A Call for Planetary Kinship: The Development of New Forms of Subjectivity in Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation
Graduate Degree Type
Dr. Brian Deyo
Dr. Kathleen Blumreich
Dr. David Álvarez
Dr. Sherry Johnson
This thesis joins a vibrant conversation on the importance of storytelling in an age of climate change through an analysis of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, a strange and prophetic novel whose environments and characters are confronted with significant ecological devastation and transformation. It explores the ways in which VanderMeer opens liminal spaces between the human and nonhuman through his usage of the New Weird genre, uncanny and abcanny imagery, and monstrous characters.
In my first chapter, I will explore the emerging world of New Weird fiction and argue that this genre is uniquely suited to addressing climate change, namely because of its experiments with conventional notions of setting and character development. Rather than being clearly defined and bordered, settings and characters within New Weird fiction are blurry, shape-shifting, and permeable. My second chapter will then look at the kinds of images and creatures that are produced in VanderMeer’s Annihilation. I will use Freud’s concept of the uncanny and Noys’s and Murphy’s abcanny to analyze how VanderMeer opens readers up to a world in which the human and nonhuman connect in uncomfortable but opportunity-rich ways.
In my final chapter, I will turn to Annihilation’s main character, the biologist, whose transformation throughout the novel signals to readers what we must do to survive and thrive in an age of ecological devastation. Through a physical and psychological evolution, the biologist develops a kinship with the entire world, human and nonhuman, and becomes a part of Area X. Ultimately, I argue that Annihilation creates a new kind of human, or new kind of creature, who has the potential to recognize its connection to the rest of the natural world, making possible a healing of the wounds that threaten to obliterate so much life on this planet.
Kinne, Jennifer, "A Call for Planetary Kinship: The Development of New Forms of Subjectivity in Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation" (2023). Masters Theses. 1089.