Hannes Bergthaller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Citations (Scopus)


Humans are the first species to be conscious of their own transforming of the Earth system. This has entailed a paradoxical doubling of the human into anthropos (humanity as a blind geological force) and homo (humans as self-conscious, rational actors). Anthropocene stories pivot on anagnorisis - moments of self-recognition in which homo and anthropos become identified with each other. In most Anthropocene stories, humans attempt to resolve this paradox either by wielding geological power consciously or by renouncing mastery and receding into earthly forces. This chapter examines how Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy seeks to keep the underlying paradox in suspension. Humans are confronted with an alien entity which embodies the geological force of anthropos, but they seek, nonetheless, to make sense of their fate. The novels thus reflect on a central task of literary writing in the Anthropocene: how to (re-)compose the human.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781108683111
ISBN (Print)9781108498531
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jan 1


  • anthropos
  • eco-modernism
  • Homo
  • Jeff Vandermeer
  • posthumanism
  • Southern Reach trilogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Social Sciences


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