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Special Section: The Short Story in Context

The Short Story as Ecotext: Rick Bass’s “Fiber”

Thomas Gurke
p. 93-106


À la lumière des nombreuses parutions de lectures « écologiques » de ces dernières années, il est surprenant que le recueil de nouvelles de Rick Bass, The Lives of Rocks (La Vie des rochers, 2006), ait reçu si peu d’attention de la part de l’(éco-)critique. La nouvelle « Fiber » (Fibre) revêt un intérêt particulier car elle crée un environnement narratif qui se rapproche de ce que l’anthropologue culturel Tim Ingold (Being Alive, 2011) qualifierait de maillage. Contrairement à de nombreuses théories purement relationnelles, le maillage permet des approches à la fois processuelles et relationnelles de l’environnement – « non pas en tant qu’entité délimitée . . . mais en tant qu’enchevêtrement illimité de lignes dans un espace fluide » (Ingold 64). À travers une analyse textuelle détaillée, le présent article vise à montrer non seulement que « tout est lié à tout le reste » (Rueckert 108), mais que des nouvelles telles que « Fiber » peuvent finalement créer quelque chose de similaire à l’environnement naturel en tissant et en entrelaçant des fils narratifs qui opposent des relations téléologiques fixes aux lignes intransitives d’un maillage.

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Rick Bass
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1In the light of the many ecocritical and ecological readings over the recent years, it is surprising that Rick Bass’s short story collection The Lives of Rocks (2006) has received so little (eco)critical attention. For these narratives are bound together by both the setting of and emphasis on the environment of Montana, where the author himself resides. Bass’s short stories constantly portray the entanglements of human and non-human actors within this environment and are therefore particularly fascinating ecotexts. The first story of The Lives of Rocks, “Pagans,” introduces a motif that recurs throughout the collection, namely the alignment of storywith territory. Here, the liquid territory of the “bathysphere” entangles the lives of the three characters Richard, Annie and Kirby, who move through different storied phases of life from childhood to maturity, adolescence and, finally, old age. “Her First Elk” and “The Lives of Rocks” are connected through the character of Jyl. The latter story ends with a weather-related epiphany that is reminiscent of Joyce’s “The Dead”: the snow covering everything, “even the silent cabin” (123). In both “Yazoo” and “The Windy Day” the weather is again the main focus, constantly suspending the characters’ plans into unexpected delay. Like the story “Fiber,” which will be the focus of this article, “The Windy Day” also contains many olfactory descriptions of the “fir-scented woods in the autumn” the “fresh sweet smell of sap and crushed boughs” (150). Both “Goats” and “Titan,” then, emphasize the overfishing of rivers and lakes in Montana and thus reconnect to the first story’s main element: water. While “Fiber” clearly fits within this collection, it also stands apart from it, both through its specific engagement with the environment and through its publication history.

2First published as part of the Mississippi Review’s Web Fiction issue in 1998, “Fiber” also appeared as a standalone 64-page book with the University of Georgia Press in the same year. The book also contains 12 illustrations by Bass’s wife Elizabeth Hughes Bass. Later the story was included with other previously published short stories in the 2006 collection The Lives of Rocks. Here, it stands out for a number of reasons. First, as early reviewers noted, “Fiber” challenges “established generic distinctions” (Branch 356). It is not clear whether it is a novel or a short story; fiction or nonfiction? Secondly, in contrast to the more realist mode of the other stories in The Lives of Rocks, the narrative style of “Fiber” borders on a postmodern experiment that can be described as exhibiting a simultaneous co-presence of linear and non-linear narration. The different narrative personae are identified as territories, while the descriptions of their lives constitute stories. The latter are introduced in four numbered subchapters, while the former constantly reverberate throughout the stories, culminating in the breaking of the fourth wall by a seemingly non-fictional narrator, who surprisingly claims that “[t]here is, of course, no story” (45).

3Thirdly, while the environment is used throughout The Lives of Rocks as a motif that connects the stories, the environment in “Fiber” is more than a motif: it becomes the driving force and motivator of the narrative itself. Surpassing any mimetic staging of nature or a natural world the text presents itself as an entangled, enmeshed “narrative environment” (Lüdeke 25) that can be usefully co(n)textualized using Tim Ingold’s recent concept of the meshwork. In opposition to other purely relational theories—such as Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory (2005)—Ingold’s processual meshwork allows to view “the organism (animal or human) . . . not as a bounded entity . . . but as an unbounded entanglement of lines in fluid space” (64). In this article, therefore, this theoretical perspective on the environment will be read as a co-text in order to re-situate Bass’s writing not by seemingly stating that “everything is connected to everything else” (Rueckert 108), but by showing how Bass’s “Fiber” produces affordant accounts that can be seen as rendering lively experiences. The following analysis will first situate Bass’ fiction within historical ecocritical discourses and in recent critical developments of cultural anthropology before proceeding to show how in “Fiber” environments emerge and produce an entanglement that can be analyzed in ecological terms.

4Rick Bass’s style of writing has been described in terms of an “Art-Activism Dialectic” (Weltzien 81) with an “autobiographical flavor” (Hash 388). “Fiber” in particular has been called a “spiritual project” (Wise 153) and an “environmental rhetorical emotional plea” of “creative nonfiction” (Weltzien 83). Bass’s work is directly influenced by the environment of the Yaak valley near Troy, Montana where he has been living since the 1990s. As Bass points out, the valley and its surrounding forests are constantly being stripped for timber, “disassembled, piece-by-piece by the people who should be protecting it” and thus “doesn’t have a single acre of protected wilderness” (Bass, “The Land the Wilderness Act Forgot” 215). In order to protect this environment, Bass became one of the founders of the Yaak Valley Forest Council. The YVFC’s objectives are to “[p]ermanently protect the last remaining roadless cores in the Yaak Valley.” The organization’s mission statement further emphasizes the restoration of the valley’s “ecological integrity” by conserving and improving the habitat for populations of native species and by “empowering local residents through education and solidarity” (“Yaak Valley, Kootenai National Forest. Purcell Mountains in Northwest Montana,” Website). It is evident that it is not just the presence of this environment that influences Bass’s fiction. The author also repeatedly states that he is the “son of a geologist,” has a degree in petroleum geology and has worked as a “Wildlife Biologist” and “Oil and gas geologist.” He describes himself as a “Writer and lecturer” and “Author Activist” (“Rick Bass. Author Activist,” Webpage). These stages of life and occupations partially resurface throughout the narrative of “Fiber” and therefore contribute to a blurring of boundaries between fiction and nonfiction.

5As the author was born in 1958, he might have been exposed to the environmental movement and its major events during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Prominently amongst these, “Earth-Day,” on the 22nd of April 1970, demonstrated that the vision of a greener world was not an ephemeral fantasy dreamed-up by nature lovers (Hayden 53), but the expression of a generation increasingly aware of the devastating global consequences of local catastrophes such as the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, the leakage of dioxin at Seveso in Italy, or the exposure of a chemical landfill at the Love Canal site near Niagara Falls (Rome 525). The environmental movement illuminated that “[m]an [sic] is but an infinitesimal spark in a virtually boundless, ageless universe” (Chamberlin 113). This “ageless universe,” however, is seemingly organized by innumerable relations and connections that can be analyzed in one of the key concepts of the environmental movement: ecology.

  • 1 At the same time, Heise also points out a “delay” in the appreciation of environmental concerns wit (...)

6In its early stages, ecology was merely seen as a science for “transfigured nature lovers” (Stark 1). Yet, as the movement grew towards the end of the 1960s, its image changed drastically from an isolated science to an interdisciplinary approach including the natural sciences, sociology, political science and anthropology (Darling 1006; Freilich 37). Subsequently, ecology became an integral part of education, aimed “to develop a concern for [the] well-being” of the environment (Chamberlin 115). As Ursula Heise noticed recently in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Ecocriticism,” publications such as Henry Nash Smith’s Virgin Land (1950), Leo Marx’s The Machine in the Garden (1964), Roderick Nash’s Wilderness and the American Mind (1967), Raymond Williams’s The Country and the City (1973), Joseph Meeker’s The Comedy of Survival (1974) and Annette Kolodny’s The Lay of the Land (1975) similarly demonstrate a rising interest in British and American Studies for environmentalist concerns (505).1 Heise fails to mention, however, William Rueckert’s seminal essay “Literature and Ecology—An Experiment in Ecocriticism” (1976). What he proposes harmonizes with the contemporary idea of ecology at the time: an interdisciplinary discourse including the natural sciences with a particular emphasis on biology. Rueckert suggests a ‘thermodynamic’ reading in which texts are viewed as “stored energy, a formal turbulence, a living thing” and as “part of the energy pathways which sustain life . . . unlike fossil fuels they cannot be used up” (108). He infers that:

All this may seem rather remote from creating, reading, teaching, and writing about literature; but in fact, it is not. I invoke here (to be spelled out in detail later) the first Law of Ecology: “Everything is connected to everything else.” This is Commoner’s phrasing, but the law is common to all ecologists and all ecological visions. (108)

7It would be tempting to read Bass’s “Fiber” along similar terms, for this text often suggests a general “net of connectivity through which magic passes” (138).

8But Rueckert’s “Law of Ecology” also posits a major problem that not only refers back to the beginnings of ecology but permeates much of the ecocritical approaches today: his seemingly universal law of systemic connection leads to frustration, for, how is everything connected to everything else? What exactly is connected? How are these connections established and maintained? Rueckert simplifies the laws of thermodynamics to justify his view of the inexhaustible energetic pathways between poet and reader and—more crucially—between text and environment: “teaching . . . and critical discourse . . . all release the energy and power stored in poetry so that it may flow through the human community” (109). It is in statements such as these that ecological readings become tinted with a nuance of the esoteric and cease to offer functional approaches towards narratives that actively engage with the environment—such as “Fiber.” Since then, however, many approaches in critical theory have appeared which vary from operational systemic closure to open ‘rhizomatic’ strata.

9Humberto Maturana’s and Francisco Varela’s deterministic focus in Autopoiesis and Cognition (1972) subsumes social-systemic relationships amongst “human beings” as “autopoietic systems: all their activities as social organisms must satisfy their autopoiesis” (xxiv). Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory of social relations uses autopoiesis as a vantage point and compares biological with social structures on the grounds of self-regulation and self-reproduction. However, these theories reinforce stable “environments” and are contingent upon operational closure. They have thus been rightly criticized as a “motif” rather than an actual account of “the environmental ‘wild’” (Hansen 116). Another school of thought follows Guattari and Deleuze’s rhizomatic perspective in order to offer a perspective that stresses connections as affordant processes rather than fixed relations.

10One such critical approach is Tim Ingold’s Being Alive (2011) which critiques purely relational network models, using the “Actor-Network-Theory” (ANT) of Bruno Latour (2005) as a case in point. ANT is one of many theories that became popular in recent years and—in the day and age of connectivity and networking—seems to offer a plausible model for how we act within our environment: “Network images have become commonplace across a broad spectrum of disciplines, from the ‘webs of life’ of ecology, through the ‘social networks’ of sociology and social anthropology, to the ‘agent-object’ networks of material culture studies” (Ingold 70). But for Ingold the environment is more than a network. It can be thought of as a set of affordances of a given biological niche that indexes the organism. Thus, a stone may be seen as either shelter, anvil or missile. Yet there is a difference between viewing these properties as the stone’s affordances or, rather, as qualities that “are bestowed upon the stone by the need of the creature in question and in the very act of attending to it” (Ingold 79). It is this latter perspective that Ingold follows in Being Alive in order to arrive at a perception of the environment that he describes as a meshwork.

  • 2 “The living organism, for Deleuze, is a bundle of lines, a haecceity. Critically, these lines do no (...)

11The meshwork-model differs from the network-theory in that it adds processual connections to the ANT’s relational ones. This means differentiating between a) relational settings as fixed points and nodes and b) rhizomatic patterns found in intransitive bundles of lines of flight.2 Ingold uses the metaphor of the spider’s web in order to exemplify this haecceity as it presents lines that are exuded by the spider’s body, forming a material presence for the possibility of action and perception. As Ingold maintains, the spider is in no way connected to the world of a trapped fly, as the web must be seen as an affordance, i.e. a potential connection and thus, does not constitute an entity as such (90-91). Opposing this view to the purely relational structure of an ANT-colony (i.e. Latour’s “Actor-Network-Theory”), Ingold shows that network-theories rely on individuals as makers of transitive nodes. Although these relations encompass various human and non-human actors (in Ingold’s example “act-ants” and “non-ants”), every connection is without material presence and is literally assembled by the organism’s perception of the environment:

The world, for me, is not an assemblage of bits and pieces but a tangle of threads and pathways. Let us call it a meshwork, so as to distinguish it from your network. My claim, then, is that action is not the result of an agency that is distributed around the network, but rather emerges from the interplay of forces that are conducted along the lines of the meshwork. (Ingold 91-92, original emphasis)

12Ingold’s critique of Latour’s theorem shows that the dichotomies surrounding culture and nature—or the social and the natural—still prevail in most approaches to the environment. Ingold’s approach thus helps us to think again about seemingly natural connections, but also makes for a fruitful reading practice for a text such as “Fiber.”

13Bass’s “Fiber” consists of four separate parts indicated by numbered subchapters. In the first part the narrator describes the “lives” he has had, namely that of a “geologist,” an “artist,” an “activist” and a “logger” (124). Beginning with the latter, the narrator tells of his daily business as a logger who cuts trees in the woods of the Yaak valley “to sell to the mill” (125). Although the consecutive lives and numbered subchapters suggest a form of sequential narration, the stories surrounding the geologist, writer, activist and logger continuously overlap and recur, not as flashbacks to the main life-story but rather as loose narrative threads that pierce through the text unexpectedly. A strategy which the text itself seems to be aware of: “things slip and fall back; the old, even when it is buried beneath the new, sometimes rises and surges, pierces through, and reappears. . . . It’s so hard not to look back” (125). It is more the “piercing through” than the “falling back” that the reader experiences. For many of the introduced lives mesh with each other during the course of the narrative, which—as it should be emphasized here—is still rendered as four linearized parts. But this structure is misleading since the stories intertwine and weave new connections. It seems as if a well-ordered structure is presented that is subverted at the same time. This is also evident during the second part of the short story, which exhibits the first life of the narrator as a geologist, enforcing the motif of “taking.” He refers to things “beneath the ground” such as oil but also to objects “from the surface” such as cars, boats, necklaces, etc. (128). “After a lifetime of taking,” the narrator escapes to the woods to “that second life” (132) and becomes an artist, exhibiting “[t]he desire to give” (130). At the same time, however, he paradoxically comments on the benefits of “hauling real and physical things out of the woods” and of having “sawdust tumble from the cuffs of my overalls” (129). These entanglements—here of taking and giving—appear constantly throughout “Fiber” and form unexpected narrative patterns that resemble processual and relational, rather than purely relational connections.

14The narrator in part three of “Fiber” further underscores this observation by stating “[t]his is my old life. This is my newest one. . . . Still the old one, or old ones, try to return” (137, emphasis added). From here on, the text becomes increasingly fragmented, introducing paragraphs that unexpectedly blend the current story of an activist with accounts of the various lives mentioned. This includes a metalepsis of the seemingly non-fictional narrator that breaks the fourth wall in part four: “I want to shock and offend. Hauling logs? My moderation seems obscene in the face of what is going on . . .” (141, original emphasis). In this way, Bass’s story establishes a purely relational network of linearized accounts that is abandoned in favor of relational and processual—or enmeshed—constellations. This strategy produces a narrative fabric, consisting of a bundle of threads—fibers, even? —that do not form linear connections between storied accounts but pass amidst and between these, emerging spontaneous and unexpectedly. This strategy serves to forge a texture that resembles an entangled environment itself. Of course, some of the narrative phenomena I have highlighted occur in many texts, but I hope to have made clear that Bass’s poiesis mirrors the rhizomatic meshwork-structure of the environment itself, emphasizing an entanglement on the level of form and content. This is also evident in the meta-textual comments in the story, which refer to the structure of the narratives themselves and more particularly to the form of the short story.

15During his second life as “a writer of brief stories” (124), the narrator “think[s] about stories” and “the orthodox but time-tested critical progressions, or cyclings, of beginning-middle-end; and of resolutions within a story, and epiphanies: all the old things. They were new to me back then . . .” (134). “Fiber” clearly departs from these traditional and teleological modes of narration, particularly concerning the “resolution” or the “epiphanies” which are hallmarks of the traditional short story. Since the environment is constantly framed as shaping the narration, the mentioned linearity of “beginning-middle-end” or the recurring “cyclings” are not just overthrown as traditional modes of storytelling but also as plausible models of being alive. Instead of purely relational constellations, i.e. intersecting point and nodes that may be followed to a logical end, Bass’s fiction exhibits the possibility of alternating processual arrangements that rely neither on linearity nor on repetition.

16A further layer of enmeshment is added when the text seems to shift between purely fictional and actual lively accounts by veering between authorial and narrative I:

But any landscape of significance—of power, whether dramatic or understated—will alter us, if we will let it. And I am being bent yet again, though not without some fracturing; now I am into my fourth life, one which is built around things more immediate than the fairy-wing days of art. Even this narrative, this story, is fiction, but each story I tell feels like the last one I’ll do—as if I’ve become like some insect or reptile trying to shed the husk of its old skin, and even now as I struggle toward the perceived freedom of the next phase of my life—the light ahead—neither you nor I can really be sure of how much of any story is fiction, or art, and how much of it is activism. (125)

17This quotation makes clear how the environment is directly correlated with the process of writing in Bass’s “Fiber.” The “landscape of significance” alters the course of the narrator’s life and in doing so causes a degree of “fracturing,” creating a number of non-teleological accounts. This rupture on the narrative surface is mirrored in the deeper structure of the text, because the described lives are disrupted by both, relational and processual accounts that indeterminately veer between fact and fiction. A strategy which—as the authorial I ensures us—must be followed in order to “shed the husk of [one’s] old skin” and create something new. “Fiber” creates an indeterminacy and stages instable relationships between the various narrative strands in order to correlate these with descriptions of the environment. Conversely, these descriptions also oppose network- to meshwork-structures when highlighting the interaction between human and non-human actors.

18During his time as a logger in the valley, the narrator describes the relations between his life and work in terms of hierarchical human-made structures. These are described as a network of intersecting nodes and connections that can—at first—be followed to their logical end:

I feel guilty thinking of some carpenter three thousand miles away—Florida, perhaps—building some flimsy-shit house with those studs—the wood splitting like parchment at the first tap of a nail, and the carpenter cursing some unknowable thing, groping with his curse to reach all the way back to the point of origin, which is, what? The mill? Me? The sunlight? The brutality of supply and demand, and the omnipresent hypercapitalism here at post-consumer century’s end? Finish the house, stucco over the mistakes, paint it bright red and blue, sell the sonofabitch and move on. What’re they going to do, dissect the house to cross-examine each strut, each stud? Who knows what’s inside anything? . . . I am trying to let the land tell me who and what I am—trying to let it pace and direct me, until it is as if I have become part of it. (126-27)

19The connections established here constitute the brutal network of “supply and demand” which the text itself refers to as “hypercapitalism.” Although the relations within this network are questioned as “unknowable,” they remain traceable throughout “to the point of origin”: the various connecting nodes of human and non-human actors follow along the lines of the environmental potential for growth (“sunlight), the human intervention (“Me”) and involvement in successive processes of production and transport (“the mill,” “carpenter,” “Florida”) down to its final destination as parts (“strut,” “stud”) to form a larger part of human relationship: capitalism (“house”). The clear frustration with this network lies in the unnaturally assembled meaningless relationships that have no consequence: “What’re they going to do, dissect the house to cross-examine each strut, each stud?” (126). They remain empty: “Who knows what’s inside anything?” (127)—a sentiment that frequently recurs throughout “Fiber” and dramatically epitomizes the hollowness of the narrator’s view on life itself. The alternative suggested in the text is to let the territory express and possibly influence the meaningless relationships forged between human and non-human actors. As suggested earlier, this is a strategy which is explored and reflected on throughout the entire story. For, what remains evident in the narrator’s statements, nevertheless, is not just the incompatibility but, moreover, the inaccessibility of the described versions of environment and interaction within these. It is from this point onwards that the levels of histoire and discourse become entangled in the various lives of Bass’s short story and its meshwork-structure.

20These entanglements are very often approached but never exhaustively traversed in “Fiber.” Far from remaining on the surface, though, this strategy must rather be read as a research into the deep substructures of ground and territory and what further perception of the environment these consequentially have to offer:

I keep trying to move laterally—am drawn laterally—but recently it has begun to feel as if perhaps the beginnings of some of my old desires are returning—my diving or burrowing tendencies: the pattern of my entering the ground vertically again, as I did when I was drilling for oil: desiring to dive again, as if believing that for every emotion, every object, every landscape on the surface, there is a hidden or corresponding one at depth. We tend to think there are clean breaks between sections of anything, but it is so rarely that way, in either nature or our own lives: things are always tied together, as the future is linked, like an anchor, to the past. (135)

21The vertical movements described seem to penetrate deep ecological structures of the environment. At the same time the narrator here remarks that he’s “drawn laterally” as if to signify the impossibility of a simultaneous perception of sequential and co-sequential planes of life that the ecological environment consists of. While the vertical movement suggests an act of “burrowing,” an investigation into “hidden or corresponding” surfaces, it nevertheless denotes these as lateral corresponding strata. This tendency reinforces a perception of the environment as a human assemblage, as the structures “at depth” can only be thought of as analogous to perceivable objects on the surface. It is only by disrupting this pattern towards the end of the passage that “clean breaks between sections of anything” are overthrown and “things” are seen as having been “always tied together.” While “nature” is still opposed to “our own lives” there is an interconnectedness through time which here aligns ecological with human fleetingness (“the future is linked . . . to the past”). The quest to find “buried landscapes, and other hidden and invisible things” (137) nevertheless also reinforces a “hidden” meshwork which the land brings forth but which seems inaccessible to the perception of the narrator at the same time.

22Rick Bass’s “Fiber” crafts network-relationships between the various lives of the narrator and his accounts thereof. Yet this relationality is constantly marked as fallible; it is at times overturned and even discontinued. Many of the narrated lives neither come to an end nor complete a full life-circle but veer indeterminately in different directions and pierce through the narrative surface unexpectedly. As has been shown, this happens with constant reference to descriptions of the immediate environment and the human interaction therein. Furthermore, Bass’s short story describes a set of linearized networks of human and non-human actors that is analogous to the surface on deeper ecological planes. Although the breaks of points and nodes of the assembled relationships are expounded, the question still remains where a real enmeshed ecological interconnectivity takes place and how this is perceivable or indeed storyable? This emerges in the narrator’s continuous loss of agency throughout the entanglement of various life-lines as the “cumulative, geologic ‘I’ of ‘Fiber’” (Weltzien 86) suddenly forms a we: “We are all still connected, up here. Some of the connections are in threads and tatters, tenuous, but there is still a net of connectivity through which magic passes” (Bass, “Fiber” 138). The writing here traverses the space and enmeshed texture of an environment that it itself created, exploring the possibility of non-agency. The fragility of the tattered threads suggests a fleetingness that is more akin to a “flow of material substance” (Ingold 64) than fixed relational connections between lines and nodes. Although the text compares this to a “net of connectivity,” it still describes the rhizomatic tenuous threads that constitute the meshwork. The loss of agency through the formation of a narrative we that is never unweaved must furthermore be read as a questioning of entities and fixed relationality and—it has been argued so far—as an overturning of network-structures that rely on agency. This is reinforced through the repeated assertions of a “land” that “is inverted, mysterious, even magical—turning humans, and all else, inside out, in constant turmoil, constant revolution” (Bass, “Fiber” 140), as if to suggest a continual entanglement of potentiality and possibility.

23As I have suggested in this reading, “Fiber” ultimately creates something similar to the natural environment itself: not a set of fixed relations but the intransitive lines of a meshwork. Just as the narrator is aware of the inaccessibility of the environment surrounding him, the narrative becomes similarly impenetrable, offering only fleeting points of connection. As the text draws parallels between the authorial I and the various narrated life-lines, this process is mirrored on an autobiographical level between fact and fiction. “Fiber” ends with “There is, of course, no story: no broken law back in Louisiana—no warrant, no fairy logs. . . . Here, the story falls away” (142). What may be otherwise described as the beginning of a fitting open ending for a short story evokes an indeterminacy which resembles a loose thread that can neither be traced to an intersecting node nor to a point of origin. Bass here uses the form of the short story in order to exploit this expectancy and the possibility of creating a microscopic fictional environment to which the reader is only offered fleeting access. In short, “Fiber” not only portrays an account of the environment that can be aligned with contemporary (e)co-texts which similarly critique a fixed, one-way relationality, but it also continuously emphasizes affordant accounts of the text that invite the reader to actively engage with the narrative environment of the text and act. This is perhaps the most important effect of Bass’s literary activism.

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1 At the same time, Heise also points out a “delay” in the appreciation of environmental concerns within literary and cultural studies during the 60s and 70s. She explains this gap by highlighting the influence of French philosophies of language that emphasized “questions of representation, textuality, narrative, identity, subjectivity, and historical discourse” (505).

2 “The living organism, for Deleuze, is a bundle of lines, a haecceity. Critically, these lines do not connect points but pass forever amidst and between” (Ingold 64).

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Thomas Gurke, « The Short Story as Ecotext: Rick Bass’s “Fiber” »Journal of the Short Story in English, 71 | 2018, 93-106.

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Thomas Gurke, « The Short Story as Ecotext: Rick Bass’s “Fiber” »Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 71 | Autumn 2018, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2020, consulté le 07 février 2023. URL :

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Thomas Gurke

Thomas Gurke is a lecturer at the University of Koblenz-Landau and has a degree in English Literature and Musicology. His PhD-dissertation focused on the intersemiotic, aesthetic and affective dynamics of music and literature in the texts of James Joyce, and he currently has under consideration a monograph in the Florida James Joyce Series at the University Press of Florida. His current book-project explores concepts of authorship within ‘narratives of addiction.’

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