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Risk Criticism

Precautionary Reading in an Age of Environmental Uncertainty

Subjects: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies, Modern Literature, Nature/Environment, Environmental Studies
Hardcover : 9780472073023, 274 pages, 8 illustrations, 6 x 9, May 2016
Open Access : 9780472900671, 274 pages, 8 illustrations, May 2016
Paperback : 9780472053025, 274 pages, 8 illustrations, 6 x 9, May 2016

This open access version made available with the support of libraries participating in Knowledge Unlatched.
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Novels, films, theater, poetry, visual art, websites, news reports, and essays give context to environmental risk


Risk Criticism is a study of literary and cultural responses to global environmental risk in an age of unfolding ecological catastrophe. In 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset its iconic Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight, as close to the apocalypse as it has been since 1953. What pushed its hands was not just the threat of nuclear weapons, but also other global environmental risks that the Bulletin judged to have risen to the scale of the nuclear, including climate change and innovations in the life sciences. If we may once have believed that the end of days would come in a blaze of nuclear firestorm, we now suspect that the apocalypse may be much slower, creeping in as chemical toxins, climate change, or nano-technologies run amok.

Taking inspiration from the questions raised by the Bulletin’s synecdochical “nuclear,” Risk Criticism aims to generate a hybrid form of critical practice that brings “nuclear criticism” into conversation with ecocriticism. Through readings of novels, films, theater, poetry, visual art, websites, news reports, and essays, Risk Criticism tracks the diverse ways in which environmental risks are understood and represented today.

Molly Wallace is Associate Professor of English at Queen’s University. She obtained her PhD from the University of Washington.

“This is an important book, one that will be of interest to students of contemporary literature and culture generally and to eco-criticism and eco-theory particularly. It is impressively steeped in eco-critical scholarship and theory, advances knowledge in the environmental humanities, and exposes readers to absorbing, intelligent discussions of a variety of texts.”
—Fred Buell, Queen’s College, CUNY

Risk Criticism exemplifies the environmental humanities at their eclectic best: consequential, worldly, and infused with an interdisciplinary vitality.”
—Rob Nixon, Princeton University

Winner: American Library Association (ALA) 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

- ALA Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Winner: Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC) 2018 Alanna Bondar Memorial Book Prize

- ALECC Alanna Bondar Memorial Book Prize