chapter  9
14 Pages

Bleeding Feet and Failing Knees

The Ecogothic in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Chasing Ice
WithCari M. Carpenter

In both Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and Chasing Ice (2012), a twenty-first century documentary about climate change, ice plays a central role, demonstrating the interwoven human and nonhuman. Although these texts were produced in quite different historical moments, they construct a similar ecogothic narrative of “terrible beauty,” in which a human is wounded by an encounter with the environment, which is itself figured as wounded. It is this haunting effect that I consider in this chapter, positioned at the meeting ground of ecocriticism and gothic fiction. The similarities of the two narratives suggest both the power and the limitations of the ecogothic narrative, offering an important story that we tell—and that we need to tell—about the constitutive relationship between humans and the natural world. Indeed, ice is the primary measure of our future: in its demise, we find, is our own.