'Break the Narrative': Metafictional Anthropocene Aesthetics in Jeanette Winterson's 'The Powerbook' and Ben Lerner's '10:04'

Alex J. Calder


Given the difficulties of representing the Anthropocene through narrative, recent experimental texts use metafictional techniques to imaginatively engage with the impact of environmental decline. In contrast to apocalyptic narratives of ecological breakdown, the metafictional Anthropocene aesthetics of Jeanette Winterson'sThe Powerbook(2000) and Ben Lerner's10:04(2014) activate the metaleptic potential of literature to provide alternative perspectives. The textual subversiveness of their aesthetics present worldly engagements with environmental crises and reflect upon the production of literature in the Anthropocene. Winterson deploys narrative techniques associated with postmodernism such as such as historiographic metafiction and textual play. However, these devices have an ecocritical edge which demonstrates how storytelling can examine the Anthropocene beyond factual discourses through a uniquely imaginative capacity. Similarly, Lerners formal experimentations with autofiction and temporality generate a self- conscious Anthropocene aesthetic. This style leads to textual paradoxes that generate poetic self- consciousness of relational dynamics to articulate hope for change and constructive interventions to contemporary crises. These novels challenge boundaries between fiction and reality, prose and poetic address through metafictional experimentation beyond self-conscious artifice on a surface level. These innovative texts can be put into dialogue with ecocritical theory to recognise that environmental crises are complex and multifaceted, but fragile contingencies that humans can still change. Both texts emphasise the relationality of experience and represent humanitys impact on the environment while illustrating that the future can still be changed.


Anthropocene aesthetics; metafiction; Jeanette Winterson; Ben Lerner; contemporary literature

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