Accepting the X: Uncanny Encounters with Nature and the Wilderness in Jeff Vandermeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy

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Lexington Books, an imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
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This article examines the subversion of traditional human approaches to nature in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and how the mysterious, uncanny nature at the heart of the books may, eventually, remain completely unexplainable in human terms. VanderMeer uses tropes from classic adventure fiction to question our human ability, based on rationality, and exemplified in the use of language and scientific tools, to comprehend, fight, or explain the trilogy’s main space, Area X. The final, uncomfortable suggestion that the wild nature of Area X has to be accepted, not controlled or understood, is supplemented with the intimation that said nature and its animals may survive and transcend humanity and the Anthropocene itself. The triumph of uncanny, undomesticated and alien fauna becomes a symbol not of death but of life, even if it is a life that does not include humanity as its center or its organizing axis.