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Risk Criticism

Precautionary Reading in an Age of Environmental Uncertainty

Molly Wallace

Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Imprint: University of Michigan Press
Published: 01/2016
Pages: 274
Subject: Nature - Environmental Conservation & Protection, Literary Criticism - Semiotics & Theory
Print ISBN: 9780472053025
eBook ISBN: 9780472900671


Risk Criticism is a study of literary and cultural responses to global environmental risk in an age of unfolding ecological catastrophe. In 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset its iconic Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight, as close to the apocalypse as it has been since 1953. What pushed its hands was not just the threat of nuclear weapons, but also other global environmental risks that the Bulletin judged to have risen to the scale of the nuclear, including climate change and innovations in the life sciences. If we may once have believed that the end of days would come in a blaze of nuclear firestorm, we now suspect that the apocalypse may be much slower, creeping in as chemical toxins, climate change, or nano-technologies run amok.

Taking inspiration from the questions raised by the Bulletin's synecdochical 'nuclear' Risk Criticism aims to generate a hybrid form of critical practice that brings 'nuclear criticism�' into conversation with ecocriticism. Through readings of novels, films, theater, poetry, visual art, websites, news reports, and essays, Risk Criticism tracks the diverse ways in which environmental risks are understood and represented today.


“Here we have a careful and astute reworking of nuclear criticism—brought thoughtfully together with contemporary ecocritical work and sociological theories of risk. The great achievement of this book is that Wallace invents and performs a kind of risk criticism appropriate to life in the twenty-first century; more than fabulously textual, this risk criticism is alive to the speculative, the fictive, the imaginative and the decidedly real predicaments of our second nuclear age.”
—Peter van Wyck, Concordia University