Ecopoetics and ‘the Bestial’: Negotiating Human Dignity in Two Contemporary Short Stories from Singapore and Malaysia

Uma Jayaraman


Humans often revel in their self-proclaimed ability to identify interactive possibilities between people and their environment despite common knowledge that Nature does not need humans but humans need Nature. There are significant instances of writing about humankind’s relationship with Nature, and the scientific as well as spiritual potential of this relationship that may eventually lead to a sustainable Earth. Correspondingly, creative writing is also increasingly preoccupied with mimicking ecological processes that sustain Earth. Jonathan Skinner has noted “how certain poetic methods model ecological processes like complexity, non-linearity, feedback loops and recycling.” Since its coinage, ecopoetics is a much contested term in contemporary literary theory, and has been subjected to multiple definitions. While the basis of an ecopoetic understanding of Earth centres on its scepticism about human exceptionalism, hyperrationality and consumerism, it has almost always been applied to poetry. In this paper, I view “green discourse” in fiction through the ecopoetic lens, and read representations of how human and non-human forms fail to interlock in two contemporary Southeast Asian short stories. I explore whether human dignity can be salvaged from the debris of anonymity conditioned by an anthropocentric perception of existence.


Ethics, new domesticity, ecopoetics, ecological loss, consumerism

@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549