Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Jones, Manina


In The Ecology of American Noir, I investigate the relationship between the conventions of noir fiction and film and its sub-types in relation to environmental crises. Specifically, I address questions that not only allow us to (re)read early hardboiled literature and neo-noir films, but that also help us identify a new sub-genre of noir and develop an ecocritical methodology: I call this contemporary sub-genre and methodology “eco-noir.” I trace the development of strategies of mapping urban blight and environmental deterioration in classic hardboiled fiction of the 1940s, neo-noir films of the 1970s, and eco-noir texts of the post millennial period. Moreover, in introducing the eco-noir as both a sub-genre and fictional form, as well as a methodology, I develop a new way of understanding the relationship between noir and climate fiction texts. In my close reading of hardboiled, neo-noir, and eco-noir texts, including Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Robert Towne, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Jeff VanderMeer, I ask and address the following question: how does each sub-genre of noir map noir atmosphere of the private investigator’s natural setting in terms of environmental toxicity? I conclude that while early hardboiled and neo-noir texts map environmental deterioration as a backgrounded, fragmented element of the noir atmosphere and setting, contemporary eco-noir texts map such decay in a rhizomatic manner that represents an alternative conceptualization of the relationship between humans and the natural world. Each text, in its way, indicates a connection between capitalist and patriarchal infrastructure and environmental blight. In each chapter of The Ecology of American Noir, I contribute to critical conversations in both noir and ecocritical scholarship, making clear how a new understanding of noir as defined through environmental and atmospheric conditions invites readers, viewers, and scholars of the genre to generate meaningful dialogues about our decaying and deteriorating environment.

Summary for Lay Audience

In The Ecology of American Noir, I explore how noir, namely popular hardboiled literature of the mid-nineteenth century, neo-noir films from the late-twentieth century, and contemporary climate fiction narratives, represent urban blight and a toxic natural environment. I identify a new sub-genre of American noir, the “eco-noir,” which is a fusion of noir and climate fiction genres. The hardboiled, neo-noir, and eco-noir sub-genres provide readers and viewers with accessible ways of representing mystery, violence, and crime in order to better grasp the poisonous atmosphere of fictional natural environments. In each of the following chapters, I examine how capitalist infrastructure, crime, and violence not only bring our attention to urban criminality, but also explore how such acts of violence are the symptoms of a more systemic and damaging relationship with the natural world. In doing so, they help readers better grasp the relationship of capitalism, crime, and the environment. American noir’s sub-genres can be regenerated in contemporary times to offer us a critical method for tackling environmental issues.