• Mads Nyborg Jespersen
  • Helena Baunbæk Sveigård
  • Asger Jul Rosendorf
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
Taking its point of departure in Jonas Salk’s question if we are being good ancestors, this thesis aims to investigate who We are as ancestors and how We, the inhabitants of the Anthropocene, can be conceptualised and defined through literature. By exploring Timothy Morton and Dominic Boyer’s terms transcendence, subscendence, hyper- and hyposubjectivity, and considering Morton’s theories Dark Ecology and Hyperobjects, we gain insight into who We are in the Anthropocene. While transcendence relates to exceeding one’s limits, subscendence relates to the opposite; going backwards and realising that everything is ontologically smaller than the sum of its parts. Moreover, hypersubjectivity relates to traits such as being deliberate, predatory, and unequipped to solve the environmental issues we face in the Anthropocene because it entails waiting until a solution is found, which consequently creates a loop of inactivity. Contrarily, hyposubjectivity entails being subscendent which connotes spontaneity and a trial-and-error approach. This way of navigating the world implies that people who embody these traits are ready to make mistakes and focus on what they want to achieve, thus, their actions are not halted by a need to have a plan.
As Morton and Boyer’s terms were developed in 2021, it has not yet been explored if they are applicable as analytical terms. Therefore, we employ the terms to challenge the concepts of the implied reader, narrator, implied author, plot and characterisation. More specifically, we utilise the terms in our analyses of Kurt Vonnegut’s Galápagos, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and David Michell’s Cloud Atlas to investigate how the novels conceptualise We in the Anthropocene as (ir)responsible ancestors. By approaching the novels in this manner, we discovered that the implied authors each illustrate how subscendence is needed to create a We that is not detrimental to the environment. Additionally, the implied authors demonstrate how transcendence leads to an inability to be part of a We. In Galápagos, the implied author employs the ghost Trout as a narrator who observes a small group of humans while they evolve into seal-like people. Because Trout adores the new version of humanity, he highlights how subscendence can positively affect the environment while transcendence is painted as insignificant in a broader perspective. Similarly, Oryx and Crake illustrates how hypersubjective behaviour has led to a dystopian society where neoliberalism is unregulated and where there is no opportunity to conceptualise a We. This behaviour also leads to the end of society and the human race as Crake annihilates humanity and proves himself a good ancestor to a different We than humans, which encompasses a harmonious relationship between the Crakers and the environment. The implied author employs Snowman to emphasise the satirical nature of hypersubjectivity as Snowman is forced to come to terms with the fact that he is unable to exercise his transcendence except in relation to the Crakers. However, the implied author of Cloud Atlas shows that hypersubjectivity is an intrinsic value of humanity that repeats throughout time and criticises it by illustrating how it leads to slavery. Nevertheless, the novel also shows that it is possible for a person with hypersubjective traits to subscend and shed the predatory selfishness in the pursuit of a better world for future generations. The implied author employs Adam Ewing as an example of this as he has a more empathic desire for transcendence. Conclusively, we argue that each novel criticises specific types of hypersubjectivity by either categorising them as insignificant, satirising them, or making them out to be the antagonists. Additionally, the novels each encourage a specific subscendent approach to the environment that conceptualises a We that is able to tackle the hyperobjects that threaten the existence of humanity in the Anthropocene. Finally, we argue that the novels illustrate that being a good ancestor requires a subscendent approach to avoid colonising time and removing agency from inheritors.
Publication date30 May 2022
Number of pages149
ID: 471669394