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Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. FictionEnvironment and Affect$
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Heather Houser

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165143

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165143.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

Richard Powers’s Strange Wonder

Richard Powers’s Strange Wonder

(p.77) 3. Richard Powers’s Strange Wonder
Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S. Fiction

Heather Houser

Columbia University Press

Through Richard Powers's The Gold Bug Variations (1991) and The Echo Maker (2006), this chapter examines wonder, an affect related to intellection that is essential to inspiring medical and environmental inquiry. Nature writers have turned to wonder to spark ecological awareness as a first step to promoting environmental care. Informed by new scientific paradigms, however, contemporary fiction rethinks the trajectories of wonder. The oscillation between familiarity and strangeness is the connection between the novel's two narratives as it defines the workings of cognition and of environmental awakening. This oscillation is also the generator of wonder itself. Toggling between a series of binaries, however, the text reveals that wonder can tip over into projection and paranoia, relations that divert energies away from ethical involvement. Ultimately, Powers's ecosickness fiction is a rejoinder to common places about connection and care found in environmental thought.

Keywords:   Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations, The Echo Maker, wonder, nature writers, environmental care, ecosickness fiction

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