Reasonably Insane: Affect and Crake in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake


In Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake, the apocalypse is brought about by the character Crake, who devises and unleashes a virus to wipe out human life. Far from a typical mad-scientist villain who abandons reason and turns against his own society, however, Crake exists in a social milieu that encourages the “mad” prizing of knowledge at the expense of feeling and the routine degradation and oppression of other humans. Drawing on the affect theory of Jonathan Flatley, Lauren Berlant, and Sara Ahmed, I analyze Crake as an exemplary denizen of the “happiness dystopia” that is his society. I argue that Crake’s disanthropic attitude is not recognized by other characters because the scientific and socioeconomic systems are perpetuated by a disaffected response to suffering. Crake does not appear mad, as even his genocidal endgame conforms to the affective logic of his society, effectively camouflaging his methods and motives from detection.

This article “Reasonably Insane: Affect and Crake in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake” originally appeared in Emerging Scholars. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 226 (Autumn 2015): 18-33.

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