Climate Trauma: Foreseeing the Future in Dystopian Film and Fiction

Climate Trauma: Foreseeing the Future in Dystopian Film and Fiction

by E. Ann Kaplan


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Each month brings new scientific findings that demonstrate the ways in which human activities, from resource extraction to carbon emissions, are doing unprecedented, perhaps irreparable damage to our world. As we hear these climate change reports and their predictions for the future of Earth, many of us feel a sickening sense of déjà vu, as though we have already seen the sad outcome to this story.
Drawing from recent scholarship that analyzes climate change as a form of “slow violence” that humans are inflicting on the environment, Climate Trauma theorizes that such violence is accompanied by its own psychological condition, what its author terms “Pretraumatic Stress Disorder.” Examining a variety of films that imagine a dystopian future, renowned media scholar E. Ann Kaplan considers how the increasing ubiquity of these works has exacerbated our sense of impending dread. But she also explores ways these films might help us productively engage with our anxieties, giving us a seemingly prophetic glimpse of the terrifying future selves we might still work to avoid becoming. 
Examining dystopian classics like Soylent Green alongside more recent examples like The Book of Eli, Climate Trauma also stretches the limits of the genre to include features such as Blindness, The Happening, Take Shelter, and a number of documentaries on climate change. These eclectic texts allow Kaplan to outline the typical blind-spots of the genre, which rarely depicts climate catastrophe from the vantage point of women or minorities. Lucidly synthesizing cutting-edge research in media studies, psychoanalytic theory, and environmental science, Climate Trauma provides us with the tools we need to extract something useful from our nightmares of a catastrophic future.    

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813563992
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 12/25/2015
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

E. ANN KAPLAN is a distinguished professor of English and Cultural Analysis and Theory at Stony Brook University, where she also founded and directed the Humanities Institute. The past president of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, she is also the author and editor of over a dozen books, including Trauma and Cinema and Trauma Culture (Rutgers University Press).

Table of Contents

Prologue: Climate Trauma and Hurricane Sandy
Introduction: Pretrauma Imaginaries: Theoretical Frames
1          Trauma Studies Moving Forward: Genre and Pretrauma Cinema
2          Pretrauma Climate Scenarios: Take Shelter, The Happening, and The Road
3          Pretrauma Political Thrillers: Children of Men (with reference to Soylent Green and The Handmaid’s Tale)
4          Memory and Future Selves in Pretrauma Fantasies: The Road and The Book of Eli
5          Microcosm: Politics and the Body in Distress in Blindness and The Book of Eli
6          “Getting Real”: Traumatic Climate Documentaries: Into Eternity and Manufactured Landscapes
Afterword: Humans and Eco- (or is it Sui-?) Cide

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