Love in the Sacrifice Zone: Queer Ecopoetics in the Appalachian Mountains

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Abstract

This article explores how queer environmental art and poetry challenge the dominant sacrificial logic of the Anthropocene, which treats the Earth and its human and nonhuman inhabitants as objects of extraction, consumption, and disposal. It examines ecosexual performance as a poetic opposition to the extractive worldview, fostering a more capacious understanding of the connections that bind together bodies, places, and environments in times of systemic ecological crisis. Drawing on recent studies in queer ecopoetics and environmental affect, the article contends that ecosexuality, as a queer environmentalism and an embodied form of poiesis, constitutes a ‘diffractive’ ecological poetics vital for overcoming the affective impasse that obstructs robust environmental action. Through an analysis of artworks by Elizabeth Stephens and Annie Sprinkle, the article demonstrates how ecosexual poetics recalibrate prevailing affective registers and responses to environmental sacrifice zones, reintroducing ambiguity, uncertainty, and complexity to counteract the simplifying logic of extraction. The analysis is framed by a reading of Muriel Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead (1938) as a hitherto unrecognised literary precedent for today's queer ecopoetics. Consequently, the conclusion calls for an ecocritical revaluation of Rukeyser’s work as a profoundly queer articulation of the affective relations that emerge in the wake of industrial devastation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1499-1523
JournalTextual Practice
Volume37
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Ecosexuality; queer ecopoetics; environmental affect; sacrifice zones; Muriel Rukeyser

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