This paper considers how ecoWeird texts frequently position an abandonment of anthropocentric thought alongside a transcendence of the physical body. A new generic term to encompass the corpus of ecologically-minded Weird fiction, the ecoWeird draws upon Timothy Morton’s theory of dark ecology in order to argue that the Weird historically dismantles the human/nonhuman binary. This paper considers three texts: The Great God Pan (1894) by Arthur Machen, The Man Whom the Trees Loved (1912) by Algernon Blackwood and Annihilation (2014) by Jeff VanderMeer.
As the human characters of these texts become spiritually attuned to human/nonhuman interconnectedness, and the limits of anthropocentric thought, they transcend the corporeal. In The Great God Pan this transcendence manifests as a string of suicides and a dissolving of traditional human anatomy; in The Man Whom the Trees Loved, a surrendering to hybridising with the nonhuman; and in Annihilation, a becoming one with landscape. Each of these transcendences is destructive, often involving physical death, yet are positioned as an understanding of a greater truth. This paper draws from this consideration that within ecoWeird fiction, the human body is presented as equally limiting as an anthropocentric mind. As one is abandoned, the other must be abandoned with it.
Employing Morton’s dark ecological theory alongside primary source material, this paper endeavours to highlight the frequent correlation within the Weird between transcending anthropocentrism and transcending the corporeal. In doing so, it hopes to further reframe the Weird tale from the cosmic to the natural.
About the speaker
Michael Wheatley is an MA student in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. His PhD, ‘EcoWeird: An Ecocritical Re-evaluation of Weird Fiction’, will reconsider the Weird as an ecological mode. His debut collection of short stories, The Writers’ Block, is published by Black Pear Press.