Fantastical Imaginations of Environmental Truths: The Role of Fantasy Literature in the Ecocritical Debate
Stelt, G. van der
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Environmental threats have faced humanity for as long as we have been on this Earth. At the start of the previous century, industrialization was what worried most environmentalists, as climate change is what keeps these minds busy today. Though these ecological problems are analysed by biologists, physicists, mathematicians, and others in scientific research, literary studies contribute to this issue by interpreting texts in relation to the physical environment. This particular field of literary studies is called ecocriticism, and it attempts to abolish the distinction between humans and nature by prompting people to interpret nature as an equal with interests of its own. Though texts of non-fiction and literary fiction have played an important role in the development of ecocriticism, the genre of fantasy has so far often been overlooked by prominent theorists in the field. However, in this thesis I argue that fantasy literature is relevant to the field, as its authors incorporate ecological themes and narratives in their texts, whilst following certain literary ecocritical traditions. By looking at the literary tropes of the pastoral, wilderness and apocalypse in the canonical The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin, and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, I analyse in what manner the canonical fantasy literature of the past seventy years has participated in the literary ecocritical tradition. I also investigate which particular environmental threats were of interest during these authors’ times, and what their contribution to environmental consciousness has, or may have, been. These analyses ultimately highlight why fantasy literature should be considered in ecocritical discourse.