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Text Matters – Issue 12


Ecology as Modernity’s New Horizon:

Narratives of Progress, Regression and Apocalypse in the Anthropocene

Editors: Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet & Christian Arnsperger

University of Lausanne, Switzerland


Deadline for submission of article proposal (max. 300 words): January 15, 2021

Deadline for editors’ acceptance/rejection of proposals: February 15, 2021

Deadline for submission of full articles (max. 5500 words) : October 1, 2021

Deadline for peer review and final acceptance/rejection of articles: December 1, 2021

Deadline for submission of final versions of articles: February 1, 2022


As global warming and the current ecological crisis bring modern humans face to face with

their finite planetary resources and their impacts on the biosphere, narratives of apocalypse

and collapse proliferate in contemporary culture. “Living in the Anthropocene” has become

a rallying call for the advocates of urgency, while the overwhelming majority of political

and corporate actors continue to fail to act.

This issue of Text Matters would like to interrogate some of the issues of temporality

raised by the ecological challenge.

First of all, there is the injunction to act quickly. Initially it seemed that we had some

time to shift the foundations of our way of life in order to ward off catastrophe, but now it

appears that we have already waited too long and can, at best, only slow down the inevitable

reaction chains that are coming.

Secondly, environmental warnings have often predicted a sudden and violent climatic

collapse in the future, triggered by a tipping point, but in fact we may be equally well be

looking at a gradual climatic shift which has already begun and to which we are contemporaries.

Thirdly, there are the more theoretical questions of apocalypse and progress—seemingly

opposed, and yet closely and uncannily interconnected within our theologically informed

sense of history and teleology.

Linked to the narrative of progress that has functioned as one of our dearest cultural

myths are the notions of modernity and the Enlightenment as the necessary foundations

for our existence. One of the main criticisms addressed to environmentalists who question

progress is that their agenda implies regressing to some historically obsolete stage, i.e., that

they seek to “take us back to the Stone Age,” or that they are themselves naïve and idealistic,

like overgrown children or adolescents who should know better.

Within this threefold complex of issues, the contributions to this volume will engage

with the following clusters of questions:

• Is ecology fundamentally opposed to the Enlightenment project and to modernity

as we know — or fantasize — it? Why is ecology so often dismissed as historical

regression, and how does it need to be re-cast to become a narrative of the future?

Can emerging frameworks such as the “Green New Deal” serve as new narrative


• Are we culturally predisposed to think in terms of apocalypse, and therefore unable

to see and react to the slow unfolding of devastating environmental change (e.g.,

mass extinction, loss of forests, polluted waterways, more frequent extreme weather

events, etc.) currently occurring?

• Does it still make sense to think and act ecologically when it is already, in some

sense, “too late” — and how does this modify the way we tell the story of humanity’s

future inhabitation of the Earth? Do we need new narratives of loss, mourning, and


• What are the ideological and psychological investments we have in the stories of

“progress” and “modernity,” so that reconstructive and regenerative ecological visions

and narratives appear as their opponent, or even their enemy? Is the story of

the “Anthropocene” an after-the-fact rationalization of inevitable degradation, or

can it become a building block for forward-looking narratives of ecological reconciliation?

• What would it mean for our environmentally destructive culture to be willing to —

finally — learn from the indigenous cultures that we have so viciously repressed in

the name of modernity over the past four centuries? How do indigenous cosmologies,

philosophies, and “teaching stories” challenge the very notion of Modernity

when it comes to ecological reconciliation with the biosphere?

Contributors are invited to think about these questions in terms of language, discourse,

and literary and visual narratives, as well as possibly music, media, performance, and other

art forms and practices that speak to the issues of temporality raised by our current crisis.

Please send abstracts and a short bio to both editors by Jan. 15th 2021: Agnieszka.soltysikmonnet@ and