Material Ecocriticism and Peter Handke's <i>Versuch über den Pilznarren</i>
Despite Peter Handke’s frequent focus on landscape and nature, his writing has rarely been considered by ecocritics as environmental. His recent fictional work, Versuch über den Pilznarren (Essay about the Mushroom Fool), details one man’s increasingly intense fascination with mushrooms, his eventual disappearance, and ultimate transformation into a “mushroom fool.” This essay examines the role of the mushrooms in Handke’s 2013 work as commentary on the reciprocal relationship between humans and nonhumans that warrants serious consideration, rather than theme or metaphor. In this article, I employ the lens of material ecocriticism to explore the dynamic material interplays and shared agencies between the mushroom, mushroom hunter, and the space of mushroom collecting. The analysis focuses in particular on border regions—of the human body and the forest in particular—to trace the mushroom’s role in the narrative and meaning in making.
Key words: mushrooms, material ecocriticism, trans-corporeality, Peter Handke, Austrian studies