Exploring the Thematic Shifts in Modern Poetry as a Response to Anthropocene: A Comparative Epistemological Study between American and Indian Ecopoetics

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Dipayan Dutta


Elements (earth, air, fire and water) are subjects of fascination in the ecocritical approach to contemporary American and Indian poetry, where a shift of thematic and poetic style is noticed to address the instances of increasing environmental crises; both in personal and global level. In this time of Anthropocene, a geological epoch caused by our anthropocentric worldview, there is a sharp call for us to be ethically responsible. In these poems, elements invite us to the imagination of possible futures against the background of climate emergency and techno-cultural transformations. An imagination of human-nonhuman enmeshment in the poetry of American and Indian authors could be a post-modern route to identify the self in light of the elements. This paper explores how, through thematic shifts, poets are addressing the binaries (human vs. non-human, now vs. then, self vs. other) to trigger an ethical concern among the readers. 

The objective of this paper is an interdisciplinary transfer of knowledge which leads to a deeper insight into the instances of elemental ecocriticism in contemporary American and Indian ecopoetry by Forest Gander, Juliana Spahr, Vihang A. Naik and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. This paper intends to place nature from the margin to the centre and in interrelation with human beings – while studying the testimonies diachronically. 

A comparative framework of contemporary (post-1980s) American and Indian poetry raises few key questions: how can ecopoetry be more vigorous and experimental to change conventional themes by pushing the boundaries of conventional ways of thinking to open new possibilities for us? How can contemporary ecopoetry rejuvenate experimental poetry to help us translate the other world into the other words and images?

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Literature facing the challenges of the Anthropocene