"The Turn to Dystopia in Contemporary Literature," Palgrave Handbook of Utopian and Dystopian Literature. Ed. Peter Marks, Fatima Vieira and Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor. London: Palgrave MacMillan (forthcoming).

 

After enjoying great success and spawning many proposals for perfect societies, utopian thought has declined from the beginning of the twentieth century onwards. Thinkers such as John Grey or Jean-Luc Nancy accuse utopianism of being an unreachable ideal and a distraction from real problems. In literature, utopia has been replaced by dystopia, which simply draws attention to the ills of our time by exacerbating them, but fails to come up with suggestions for improving our polity. In this chapter, I tease out the consequences of abandoning the utopian principle of hope and of giving in to dystopia. I regard current dystopian literature as an instantiation of a politics of hopelessness, the political corollary of which is either the technocratic “business as usual” model that perpetuates the status quo or what I would define as authoritarian reactionarism, which advocates for a complete overhaul of current political systems. In the final section of the chapter I interpret novels that portray ecological dystopias (McCarthy Cormac’s The Road; Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood; John Feffer’s Splinterlands, and so on) in light of this turn to dystopianism.

 

 

"Rainforest Aesthetics: Portraying Amazonian Nature," Hispania. Portuguese Special Issues (forthcoming).

 

Aesthetic categories such as beauty and the sublime have often been deployed in portrayals of Amazonian nature. In this article, I will argue that such an aesthetic approach to the natural environment inherited and transformed religious approaches to the region that saw its fauna, flora and local inhabitants as reminiscent of the Biblical Paradise. The article seeks to identify key aesthetic elements linked to the Amazonian natural world, including the beauty of pristine rivers and forests or the experience of the sublime when faced with the grandeur of the natural world in texts such as Gastão Cruls’s A Amazônia Misteriosa (1925) and in films like Sérgio Andrade’s A Floresta de Jonathas (2012). I will discuss the risks in aestheticizing the Amazonian environment, including the reproduction of clichés about the area and of representing it as a natural monolith. Still, I will argue that the use of aesthetic categories such as beauty as “purposiveness without purpose” (in the elegant Kantian formulation) and the sublime as something that defies human reason to describe the Amazonian natural world can be deployed for progressive environmental purposes, in that these aesthetic categories question a utilitarian, instrumental view of nature.

 

 

"El Dorado in the Jungle: Migration to the Amazon during the Rubber Boom," Migrant Frontiers: Race and Mobility in the Luso-Hispanic World. Ed. Daniel Silva and Lamonte Aidoo

 

In this chapter, I analyze the migratory move to the Amazon river basin during the end of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century in the wake of the so-called rubber boom in the region. I will use Ferreira de Castro’s semi-autobiographical novel A Selva (1930) and the two eponymous movies made as adaptations of this narrative—Márcio Souza’s from 1970 and Leonel Vieira’s from 2002—as a springboard to discuss issues of trans-Atlantic mobility, race and class prejudices and the representation of the foreign Amazonian nature.