Malthusian ideas: Sheri S. Tepper's new ecological misery

Morgan, Samantha (2015) Malthusian ideas: Sheri S. Tepper's new ecological misery. Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 22 (2). pp. 222-240.

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[Extract] The novels of the American science fiction writer Sheri S. Tepper represent a sustained inquiry into the problem of overpopulation. Ursula K. Heise suggested in 2001 that the idea of overpopulation had "lost its terror" (1), but Tepper's anxiety persists, and her twenty-first-century publications have continued to develop the theme that preoccupied her at the beginning of her writing career. Tepper has identified the ideas in her novels as "Malthusian" (2010b), but the relation of her fiction to the eighteenth-century political economist's population theory is complex. Like Thomas Malthus, Tepper connects population growth with human unhappiness, and looks for ways to reduce population-related miseries. Unlike Malthus, who understood such miseries as obstacles to desirable population increase, Tepper understands them as consequences of undesirable increase, as arguments against it. Nor does the desire to moderate population growth allow Tepper to be more neatly categorized as neo-Malthusian. With less confidence than Malthus in the potential of human reason to comprehend the role of reduced population growth in the reduction of misery, she remains skeptical about neo-Malthusian technological solutions to the problem of famine. Tepper also rejects the belief, explicit in Malthus's thought and implicit in neo-Malthusian varieties of it, that nature's purpose is to serve human interests. For Tepper, population-related misery arises from a fundamental misunderstanding of ecological relations. The means of reducing misery are not to be found by concentrating on humans alone, she suggests, but by imagining a different human–nature relation.

Item ID: 43199
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1759-1090
Keywords: Malthus, Tepper, population
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2016 05:46
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200506 North American Literature @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 100%
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