At the end of October, Jim Crace: Into the Wilderness, edited by Katy Shaw and Kate Aughterson, was published by Palgrave. It’s the first book focusing solely on Jim Crace’s novels, placing them in a broader context of philosophical, political and cultural debates. It includes essays on pastoral, gender and religion, and focuses on Crace’s entire oeuvre.
I contributed a chapter on ecocriticism and Crace’s early novels, specifically on The Gift of Stones, Signals of Distress and Being Dead. Rather than suggesting one overarching reading to these novels, I place them side-by-side with the development of ecocriticism as a field. I left the role of the pastoral out of my discussion, as two other chapters in the book (by Philip Tew and Deborah Lilley) explore this. Instead I focus on two developments in ecocriticism over the past decade or so.
The first of these is the turn to the global in ecocriticism, especially since the publication of Ursula Heise’s Sense of Place and Sense of Planet in 2008. The main concern here is especially representing global climate crisis, a topic not explicitly addressed in Crace’s early novels. In the chapter I show how the global — and global crisis — is nonetheless depicted through trade networks in Signals of Distress. I also read the shock of the Bronze Age in Gift of Stones as similar to the emergence of the Anthropocene.
The second development I explore in the chapter is that of econarratology, especially in relation to narrating the non-human. Here I focus on Being Dead, and especially the decentring of the human that takes place once the novel’s main characters are killed in the beginning.
The chapter shows that Crace’s novels provide a rich terrain for ecocritical analysis, even though they have received little ecocritical attention to date.