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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.2, 203 ~ 223, 2019
Extinction and Judgment: Misanthropy in the Anthropocene
Peter Y. Paik
One of the most striking cultural developments in recent years is the increasing willingness of scholars, intellectuals, and producers of mass culture to express the view that human beings are hopelessly destructive life-forms. Since the emergence of modern industry, the activities of human beings have inflicted incalculable damage to the natural world in the form of habitat destruction and the loss of biodiversity, the acidification of the oceans, the depletion of non-renewable resources, and the irreversible alteration of the climate. The concept of the Anthropocene, which has emerged as a prominent term in the scholarly humanities, holds that humans have attained powers of so great a magnitude as to bring about a new geological era. Works of criticism as well as of film and television now openly raise the question as to whether the earth would be better off without the species that threatens other species with extinction. According to these works, human beings are the greatest threat to life on the planet. This article argues that such a fixation on the prospect of human extinction in the West does not arise out of the desire to persuade human beings to change their destructive ways, but instead reflects a form of nihilistic confusion in which the liberal West wishes to destroy the foundations of its civilization while at the same time seeking to spread its view of autonomy as the highest value to the rest of the globe. In unraveling this contradiction, the article examines works of cinema such as the science fiction film Prometheus and engages the work of theorists and thinkers such as Claire Colebrook, John Gray, and Jean Baudrillard.
Key Words
Anthropocene, climate change, extinction, liberalism, misan-thropy
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