Tracing ecophobia through bios/zoe dichotomy in Margaret Atwood's Surfacing

Ağın B.

NEOHELICON, vol.49, no.1, pp.371-383, 2022 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 49 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11059-021-00611-z
  • Journal Name: NEOHELICON
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance (IBTD), Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.371-383
  • Keywords: Ecophobia, Bios, zoe dichotomy, Margaret Atwood, Surfacing, POWER
  • TED University Affiliated: No


This article analyzes Margaret Atwood's Surfacing (1972) in light of Simon Estok's ecophobia hypothesis. Based on Estok's compelling argument that ecophobia inherently relates to other types of discriminatory and violent acts arising from xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, sexism, racism, and speciesism, the article traces the links between ecophobia and centuries-old bios/zoe dichotomy in Atwood's novel with a specific focus on the haunting memories of the unnamed protagonist/narrator. The primary argument of the article is that the protagonist in Atwood's Surfacing experiences an in-between state, in her quest beyond gender and geography, and thus experiences various sentiments evoked by ecophobia, such as self-victimization, madness, and disgust. The article claims that during her search for her missing father, the narrator in Surfacing journeys from the status of bios to the independent 'wilderness' zone of zoe, finally resolving to unite back with the so-called civilized order of bios, which explains the underlying ecophobic tendencies that are uniquely human. Using postcolonial and ecofeminist theoretical background to support Estok's arguments in this array, the author claims that understanding ecophobia requires more than equating it with other forms of discrimination but necessitates facing the failure of heteropatriarchal, anthropocentric human culture that embeds the primal dichotomy of bios/zoe.