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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Professor Timothy Clark

Clark, Timothy. (2008). Towards a Deconstructive Environmental Criticism. Oxford Literary Review 30(1): 44-68.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper outlines a deconstructive environmental criticism, drawing on but also critical of the thinking of Jacques Derrida. Environmental issues enact a disrupt categories of private and public in a way even Derrida did not anticipate. The paper blends arguments on the lack of political representation of future generations, understood as victims of current policies and of practices long well understood to be their ruin; David Wood's deconstructive account of the basic thought structures of the West as enacting a simultaneous disavowal of and dependence on "externality" (but now, "there is outside,, no space for expansion, no more terra nullius .. no 'out' or 'way' as when we thrown something 'out' or ;'way'); and finally, bringing these issues together, a reading of a text by the London short story writer Will Self, "Waiting," which is in part on the issue of traffic congestion and the psychic collapse it induces in its main protagonist, Jim Stonehouse. Self’s exercise in the fantastic, and other texts in his same collection, are read as enacting the impersonal dynamic of the mass urban environment as an all-encompassing and devouring disavowal of externality, an nonhuman agency for which individual characters and plot-lines are merely epiphenomenal. In "Waiting" this finds form in the issue of traffic congestion, in Jim’s waiting for the millennium , and in self-destruction and breakdown of the motorist psyche, read as a striking and ubiquitous incarnation of neo-liberal subjectivity in its selfish and incoherent fantasies of personal sovereignty.

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