Hannah Smay’s 2017 ENVS honors thesis, “Unsettling Dreams: Investigating Crisis in Earthquake Fiction from Japan and the Pacific Northwest,” is available as an ENVX publication here.
Here is Hannah’s thesis abstract:
Like many scholars in the humanities, I ask what art and stories can offer a world unsettled by change. For the environmental studies, unsettling changes in the world often relate to fears of environmental crises. Including natural disasters under the umbrella of environmental crisis, I examine depictions of earthquakes across several fictional works from Japan and the Pacific Northwest, two places with high seismic risk. To better understand the experience of crisis through literature, I ask how and why authors from Japan and the Pacific Northwest render earthquakes in fiction. I explore Haruki Murakami’s short story collection after the quake written after the Kobe earthquake of 1995, Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale for the Time Being written after the 2011 Tohōku earthquake and tsunami, Adam Rothstein’s After the Big One which imagines a future earthquake in Portland, Oregon, and several other works. I find that through fictional representation, readers and writers alike access the rhythms of the earth, the intimate experiences of others, and future worlds of crisis. By examining earthquake literature under a framework of ecocriticism, I establish the potential for literature to promote survival and resilience in crisis by forging intimate connections between earth systems, stories, and humans.