Materiality, Responsibility and Anthropocene Thought in Robert Macfarlane’s and Kathleen Jamie’s Nature Writing


  • Iris Zechner PhD student



Anthropocene, New Nature Writing, ecocriticism, new materialisms, environmental ethics


The concept of the Anthropocene, denoting humans as geological agents, severely complicates traditional Western distinctions between culture and nature, the human and the nonhuman world. Contrary to anthropocentric accounts, the new materialisms have established a post-humanist reading of the Anthropocene that destabilises such dichotomies, placing human beings on par with the world they encounter. This approach can also be found in the New Nature Writing (NNW), a body of creative nonfiction that seeks to reconnect the “human animal” to nature, with the ever-open question of the nature of nature itself. A reading of Robert Macfarlane’s work with a focus on his recent Underland shows the ways in which the growing awareness of the Anthropocene has influenced contemporary nature writing, allowing Macfarlane to establish a non-anthropocentric perspective following the new materialisms. While likewise adopting a new materialist stance, Kathleen Jamie’s collections of naturalist essays nevertheless question the implications of this ontological framework, in particular with regard to ethics and human responsibility in times of the Anthropocene.



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Author Biography

Iris Zechner, PhD student

Iris Zechner is a PhD student at the University of Graz. She studied psychology and English and American Studies at the University of Graz and the Manchester Metropolitan University, followed by a degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Manchester. Her dissertation-in-progress belongs to the field of ecocriticism, with a focus on New Nature Writing.