What resources can literature from the past offer when confronting the urgent present-moment reality of climate crisis? What function should the humanities classroom serve when the future of human life seems increasingly precarious? Anne Raine’s post, “Modernism, Eco-anxiety, and the Climate Crisis,” helped catalyze these questions for me by challenging us “to find ways to make climate change our job.” I’ve been trying to figure out how to meet this challenge in a course I’m teaching on literature and climate justice.
Realism is a famously tricky term. In literary studies it can denote a genre, an (anti-)aesthetic, a narrative mode, a philosophical literary attitude, or any combination thereof.
As this cluster considers not only representations of modernist wartime, but also how wartime shapes historiography and periodization more broadly, my essay moves beyond modernism proper to examine how Kazuo Ishiguro’s contemporary novel When We Were Orphans (2000) is—if only weakly—about modernist war.