published on April 4, 2018
A Tapestry of Concealments
Barkskins as Anthropocene Fiction
The Good Anthropocene is a position taken up by a diverse collection of writers, social scientists, and philosophers. Their claim is that the Anthropocene should be embraced as a more or less positive development in the history of our species. This paper pushes back against the narrative of the Good Anthropocene. But rather than confront its advocates directly, I will come at the contest obliquely. I present a Heideggerian interpretation of Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, a multi-generational novel centered on the deforestation of North America. From a Heideggerian perspective, we notice that the present historical epoch has involved a threefold concealment: of the burgeoning catastrophe of climate change, of the co-optation of conservationism by capitalism, and of the ethnocide of the continent’s indigenous inhabitants.