Collective Unconsciousness: Climate Change and Responsibility in Ian McEwan’s Solar

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    This paper makes links between issues of responsibility, climate change and contemporary literature, using Ian McEwan’s Solar as a case study. The paper addresses not only oversights in the existing critical responses to the novel, but identifies important insights that the novel can offer into a frontier of the politics of climate change: collective responsibility. Using and adapting Fredric Jameson’s theory of the ‘Political Unconscious’, the paper argues that many dominant conceptions about how to act on climate change (and other environmental problems) are based on patently outdated modes of political thought, especially those oriented around conceptions of individual responsibility. Using Jameson’s framework, this paper offers a way of reading beyond the failings of dominant modes of thinking to the anticipations of collective responsibility and action which exist in the margins of literary texts. By way of conclusion the paper offers some reflections on how an ecocriticism guided by such a reading strategy can inform the work of an experimental environmental activism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)18-35
    Number of pages18
    Issue number1
    Early online date18 Jan 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • climate change
    • ecocriticism
    • responsibility
    • environmental political theory


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