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Dirk Vanderbeke

Dirk Vanderbeke

Title: Human Nature and Environmental Disaster in John Brunner’s “The Sheep Look Up” and J.G. Ballard’s High Rise

Panel title: What does it mean to apply evolutionary thinking into the research of Anthropocene?

Participants: Tomi Kokkonen, Dirk Vanderbeke & Jan Verpooten

Abstract: In ecocritical approaches to the Anthropocene and environmental crises, evolutionary aspects are usually not taken into account. The causes are predominantly located in social, economic, scientific, or political structures, but not in the ultimate cause of all of those, i.e. human nature. In my contribution, I want to address features of human behaviour that may be influenced by our evolutionary heritage and contribute to the failure to respond adequately to the global crisis. For this, I will touch upon two novels from the 1970s which already discussed human behaviour in the face of catastrophic developments, John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972), and J.G. Ballard’s High Rise (1975).

Bio: Dirk Vanderbeke is professor of English studies at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. He has published on science and literature, evolutionary criticism, James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, John Milton, science fiction, fantasy, crime fiction, vampires, comics and graphic novels.