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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2021

Wisconsin, the Wilderness, and the Anthropocene: The Existentialist Dread of a Gen Z’er

Burgundy Pendragon

Senior, Environmental Studies, English, Biology

Abstract

Generation Z is set to inherit a rapidly changing as those responsible for the state of our world insist on doing nothing meaningful to prevent the consequences of Climate Change. Here, existentialist dread means the deep-seated background terror we experience from knowing the damage from the Anthropocene that is being done to our home and that it is almost certainly going to extremify catastrophically in our lifetimes, to knowing that our lives and livelihoods are at stake as the climate crisis worsens annually unless radical measures are taken yesterday. While the works of our predecessors are vital to the conversation about humanity’s relationship with nature and awareness of the Anthropocene, in our modern era there is an intellectual gap from the newest generation of adults and our unique burden in the face of Climate Change. My anthology is helping to fill the absence of perspective from Generation Z in Environmental literature through short stories and poems. I’m utilizing creative non-fiction to establish senses of place, time, culture that are being lost; speculative fiction to address the abstract and the future; both to emphasis the existential dread of someone set to inherit our dying Earth.

Project Background 

I did a lot of initial brainstorming of speculative fiction and creative non-fiction ideas at the start of the process, each talking about different facets of the Anthropocene and also my own complicated relationship with nature. Many of the ideas from that brainstorming made it into the final product, though I certainly ended up cutting several works that just weren’t fitting in with the rest of the project. I wrote a lot of poems on thoughts or observations over the course of the entire project that didn’t work in prose narration, many of them addressing current events at the time of writing. And several of my creative non-fiction pieces are set during a crucial experience in my life, when I spent a semester in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness at the Taylor Wilderness Research Station on a study away program. I found it impossible to talk about my existentialist dread for the Anthropocene and the future, without also discussing my own complicated relationship with nature.

What Do You Think? 

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8 Comments

  1. Morgan DiPietro

    57,000 words?? WOW. also, triple major??? DOUBLE WOW. This is a really lovely project and I resonated with the fear for our dying earth. I loved the story about looking at tea in Kwik Trip. I definitely resonated with the panic of choosing either plastic or glass. I recently became a vegetarian, however I am often torn about where the produce comes from and what the farming practices are. If you publish these stories I would love to buy a copy of it. I’m in love with your writing!!

    Reply
  2. Ellie

    Nice 👉👆

    Reply
  3. Mel

    Moral conflict when shopping at a gas station (or anywhere) – I feel uuu.

    Reply
  4. Sam Looker-Koenigs

    Absolutely amazing! I have of course not had a chance to read the whole thing, but having selected a few pieces to read so far, I am both appreciating the need for existential dread and impressed by how convincingly you write from the point of view of a squirrel. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

    Reply
    • Burgundy Pendragon

      Thank you!!!! The day I sat down to work on brainstorming for Untitled Squirrel Story, I went outside to go watch squirrels on campus for a few hours! A worthwhile endeavor 🙂

      If at any point you’d like to look at pieces in the second half of the manuscript, I am HAPPY to email the complete PDF to anyone interested in the rest! Or talk about nature!

      Reply
  5. Jacob Oakland

    I love your short story titled Grab-N-Guilt. I did not know that Wisconsinites respawn at Kwik-Trip, so that’s good to know. Great job on your anthology!

    Reply
  6. Melinda Landry

    The nonfiction stop at the convenience store is incredibly relatable and personal at the same time. The inner dialog we confront as we make choices that have no clear cut winner can be stifling, causing inaction instead of real change. Living is hard.

    Reply
  7. Olivia A Mahoney

    I just want to say I really admire all your hard work and effort you put into these poems and stories! I like how you entwined both your studies and your love of creative writing to make something that is enjoyable and easy to understand and visualize for the common person. Great work!

    Reply

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