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Global Literature and the Environment

Whittle, Matthew; Munslow Ong, Jade


Matthew Whittle


Global Literature and the Environment analyses literatures from across the world that connect readers to the localized impacts of the climate and ecological emergencies. The book contextualizes ecological breakdown within the history of imperialist-capitalism, exploring how literature helps us to imagine and create a habitable and just world for all forms of life.

The four chapters are organised according to the elements of the climate system that are at risk. ‘Earth’ examines Caribbean, American, South African, and British literatures that explore how dominant human groups have exploited soils, minerals, metals, and oil in pursuit of economic aims. ‘Water’ engages with poetic representations of, and responses to, extraction, pollution, and global warming in the fresh- and saltwaters of Nigeria and the icescapes of Alaska. ‘Air’ analyses prose and poetry that depicts atmospheric pollution caused by gas flaring in the Niger Delta and the production of pesticides in India. ‘Life’ attends to the ways in which literature contextualizes the drivers of, and proposed solutions to, mass species extinction across North America, Africa, Australasia, and Aotearoa New Zealand.

This accessible and engaging book explores novels, plays and poetry by writers including Octavia Butler, C.L.R. James, dg nanouk okpik, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Imbolo Mbue, Indra Sinha, Witi Ihimaera, J.M. Coetzee, and Henrietta Rose-Innes, amongst many others. It introduces readers to the concept of the Anthropocene alongside perspectives that challenge the assumption that the climate crisis is caused by an undifferentiated humanity. In doing so, the book draws on, and combines, a range of theoretical approaches, including postcolonialism, Indigenous studies, ecocriticism, cultural materialism, and animal studies.


"Global Literature and the Environment is a valuable addition to a growing body of scholarship on the role literature and literary criticism might play in addressing the major environmental challenges of our times. Covering a suitably wide range of literary works and provocatively insisting on the instrumentality rather than singularity of literature, the authors adopt a nuanced eco-materialist approach that avoids the rhetorical excesses of elemental ecocriticism (and other versions of new materialism) and the ideological pieties of world-ecology (and other versions of eco-Marxism). Though it might ruffle a few feathers along the way, the book should appeal to postcolonial and environmental humanities scholars alike, and to all those committed to the continuing pursuit of social and ecological justice in an unevenly developed world." - Graham Huggan, Professor of Postcolonial and Commonwealth Literatures, Leeds, UK. Co-author of Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment

"Matthew Whittle's and Jade Munslow Ong's Global Literature and the Environment spans continents in terms of the diverse materialities of soil, oil, ice, air, and life and yet the book brings them together in a brilliant array of textual analyses featuring environmental justice and ecological devastation.

The selection of authors and genres is impressive; the literary insights formidable. I highly recommend this book to anyone working or studying in the environmental humanities, comparative literature, Anglophone literature, and environmental justice studies. The book is informative, well-written, beautifully researched, and a significant contribution to our global understanding of the Anthropocene. It is also eminently readable even as it portrays the sheer brutality of extractivist cultures to our planet and its peoples." - Heather I. Sullivan, Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Trinity University, US


Whittle, M., & Munslow Ong, J. (in press). Global Literature and the Environment. London and New York: Routledge

Book Type Monograph
Acceptance Date May 13, 2024
Online Publication Date Aug 2, 2024
Deposit Date Jun 29, 2024
Publisher Routledge
Series Title Global Literature: Twenty-First-Century Perspectives
Series Number 1
ISBN 9780367373689
Publisher URL