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Marek Oziewicz

Marek Oziewicz

Roundtable title: Imagining Interspecies Kinship, Earth’s Aliveness, and an Ecological Civilization: On the Cultural Work of Fantasy in the Anthropocene

Participants: Marek Oziewicz, Andrea Casals, Tereza Dědinová & Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak

Title: Planetarianist Fantasy: Confronting the Ecocidal Unconscious by Imagining Ecocentric Futures

Abstract: This presentation argues that the realities of a climate change world present a challenge to fantasy literature to rediscover its hope-oriented potential and apply its anticipatory imagination to visions of ecocentric futures. The opening premise is that Western fantasy conventions have been shaped by ecocidal literary epistemologies—epistemologies which stem from a larger conceptual construct I call the ecocidal unconscious. This ecocidal unconscious of Western literature, operating in fantasy, is dissected through a reading of Marvel Comics series Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1991-92) and China Miéville’s cli-fi Un Lun Dun (2007). Meant as calls-to-action to defend the biosphere, both narratives are shown to be compromised by flares of ecocidal unconscious that reinforce anthropocentric myopia, overlook structural foundations of the ongoing ecocide, and project solutions that are thinly disguised variations of the deeper structural model of the contest between humanity and nature. The argument is that this model has reached its limits. It is inadequate to help us imagine a way forward toward ecocentric futures. Exposing and confronting the ecocidal unconscious of Western fantasy is only the first step. An equally urgent challenge is to discover our capacity for “planetarianist” fantasy—one that articulates visions of hope for the planet and the biosphere. The remaining part of the presentation develops a proposal about how planetarianist fantasy can help us imagine alternatives to the discourse of the Anthropocene. Brief readings of Jon Scieszka’s AstroNuts (2019), Oliver Jeffers’ The Fate of Fausto (2019), and Barbara Henderson’s Wilderness Wars (2018) are examined as examples of “planetarianist moves” in recent fantasy that open spaces for anticipatory, hope-oriented imagination, empower readers to imagine ecocentric alternatives to the ecocidal status quo, and articulate resistance to ecocide in ways that lead to action. They suggest that the search for hope-oriented narratives is well under way. The argument is that fantasy for the Anthropocene should disrupt a mistaken belief that we are masters of the planet—or the fantasy of the Anthropocene. I suggest that a sustainable, equitable future for all forms of life on this planet must first be imagined in stories and that fantasy has a key role to play in helping that future become reality.

Bio: Marek Oziewicz is Professor of Literacy Education at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and holds the Sidney and Marguerite Henry Chair in Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the College of Education and Human Development. He serves as Director of the Center for Climate Literacy, Senior Editor of Climate Literacy in Education, and Editor-in-Chief of the project Climate Lit. Dr. Oziewicz studies the Anthropocene as a challenge to our story systems. His recent publications include a special issue of The Lion and the Unicorn on Children’s Literature and Climate Change (co-edited with Lara Saguisag), and a collection Fantasy and Myth in the Anthropocene (coedited with Brian Attebery and Tereza Dědinová).