PJAS 15 Autumn-5

Anna Gilarek
Managing Fear in a Risk Society: Pretrauma and Extreme Future Scenarios in Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 15 (Autumn 2021), pp. 251-260

Abstract: An example of near-future climate fiction, Nathaniel Rich’s 2013 novel Odds Against Tomorrow envisions a catastrophic, global warming-related flooding of the New York City area. Despite the novel’s (post)apocalyptic focus, a large part of it can be in fact perceived as preapocalyptic, inasmuch as it explores people’s traumatic responses to potential future disasters, even before they actually happen. The aim of the article is to analyze the novel’s depiction of the culture of fear, which has permeated the modern society as a consequence of it becoming what Ulrich Beck famously termed a “risk society.” In a risk society, human industrial and technological activity produces a series of hazards, including global risks such as anthropogenic climate change. In the novel, Rich shows how financial capitalism commodifies these risks by capitalizing on people’s fears and their need for some degree of risk management. Finally, the paper looks at the text as a cli-fi novel and thus as a literary response to the pretrauma caused by environmental risks.

Keywords: climate fiction, climate change, risk society, the culture of fear

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.15/2/2021.05

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