What is the relationship between literature and ecology? How does literature express, explore, and define our perceptions of the ways in which humans and animals are bound together in the world they inhabit? Anne Simon explains some insights from her research on animals and animality in twentieth and twenty-first century literature.
Beyond an anthropocentric literature | Anne Simon – Lucile Schmid | Green European Journal | 2018
Lucile Schmid: How do you think literature and ecology can inspire, or become interwoven with, one another?
Anne Simon: For a long time, a prevailing opinion in the West considered the world in its opposition or confrontation to the human subject – regarded as gifted with a language that would extricate it from nature. Thankfully, this assumption was countered or undermined by numerous authors who emphasised the intertwinement of humans with animals, plants, or nature in general: whether it be Montaigne, Rousseau the ‘solitary walker’, the Romantics, a figure of ethology in the field such as Jean-Henri Fabre in the 19th century, or writers and poets attuned to our ways of intermingling with the world, of course.
The term ‘ecology’ itself bears a first, very stimulating, answer. Indeed, it refers in its first part to ‘oikos’ – the habitat, the heritage, the household (through which, in Ancient Greece, numerous beings would have passed, not all of them human or not all citizens: dormice, rats, cats, women, children, slaves…), and in its second part to ‘logos’: discourse, knowledge. Thus, there is an ecological knowledge that can be carried, discovered or even invented by language – particularly if that language conjoins with the ‘mythos’, the fable or narrative.