"The corpse you planted last year in your garden / has it begun to sprout?” : Environmental regeneration and recuperation after the apocalypse
Wong, Wen Pu
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Our contemporary environmental crisis is a result of global modernisation, industrialisation, and urbanisation, beginning first in Europe and America in the late 19th century to early 20th century, and somewhat later in the East. Often, modernist writers of both East and West, in noting the environmental costs of modernity, incorporate what we might today call deep ecological philosophy into their works. This thesis investigates such philosophy as we find in three modernist texts: Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace (2000), T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927). In studying the deep ecological philosophy of these three texts, this thesis hopes to show shared anxieties the three different modernisms have towards modernisation’s impact on the natural environment, as well as the hope these modernist works express for an ecological balance in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by modernity. This deep ecological read of the three texts would thus help us revise the traditional understanding of modernism as an exclusively European high-art movement of the early 20th century. After all, despite the very different contexts of their modernisation, a common theme of environmental ethics suggests the non-exceptionalism of Western modernism. Building on Susan Stanford Friedman’s idea that modernism is the art of modernisation and modernity, this thesis hopes to demonstrate that modernism is an international art movement with multiple temporalities and spatiality, not the insular art movement it has traditionally (and is still popularly) been viewed as.