online first: 1–3.Google Scholar
  13. Crownshaw, Rick. 2017. Speculative Remembrance in the Anthropocene. In Memory Studies and the Anthropocene: A Roundtable, by Stef Craps et al., Memory Studies, online first: 3-5.Google Scholar
  14. Denby, David. 2012. Beasts of the Southern Wild. The New Yorker, June 29. Accessed 1 June 2018.
  15. Fraiman, Susan Stanford. 2015. Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time. New York/Chichester: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Groes, Sebastian. 2016. Introduction to Part III: Ecologies of Memory. In Memory in the Twenty-First Century: Critical Perspectives from Sciences and Arts and Humanities, ed. Sebastian Groes, 140–146. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Hackett, Thomas. 2013. The Racism of Beasts of the Southern Wild. New Republic, February 19. Accessed 1 June 2018.
  18. Haraway, Donna J. 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham/London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Haritaworn, Jinthana. 2015. Decolonising the Non/Human. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21 (2–3): 210–213.Google Scholar
  21. Hartnell, Anna. 2017a. After Katrina: Race, Neoliberalism, and the End of the American Century. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2017b. Writing the Liquid City: Excavating Urban Ecologies After Katrina. Textual Practice 31 (5): 933–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holland, Sharon P., Marcia Ochoa, and Kyla Wazana Tompkins. 2014. On the Visceral. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 20 (4): 391–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. hooks, bell. 2012. No Love in the Wild. NewBlackMan (In Exile), September 6. Accessed 1 June 2018.
  25. Jackson, Zakiyyah Iman. 2015. Outer Worlds: The Persistence of Race in Movement ‘Beyond the Human.’. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21 (2–3): 215–218.Google Scholar
  26. Jellenik, Glenn. 2014. Re-shaping the Narrative: Pulling Focus/Pushing Boundaries in Fictional Representations of Hurricane Katrina. In Ten Years After Katrina: Critical Perspectives of the Storm’s Effect on American Culture and Identity, ed. Mary Ruth Marotte and Glenn Jellenik, 221–237. Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  27. Klein, Naomi. 2016. Let Them Drown: The Violence of Othering in a Warming World. London Review of Books 38 (11). Accessed 1 June 2018.
  28. LeMenager, Stephanie. 2016. Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Moore, Jason W. 2016. Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Oakland: PM Press.Google Scholar
  30. Nixon, Rob. 2011. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nyong’o, Tavia. 2015. Little Monsters: Race, Sovereignty, and Queer Inhumanism in Beasts of the Southern Wild. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21 (2–3): 249–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rountree, Stephanie. 2015. Does the Subaltern Speak? Reimagining Hurricane Katrina in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Ethos: A Digital Review of Arts, Humanities, and Public Ethics 2 (2): 4–18.Google Scholar
  33. Sharpe, Christina. 2013. Beasts of the Southern Wild—The Romance of Precarity I. Social Text, September 27. Accessed 1 June 2018.
  34. ———. 2016. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham/London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Spoth, Daniel. 2015. Slow Violence and the (Post)Southern Disaster Narrative in Hurston, Faulkner, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Mississippi Quarterly 68 (1–2): 145–166.Google Scholar
  36. Stokstad, Erik. 2015. Bringing Back the Aurochs. Science 350 (6265): 1144–1147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Taylor, Dorceta. 2014. Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility. New York: NUY Press.Google Scholar
  38. Trexler, Adam. 2015. Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change. Charlottesville/London: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  39. Vermeulen, Pieter. 2017. Creaturely Memory: Shakespeare, the Anthropocene and the New Nomos of the Earth. Parallax 23 (4): 384–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Weheliye, Alexander G. 2014. Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wenzel, Jennifer. 2014. Planet vs. Globe. English Language Notes 52 (1): 19–30.Google Scholar
  42. ———. 2017. Past’s Futures, Future’s Pasts. Memory Studies and the Anthropocene: A Roundtable, by Stef Craps et al., Memory Studies, online first: 5–7.Google Scholar
  43. Wolfe, Cary. 2003. Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Yaeger, Patricia. 2013. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Dirty Ecology. Southern Spaces, February 13. Accessed 1 June 2018.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Lloyd
    • 1
  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of HertfordshireHatfieldUK

Personalised recommendations