Accessibility Tools

Mega-Dams in World Literature

Literary Responses to Twentieth-Century Dam Building

by Margaret Ziolkowski

Hardcover Price $95.00
Paperback Price $25.95
Ebook Price $20.95
30-day ebook rental price $10.50

Buy Now

“Impressive and extremely useful in its comprehensive sweep of mega-dams in numerous countries.”
—Dorothy Zeisler-Vralstad, Eastern Washington University 
“This unique and insightful study is essential reading for those who want to understand how the world’s rivers got caught in the crosshairs of high modernism and nationalism, and at what cost.”
—Katrine Barber, Portland State University


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.


Margaret Ziolkowski is professor emerita of Russian at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she taught Russian language, literature, and folklore for thirty-three years and received the University Distinguished Scholar Award. She has published several books, primarily devoted to topics in Russian literature, most recently Rivers in Russian Literature and Soviet Heroic Poetry in Context: Folklore or Fakelore.

University of Wyoming Press Logo


  • Hardcover Price: $95.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-64642-595-2
  • Paperback Price: $25.95
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-64642-596-9
  • Ebook Price: $20.95
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $10.50
  • EISBN: 978-1-64642-597-6
  • Publication Month: April
  • Publication Year: 2024
  • Pages: 228
  • Illustrations: 15
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: by Margaret Ziolkowski
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-64642-596-9
  • Get Permissions: Get Permission

Related Titles

Browse Related Titles Tagged Under:

University Press of Colorado University of Alaska Press Utah State University Press University of Wyoming Press