Ben de Bruyn | Learning to Be a Species in the Anthropocene: On Annie Proulx’s Barkskins

Written by on December 7th, 2016 // Filed under 29.2 Perspectives on the Anthropocene

Abstract

This paper examines how contemporary literary fiction responds to the climate crisis and the attendant call for a seemingly universalist “species view” of human beings. What does it mean to think of the human as a species, how can we find traces of species being in literature, and how do they interact with other dimensions of human lives? To address these questions, the paper confronts recent accounts of historical context, animal characters, and capitalist time with Annie Proulx’s Barkskins (2016). As this confrontation shows, Proulx’s novel teaches its readers to be a species— without ignoring differences of race, class, and gender.