Contaminations: Literature and Climate Change


In a world on the brink of environmental catastrophe, we have come to realise that humankind is not superior to nature, but intimately bound up with it. In his new book, Contaminations: Beyond Dialectics in Modern Literature, Science, and Film, Michael Mack shows how the division between man and nature is just one of many false separations that influence the way we think. In this podcast, Mack explains more about his philosophy, the role that literature plays in it, and how the concept of contaminated thought may help us to conceptualise climate change in particular.

Moving from the emergence of the scientifically ‘pure objective’ worldview in the 1850s, in Contaminations Michael Mack traces the problems with dialectical ways of thinking, which have been increasingly revealed by the challenges of the twenty-first century, from the cyborg which complicates the man and machine divide, to climate change, which confirms man to be part of rather than superior to the natural world.

The underlying philosophy – the idea that categories that seem apart are not, and that narratives of literature and film can bring this to our attention – is not in itself a new one. However, Contaminations makes more explicit some of the themes that have been only implied within postmodern, poststructuralist and deconstructive theory. As well as considering literature and film, the book also takes a fresh look at key thinkers such as Spinoza, Benjamin, Pasolini and Freud.

Contaminations is published by Edinburgh University Press. Michael Mack’s other recent books include Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis and How Literature Changes the Way We Think.