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As cities are overcrowded and unsustainable places with no food production and no means for self-sufficiency, cinematographic and literary responses to civilizational collapse are similar: we need to go back to nature. In many works of classical, medieval, and Renaissance literature, idyllic nature was depicted as a place in which to rest, to fall in love, to find everything we need to survive.
Centuries and even millenniums before cities became the sprawling, crowded, and polluted places we inhabit now, many authors such as Virgil, Dante, Boccaccio, and Shakespeare turned their gaze to nearby nature to find peace and comfort. There were also some exceptions such as Ovid, who in his Metamorphoses presents nature as being full of menace and violent encounters. Due to deforestation, freshwater pollution, biodiversity loss, soil impoverishment, and many other current ecological problems, Mother Nature is no longer the caring mother she used to be.
We are extremely dependent on fossil fuels, computer science, and urban conveniences. This is a recurrent feature of the literature of collapse, in which other humans represent an additional threat The Road, The Children of Men , if not the principal threat itself World War Z. Another constant of post collapse literature is the betrayal or absence of institutions. In apocalyptic times there is no army, state, or leader that can save us.
It also has to do with living in a post carbon society and all its associated disadvantages and inconveniences for the humans we are now. The characters in this tale suffer with thoughts of a highly uncertain future in which they do not know if they will be persecuted, hunted, dispossessed of their few possessions. We all know that. Jeto jasno vsem. After her suicide, her mother, a barely delineated figure who appears only briefly in the narration, also seems close to dying of starvation.
Nonetheless, everyone in the village has an apparently matter-of-fact attitude to the imminent possibility of dying, only a few words from our naive narrator make us realize the situation: "Everything becomes complicated when it comes to surviving in times like these! Surviving Therefore, as previously mentioned, suffering in this tale is directly related to surviving, which in turn requires following certain rules.
Within this context the garden becomes a haven for survival amidst the larger wasteland. The moral of the story is that if we hope to survive in a civilizational collapse there are some ethical-practical rules that we must follow. These rules emerge as a sort of unwritten Decalogue as proposed by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya: 1.
You shall trust and help other survivors. Never: everybody against everybody else. In this tale, collaboration is the basis for survival. Survivors trade, share knowledge, help each other and, eventually, join forces to survive. However, in the case of this tale every moral indifference and psychological or physical isolation leads to destruction.
You shall not turn your back on the weak. In our tale, the weak are the children and the old ladies, but especially the children. The family at the center of the story has nothing and gives everything. As is commonly believed, a civilized society is judged very much by the way it treats its weakest members, namely children, the handicapped, the elderly, etc.
Even in the small society of the tiny village beyond the River Moria, it functions as an ethical rule that we must follow. You shall not take advantage of the weak. In our tale, survival does not get on well with moral corruption. The main characters do not take advantage of old Marfutka, despite not seeing her as a human being; they maintain their integrity and try to help her. This moral integrity, as we said, is common to every behavior of the family throughout the tale.
The idea of interdependence between survivors that they adopt during the tale can also be interpreted as a call for interdependence between all living beings; interdependence that is the basis for the survival of ecosystems and indeed was for ages the basis for our survival as a human race. Furthermore, the family shares its struggles for survival with some non- human companions such as a dog, a cat and some goats, companions that also play a very important role in surviving. Be a team family as a team.
Here, family should be understood in a broad sense, namely those with whom you survive when you need to, regardless of the degree of consanguinity. Hence, family extends to babushka Anisya and the two orphan children. However, this is not present during the struggle for survival in the village where there is greater intergenerational solidarity. You shall try to gather folk knowledge that young urban people have lost. As we have seen, the locus non amoenus has to do with environmental crisis but also with a crisis of values.
In modern urban societies we have lost our connection with nature. Most people lack even the most basic knowledge about where their food comes from. We spend most of our time in artificial environments and have no real contact with trees or animals besides through the screen of our mobile phone. We are extremely dependent on fossil fuels.
But in a post carbon society we desperately need this folk knowledge to survive. We need to recover this connection to nature because as humans we are ecodependent. You shall never surrender. As in our tale, in times of collapse, if you surrender you are dead. The inhabitants of the locus non amoenus are exposed to multiple dangers, and their survival depends on their adaptation skills, their resilience and willpower. They must develop strong self-confidence and be undeterred.
In an act of ecomimetics, survivors engage in frantic activity during the spring and summer months, preparing themselves for winter. In fact, the rhythm of the whole tale is frantic; six months fly past in around words. You shall seek your own redemption in times of collapse. In contemporary societies there seems to be no happiness beyond modern urban environments; it is difficult to believe that redemption or even happiness can be found anywhere else.
However, our main characters are capable of finding themselves in times of crisis, especially the father. Collapse offers them a certain freedom of choice and provides the opportunity to deploy all their potential and develop new capabilities. You shall plan ahead. The only way to escape the collapse is through prevention, but unfortunately this concept is absent in our societies: the latest economic crises were unexpected, the current environmental crisis is denied by some, while many others simply prefer to ignore the consequences of how depleting natural resources are currently exploited.
However, the father and the mother in this tale behave differently, prepare themselves in the city for the coming collapse, and keep using foresight during the time in the village, because this is what surviving in a natural environment demands. You shall be capable of renouncing material goods. Clinging to material possessions leads to destruction; this is a very clear message in post collapse literature. As when in a house on fire, in times of collapse you shall not gather up any possessions but just run for your life.
This is very difficult to do in mass consumption societies where our possessions define not only our status but even our own identity. In this tale we have a very clear example in the contrast between parents and grandparents. The narrator states that her grandparents are dead because they remained in the city clinging onto their apartment, a constant in communist and postcommunist literature where apartments are scarce and large flats a luxury.
We never actually lived in it, and now, probably, my grandparents were already dead. Nam v nej ne privelos' zhit', a teper', navernoe, moi babushka i dedushka byli uzhe trupami. You shall not trust authorities. In post collapse literature and films, old or even brand new authorities are never trustworthy. In this tale there are a few signs of this, as usual nothing too explicit, but solid enough to reach such a conclusion.
In our tale authorities will not help our family because every office is already closed, and will even try to misinform over the airwaves. Moreover, we cannot be sure if authorities are not those Others who persecute the family in the village. Furthermore, it seems very important to keep watch over governments and the powers to be.
It takes place outside the boundaries of a city with its small crowded apartments, and far from the intimacy of a dysfunctional family. Although this does not make the story any less distressing, this new scenario does offer a glimpse of hope related to the capacity of human beings to overcome difficulties and work together for survival.
It belongs to the dystopian trend in postmodernist Russian writing. The narrative style of the author is cold, lacking in details, with a practically Impressionist structure that allows the reader to reflect on and interpret events in her own way. Likewise, the open ending and the limited information provided perform the same function of suggesting without showing and allow the reader to speculate.
A naive narrator who interprets reality in her own way, without drama, filters the terrible events. The story, originally published in , now acquires even greater relevance in the current context of environmental and social crisis. It has much in common with other works of collapse literature: escape to the country and repeasantization, the failure or even the betrayal of institutions, the Other as a potential enemy or competitor, a lack of knowledge for recovering the lost connection with Nature.
We are reminded that in times of collapse, cities will be uninhabitable, but that nature is no longer the welcoming space it once was. The locus non amoenus is presented as an inevitable context, an environment in which we will have to fight for our survival.
Suffering is therefore related to uncertainty, to fear of hardship, to the prospect of almost certain future starvation, and finally to the lack of means and knowledge required to fight for the survival of a civilization the same one as ours that preserves life in many artificial ways. Also, the locus non amoenus is a testing ground where members of the intelligentsia can prove themselves and find redemption, but only on the condition of renouncing the vanity of earthly possessions.
In spite of the suffering, hardship and fear, the author gives us a set of ethical guidelines to survive in a hostile environment, in a post apocalyptic landscape which is one of the fears of twenty-first century humanity. Post carbon societies are the new Godzilla, the new zombie attack, the new nuclear apocalypse, in the contemporary compendium of fears. These guidelines can be summarized in an unwritten list that the author allows us to deduce from the successful steps the survivors are taking and also from their manifest mistakes.
Beneath the form of an adventure lies a profound ethical lesson, albeit perhaps unintentional, because although the author frequently adopts a critical perspective in her work, the same cannot be said of her tendency to offer an ethical message beyond moral satire. It also reminds us that individuals of societies of abundance are not more supportive because of their enjoyment of material goods; on the contrary, in this story there is a very clear contrast.
On one hand we have the wealthy grandparents with their opulent apartment who are unwilling to share it with their son and who have failed to survive the collapse, while on the other hand our poor family and their associates live in their tiny hut yet manage to survive.
In fact, the basis of survival is collaboration and solidarity; something that should be remembered in our extremely individualistic societies characterized by mass consumption and obsession with economic growth. We should pay careful attention to this Decalogue if we aim to preserve any form of society in the future.
Points 1 to 3 state that we should move towards more collaborative societies, where social protection of the weak should take precedence. More highly evolved and supportive societies should be the basis for our future survival: societies that are at peace with the planet; societies where mass consumption of goods will not be the core of mainstream ideology; societies of prosperous degrowth, as Sergue Latouche states ; and societies that nurture different values such as friendship and knowledge sharing, biomimetics, interdependence, and ecodependence Riechmann, , recognizing our real needs Max Neef, as the Decalogue states in points 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9.
Point 5 states that intergenerational cooperation is indispensable. In modern western urban societies, little or no attention is paid to the knowledge, participation and contribution of elderly people. Also, we are losing sight of rural wisdom and the importance of living in harmony with nature. Because our system is fragile, we need to recover this knowledge for more resilient future societies.
Finally, as point 10 states, if we cannot trust authorities, we should build more participatory power structures and combat authoritarian and violent governments, and eventually evolve into self- governing small societies, as proposed by Gordon among other authors. Note: All passages from The New Robinson Crusoes that appear here were translated directly from the original Russian by the author of this paper. References Brooks, M. New York: Three Rivers Press. Clowes, E. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 36 2 , Ludic nonchalance or ludicrous despair?
Viktor Pelevin and Russian postmodernist prose. The Slavonic and East European Review, 75 2 , Dostoyevsky, F. Memoirs from the House of the Dead. Dovlatov, S. The Suitcase. Albelda, J. Gordon, U. Revista de Pensamiento Libertario, 3 , Goscilo, H. Bloomington: Indiana UP.
Grekova, I. Escritoras rusas. Barcelona: Icaria. Guelasimov, A. Thirst Marian Schwartz Trans. Amazon Crossing. James, P. The Children of Men. New York: Vintage Books. Latouche, S. Icaria: Barcelona. Lipovetsky, M. Russian Postmodernist Fiction: Dialogue with Chaos. New York: Armonk. Max-Neef, M. Desarrollo a escala humana. McCarthy, C.
The Road. Mumford, L. Parts, L. Down the intertextual lane: Petrushevskaia, Chekhov, Tolstoy. The Russian Review, 64 1 , Petrushevskaya, L. Northwestern University Press. Riechmann, J. Madrid: La Catarata Shalamov, V. Kolyma tales John Glad Trans. Slavnikova, O.
Petrushevskaia and Emptiness. Russian Studies in Literature, 37 2 , Ethics and Literature. Sorokin, V. Day of the Oprichnik Jamey Gambrel Trans. Starobinets, A. The Living James Rann Trans. Hesperus Press Ltd. Sutcliffe, B. Vanchu, A. World Literature Today, 67 1 , Woll, J. Despite an increasing body of work produced in ecocritical studies, I argue that a viable ecopedagogy must take into account the structural and ethical impingements of neoliberal academic policies.
While scientific illiteracy in the country is not a new phenomenon, the consequences are increasingly profound and far-reaching— indeed, global. According to Dan Kahan of Yale University, a larger demographic of the public is capable of grasping scientific theories, but there is a strong tendency among many to use scientific knowledge selectively to support their own entrenched beliefs Achenbach, , p. In our current age, an age in which nature is now compromised by human interventions and the future of the planet is at risk, the most pressing task for environmentally conscious educators is not just to impart scientific knowledge, but to discover new modes through which we may communicate persuasively with those outside of our tribe.
As we are confronted with multiple ecological crises: pollution, the rise of endangered animals, climate change, and deforestation, to name just a few, the need for an earth-based pedagogy becomes ever more critical. As David Orr posits, knowledge about nature has declined significantly in the last few decades, and an education relevant to issues of sustainability requires first a radical re-alignment of values, as well as a re-structuring and re-imagining of higher education.
Orr calls for sweeping change: the integration and promotion of ecological thinking across disciplines so that ecology comprises an ethos or principle of education, rather than just a field unto its own. However, according to Orr , in a neoliberal era when university administrations have become increasingly conservative, experimentation in curricula is viewed as both risky and costly p.
Neoliberalism is marked by its principles of deregulation, commodification, and privatization, as well as its privileging of market needs over social policies. It has infected mainstream education in the US, which often sidesteps or undermines forms of ecological knowledge.
In cutting across disciplinary lines and promoting diverse approaches to scholarship, the ecological humanities are well-suited to confront the science communication problem through aesthetic and cultural resources. There are advantages to teaching and studying both the sciences and the humanities in tandem.
Just as the environment can provide the means for enlarging the scope of the humanities beyond the human, so too can the humanities contribute to the understanding of the environmental crisis and move students to action. As a writing and literature instructor, I will focus on the role of the literary arts as especially powerful resources for ecological studies and I will offer my own lessons and interventions in an ecopoetic and ecocritical context.
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I'm just a listener among them. Since the late th her plays, stories and novels have been published in more than 30 languages. The collection of stories has been well reviewed, buttressing Petrushevskaya's reputation in the English-speaking world.
An article in Dissent called the collection "a striking introduction to the author's work": "Petrushevskaya's stories could easily be read as bleak grotesques, populated by envious neighbors, selfish adolescents, and parents who overcompensate with exaggerated love.
But ultimately, Petrushevskaya's skillful juxtapositions yield glints of light. Resilience and ingenuity thread through the hardship, whether in the form of forgiveness or love. Such traces of humanity are starker-and brighter-because of the darkness that surrounds them. In her late 60s, Petrushevskaya started a singing career, creating new lyrics for her favorite songs. Following Gorbachev -era governmental reforms, she began to publish novels and short stories that she had previously kept to herself.
With her first collection of stories, Immortal Love, she "became a household name virtually overnight," and published in Novy Mir as she had not been able to only a couple of decades earlier. Since the late s her plays, stories and novels have been published in more than 30 languages, and she has earned a number of accolades.
The collection of stories has been well reviewed, buttressing Petrushevskaya's reputation in the English-speaking world. An article in Dissent called the collection "a striking introduction to the author's work": "Petrushevskaya's stories could easily be read as bleak grotesques, populated by envious neighbors, selfish adolescents, and parents who overcompensate with exaggerated love. But ultimately, Petrushevskaya's skillful juxtapositions yield glints of light.
Resilience and ingenuity thread through the hardship, whether in the form of forgiveness or love. Such traces of humanity are starker—and brighter—because of the darkness that surrounds them. They're extraordinarily talented storytellers.
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