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Issue Details: First known date: 2017... 2017 Last Whales : Eschatology, Extinction and the Cetaean Imaginary in Winton and Pash
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Few of the earth’s creatures capture the popular imagination quite like the whale, which has come to serve as an ambivalent figure for both salvation and perdition, whether the moral dramas that unfold around it are seen in religious (eschatological) or scientific (ecological) terms. Whales are at once signifiers for extinction, pointing to the threat of planetary destruction, and signifiers for redemption, in which the ongoing environmentalist campaign for protection doubles as a human struggle to save us from ourselves. This article looks at two contemporary Australian literary texts, Tim Winton’s Shallows (1985) and Chris Pash’s The Last Whale (2008), both of which explore competing extinction scenarios: the extinction of whales; the extinction of the whaling industry; and the extinction of whaling as a way of life. Given the further possibility of human self-extinction, the article argues that a new cetacean imaginary is needed in which whales are seen as complex manifestations of a life that co-exists with humanity, but is neither reducible to human understandings of history nor to the various futures — or non-futures — that human beings might imagine for themselves.' (Publication abstract)


  • Epigraph:

    Ah the world, oh the whale. – Philip Hoare (2009)

    The great majority of interpretations of Apocalypse assume that the End is pretty near. Consequently the historical allegory is always having to be revised; time discredits it. – Frank Kermode (1967)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon The Journal of Commonwealth Literature vol. 52 no. 2 June 2017 11376338 2017 periodical issue

    'This Editorial feels like it is being written from a very dark place and time, in view of the seismic shifts in the world order which have happened over the past year. In June 2016, a majority of the British electorate voted for the UK to leave the European Union. The referendum drama unfolded amid a toxic set of debates around race and immigration, which continue to dominate the political conversation. With the continental far right also currently experiencing a surge driven by similar nationalist, racist, and Islamophobic agendas, the whole postwar European project of alliance and unity, however flawed, may be in jeopardy. At the same time, hypermasculine, autocratic ideologues across the world — including Vladimir Putin in Russia and Narendra Modi in India — appear to be learning from each other’s playbooks. Meanwhile, in the United States, the election of Donald Trump signals disaster for both human and environmental justice, the scale of which we are only beginning to see.' (Editorial introduction)

Last amended 15 Jun 2017 09:43:51
Last Whales : Eschatology, Extinction and the Cetaean Imaginary in Winton and Pashsmall AustLit logo The Journal of Commonwealth Literature