Entangled Worlds: Subjectivity and Ethics in Jorie Graham's Ecological Poetics

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0003-2362-5700
Lenkei, Alex, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Kuhn, Mary, Department of English, University of Virginia

In the past two decades, contemporary nature poetry has increasingly abandoned traditional representations of nature, instead privileging the complex and often messy entanglements that characterize our climate change era. Jorie Graham’s 2008 poetry collection, Sea Change, stands out among this group for its depiction of the material and affective relations between human and nonhuman life in a time of profound ecological crisis. This thesis argues that Sea Change draws on new materialist concepts to articulate a posthuman or more-than-human subjectivity and ethics for the Anthropocene, a relational mode of being oriented towards principles of non-mastery. Departing from more radical formulations of ecological poetry that would attempt to eliminate the human subject and voice altogether, Graham’s work balances her concern for the “in- / dispensable plankton” with the lyric intimacy and minutiae of human life. In doing so, Sea Change enlivens the theoretical debates surrounding subjectivity and ethics in the Anthropocene, helping us to imagine how we, Graham’s readers, might begin to exhibit these selves in our everyday life.

MA (Master of Arts)
climate change, Anthropocene, new materialism, ecopoetics, Jorie Graham, subjectivity, ethics
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