Circles unrounded
Sustainability, subject and necessity in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi
in Literature and sustainability

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is not about sustainability per se. Rather, it might be said to reflect certain tensions characteristic of sustainability as a concept of our time. In particular, it replicates the way sustainability exceeds itself as a concept or sign, reaching as it does to link the subjective human with the world beyond grasp. Indeed, sustainability frames the (environmental) problem as a human problem, addressing our actions in the present with view to ensuring the wellbeing of future humans and nonhumans. This essay accordingly reads Yann Martel’s Life of Pi as performing the tension between phenomenology and the speculative real. Applying David Wood’s notion of eco-phenomenology, it examines the novel’s use of various narrative techniques to depict protagonist Pi as either constrained by, or going beyond, a so-called correlationist engagement with the nonhuman world as he secures his own future. Alongside this, the essay reflects on the novel’s evocation of necessity and its commentary on the possible costs incurred in the quest for a sustainable world.

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Literature and sustainability

Concept, text and culture

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