Date of Graduation

8-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Robin Roberts

Committee Member

Keith Booker

Second Committee Member

Lisa Hinrichsen

Keywords

California, Ecofeminism, Queer ecologies, Science fiction

Abstract

Climate change is the consequence of ideologies that promote human reproduction and resource consumption by sacrificing human justice, nonhuman species, and the land. Both biology and queer ecologies resist this notion of human separation and supremacy by showing that no body is a singular, impermeable entity, that all beings are biologically and inexorably connected. My dissertation demonstrates that fiction writers use this knowledge to locate a utopian vision that can counteract the dystopian impotence of living within climate change. This argument is founded on novels written by women and set in California, a state that uniquely inhabits a utopian and dystopian place in the American cultural imagination. Early ecofeminist utopias depict environmentally sustainable and socially egalitarian communities that arise after apocalypse, but they are ultimately modeled on pastoral and primitivist idealizations of Indigenous societies. Contemporary dystopias reject the early model to show that pastoral fantasies are impossible in a world that has been so altered by climate change. By embracing queer ecologies to empathize more deeply with the rest of the world, characters in novels by Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin give readers a way to reconceptualize methods of ecological justice that could combat climate change. These visions of a queer ecological utopia respond to the ideological stagnation caused by climate change to provide an innovative environmental ethic that could guide humanity into surviving responsibly within and alongside the world.

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