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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An elegy on species obituaries
by Storm, Stinne, M.S., The University of Utah, 2015, 136; 10001004
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis explores “the sixth extinction,” as a contemporary poetic of loss. Animals and their voices are interpreted as “a language of loss.” It portrays decrease in biodiversity, contemporary environmental circumstances, and the mass dying out of species as the elegies of our time. It draws on ecological science as well as literary and contemporary art references.

Death is a taboo in Western societies even though loss and pain are a part of existing and are linked to beauty and happiness. This thesis is about the quality of mourning that enables us to bear witness beyond our own baselines. Homer may be distant, but the vitality of narrating mourning, positioning of human among nonhuman, seems a suitable literary reference to make a leap into our bleak future, while searching for and insisting on beauty.

We lack a language that pronounces the contemporary environmental depth and fault lines: disunity. Consequences of environmental fragmentation inflict unprecedented cultural fragmentation, and are perceived as irreconcilable. In addressing macro ecology, I pay homage to other ways of speaking; setting out to test Hélène Cixous’ motion for “a language that heals more than it separates.”

The chapters are comprised of bilingual prose poetry, echoing an interbreeding of language, exploring possibilities in our human behavior for practicing a radical being. They address chronological references we rely on to create or “describe” a sense of meaning to our doings, in a broader sense working with the issues of the Cartesian split, voices to which we ascribe many of our environmental faults and failures.

American indigenous storytelling is used as inspiration for nonlinear narratives. Walter Benjamin’s “mystic of language” also inspired this work. Parts of Benjamin’s writing on mimetic behavior are applied to various time-issues within the environmental crisis, embodying a perception of what mass extinction will entail, through representative animal figures, able to shape-shift and embody mourning.

The handbook mimics the concept of a special language of obituaries, aiming to pay homage to the thinking of Martin Heidegger’s “thingness” as well as Ludwig Wittgenstein and Walter Benjamin’s discussions of the naming of things: the innate power of the relation between objects and their given names.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tatum, Stephen
Commitee: Clark, Brett, Williams, Terry Tempest
School: The University of Utah
Department: College of Humanities
School Location: United States -- Utah
Source: MAI 55/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Creative writing
Keywords: Bilingual prose, Climate change, Environmental humanities, Indigenous storytelling, Poetry, The sixth extinction
Publication Number: 10001004
ISBN: 978-1-339-41263-4
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