The Anthropocene and genre in the contemporary novel : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English at Massey University, Manawatū campus, New Zealand

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This thesis investigates how contemporary novelists have used various literary genres to respond to the Anthropocene: a new geological era that began around the Industrial Revolution and is marked by the planetary impact of human activity. In particular, three of the four texts considered here target climate change, the most alarming manifestation of humanity’s influence over the planet. Literary critics have observed that the complexity of climate change makes it an extraordinarily difficult topic to write about. This thesis highlights how writers have drawn on different forms of fictional writing to identify and address some of the challenges involved in understanding and responding to climate change, or other dimensions of the Anthropocene. The thesis considers four genres—science fiction, fantasy, realism and satire—through sustained close analysis of recent Anthropocene texts that have received widespread critical acclaim and attention: respectively, Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (2003-2013), N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy (2015-2017), Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour (2012), and Ian McEwan’s Solar (2010). Examining these texts, and the similarities and differences between them, highlights the possibilities and limitations of representing and exploring issues of the Anthropocene through fiction. Ultimately, this thesis argues that the novel has an important role to play in comprehending the Anthropocene, but the sheer complexity of the climate crisis requires that a wide range of genres are mobilised for that purpose. Literary criticism must therefore consider a diverse range of genres, instead of focusing solely on literary fiction, but it must also be attentive to the different ways that narrative responses to the Anthropocene are shaped by gender, ethnicity, and nationality.