Mega-Dams in World Literature reveals the varied effects of large dams on people and their environments as expressed in literary works, focusing on the shifting attitudes toward large dams that emerged over the course of the twentieth century. Margaret Ziolkowski covers the enthusiasm for large-dam construction that took place during the mid-twentieth-century heyday of mega-dams, the increasing number of people displaced by dams, the troubling environmental effects they incur, and the types of destruction and protest to which they may be subject.
Using North American, Native American, Russian, Egyptian, Indian, and Chinese novels and poems, Ziolkowski explores the supposed progress that these structures bring. The book asks how the human urge to exploit and control waterways has affected our relationships to nature and the environment and argues that the high modernism of the twentieth century, along with its preoccupation with development, casts the hydroelectric dam as a central symbol of domination over nature and the power of the nation state.
Beyond examining the exultation of large dams as symbols of progress, Mega-Dams in World Literature takes a broad international and cultural approach that humanizes and personalizes the major issues associated with large dams through nuanced analyses, paying particular attention to issues engendered by high modernism and settler colonialism. Both general and specialist readers interested in human-environment relationships will enjoy this prescient book.