Article published in:Real Fictions: Fictionality, factuality and narrative strategies in contemporary storytelling
Edited by Sam Browse, Alison Gibbons and Mari Hatavara
[Narrative Inquiry 29:2] 2019
► pp. 371–390
The paradox of imagining the post-human world
Fictional and factual rhetorical strategies in Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, works depicting a post-human world have become a popular non-fiction genre. This kind of disanthropy is an extreme form of apocalyptic thinking. In this article, I examine one such disanthropic narrative, Alan Weisman’s bestselling non-fiction book The World Without Us (2007), using the theoretical framework of narrative fictionality studies. The World Without Us falls between the conventional oppositional pairing of factual and fictional narratives. The book bases its rhetoric heavily on scientific facts – or at least on scientific expectations – especially in its use of interviews with scientists. Nevertheless, the core idea of a world without humans is inevitably fictional since the presence of readers makes the book’s premise manifestly counterfactual and paradoxical. In my analysis, I adopt a rhetorical approach to fictionality and factuality to ask how particular techniques and strategies connected to fictionality and factuality are employed in Weisman’s text in order to discuss the anxieties, desires, hopes, and fears of the possibility of human extinction.
Keywords: fictionality, factuality, thought-experiments, Anthropocene, referentiality
Published online: 16 October 2019
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