Before the idea of the Anthropocene, there was the angry planet
How might we understand an earthquake as a complaint, or erosion as a form of protest—in short, the Earth as an angry planet? Many novels from the end of the millennium did just that, centering around an Earth that acts, moves, shapes human affairs, and creates dramatic, nonanthropogenic change.
In Angry Planet, Anne Stewart uses this literature to develop a theoretical framework for reading with and through planetary motion. Typified by authors like Colson Whitehead, Octavia Butler, and Leslie Marmon Silko, whose work anticipates contemporary critical concepts of entanglement, withdrawal, delinking, and resurgence, angry planet fiction coalesced in the 1990s and delineated the contours of a decolonial ontology. Stewart shows how this fiction brought Black and Indigenous thought into conversation, offering a fresh account of globalization in the 1990s from the perspective of the American Third World, construing it as the era that first made connections among environmental crises and antiracist and decolonial struggles.
By synthesizing these major intersections of thought production in the final decades of the twentieth century, Stewart offers a recent history of dissent to the young movements of the twenty-first century. As she reveals, this knowledge is crucial to incipient struggles of our contemporary era, as our political imaginaries grapple with the major challenges of white nationalism and climate change denial.
How poetry can help us think about and live in the Anthropocene by reframing our intimate relationship with geological time
The Anthropocene describes how humanity has radically intruded into deep time, the vast timescales that shape the Earth system and all life-forms that it supports. The challenge it poses—how to live in our present moment alongside deep pasts and futures—brings into sharp focus the importance of grasping the nature of our intimate relationship with geological time. In Anthropocene Poetics, David Farrier shows how contemporary poetry by Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Evelyn Reilly, and Christian Bök, among others, provides us with frameworks for thinking about this uncanny sense of time.
Looking at a diverse array of lyric and avant-garde poetry from three interrelated perspectives—the Anthropocene and the “material turn” in environmental philosophy; the Plantationocene and the role of global capitalism in environmental crisis; and the emergence of multispecies ethics and extinction studies—Farrier rethinks the environmental humanities from a literary critical perspective. Anthropocene Poetics puts a concern with deep time at the center, defining a new poetics for thinking through humanity’s role as geological agents, the devastation caused by resource extraction, and the looming extinction crisis.
Ecofeminism is a practical movement for social change that discerns interconnections among all forms of oppression: the exploitation of nature, the oppression of women, class exploitation, racism, colonialism. Against binary divisions such as self/other, culture/nature, man/woman, humans/animals, and white/non-white, ecofeminist theory asserts that human identity is shaped by more fluid relationships and by an acknowledgment of both connection and difference.
Once considered the province of philosophy and women's studies, ecofeminism in recent years has been incorporated into a broader spectrum of academic discourse. Ecofeminist Literary Criticism assembles some of the most insightful advocates of this perspective to illuminate ecofeminism as a valuable component of literary criticism.
Cultures have long defined themselves through biological elements to prove their strength and longevity, from cherry blossoms in Japan to amber waves of grain in the United States. In Ecology without Culture, Christine L. Marran introduces the concept of biotropes—material and semiotic figures that exist for human perception—to navigate how and why the material world has proven to be such an effective medium for representing culture. A bold and timely reconsideration of ecocriticism, Ecology without Culture insists on decentering questions of culture to highlight the materiality of poetry, film, and prose fiction.
Marran argues that ecocriticism can critique ecological realities more effectively from outside the frame of human exceptionalism. Through discussions of primarily non-Anglophone literature, poetry, and cinema about toxic events in contemporary history— from the depiction of slow violence in documentary by Tsuchimoto Noriaki to the powerful poetry of Ishimure Michiko—Marran argues that ecocriticism must find a way to engage culture without making the perpetuation of ethnos and anthropos the endgame of ecopolitics.
Using the biological foundations and geological time scales of textual worlds to more deeply critique cultural humanism, Marran ultimately contends that the chief stumbling block to ecological thinking is not the image of nature, but the image of culture.
In Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the image of nature itself. Ecological writers propose a new worldview, but their very zeal to preserve the natural world leads them away from the "nature" they revere. The problem is a symptom of the ecological catastrophe in which we are living. Morton sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all.Ecology without Nature investigates our ecological assumptions in a way that is provocative and deeply engaging. Ranging widely in eighteenth-century through contemporary philosophy, culture, and history, he explores the value of art in imagining environmental projects for the future. Morton develops a fresh vocabulary for reading "environmentality" in artistic form as well as content, and traces the contexts of ecological constructs through the history of capitalism. From John Clare to John Cage, from Kierkegaard to Kristeva, from The Lord of the Rings to electronic life forms, Ecology without Nature widens our view of ecological criticism, and deepens our understanding of ecology itself. Instead of trying to use an idea of nature to heal what society has damaged, Morton sets out a radical new form of ecological criticism: "dark ecology."
Ecopoetics: Essays in the Field makes a formidable intervention into the emerging field of ecopoetics. The volume’s essays model new and provocative methods for reading twentieth and twenty-first century ecological poetry and poetics, drawing on the insights of ecocriticism, contemporary philosophy, gender and sexuality studies, black studies, Native studies, critical race theory, and disability studies, among others.
Contributors offer readings of a diverse range of poets, few of whom have previously been read as nature writers—from midcentury Beat poet Michael McClure, Objectivist poet George Oppen, and African American poets Melvin Tolson and Robert Hayden; to contemporary writers such as Diné poet Sherwin Bitsui, hybrid/ collage poets Claudia Rankine and Evelyn Reilly, emerging QPOC poet Xandria Phillips, and members of the Olimpias disability culture artists’ collective. While addressing preconceptions about the categories of nature writing and ecopoetics, contributors explore, challenge, and reimagine concepts that have been central to environmental discourse, from apocalypse and embodiment to toxicity and sustainability.
This collection of essays makes the compelling argument that ecopoetics should be read as “coextensive with post-1945 poetry and poetics,” rather than as a subgenre or movement within it. It is essential reading for any student or scholar working on contemporary literature or in the environmental humanities today.
Contributors: Joshua Bennett, Rob Halpern, Matt Hooley, Angela Hume, Lynn Keller, Petra Kuppers, Michelle Niemann, Gillian Osborne, Samia Rahimtoola, Joan Retallack, Joshua Schuster, Jonathan Skinner.
The burgeoning field of ecocriticism is beginning to address the work of such ecopoets as Gary Snyder, Mary Oliver, W. S. Merwin, and Wendell Berry, among others, whose poems increasingly deal with ecological and environmental issues. Ecopoetry: A Critical Introduction assembles previously unpublished contributions from many of the most important scholars in the field as they discuss the historical and crosscultural roots of ecopoetry, while expanding the boundaries to include such themes as genocide and extinction, the lesbian body, and post colonialism. This volume gathers these necessary voices in the emerging conversation regarding poetry’s place in the environmental debate.
Ecospatiality explores modern and contemporary American prose literature through the lens of place, showing how authors like William Least Heat-Moon, Willa Cather, Richard Wright, and Leslie Marmon Silko represent and reimagine real places in the world and the human-environment relationships therein. Building on the work of scholars in geography, sociology, ecocriticism, and geocriticism, this book articulates the theory of ecospatiality: an understanding of place as simultaneously spatial, ecological, and historical.
Environment at the Margins brings literary and environmental studies into a robust interdisciplinary dialogue, challenging dominant ideas about nature, conservation, and development in Africa and exploring alternative narratives offered by writers and environmental thinkers. The essays bring together scholarship in geography, anthropology, and environmental history with the study of African and colonial literatures and with literary modes of analysis. Contributors analyze writings by colonial administrators and literary authors, as well as by such prominent African activists and writers as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Mia Couto, Nadine Gordimer, Wangari Maathai, J. M. Coetzee, Zakes Mda, and Ben Okri. These postcolonial ecocritical readings focus on dialogue not only among disciplines but also among different visions of African environments. In the process, Environment at the Margins posits the possibility of an ecocriticism that will challenge and move beyond marginalizing, limiting visions of an imaginary Africa.
David McDermott Hughes
Roderick P. Neumann
This work covers important and neglected ground—environmental language theory. Gilcrest poses two overarching questions: To what extent does contemporary nature poetry represent a recapitulation of familiar poetics? And, to what extent does contemporary nature poetry engage a poetics that stakes out new territory? He addresses these questions with important thinkers, especially Kenneth Burke, and considers such poets as Frost, Kunitz, Heaney, Ammons, Cardenal, and Rich.
Amid gloomy forecasts of the decline of the humanities and the death of poetry, Angus Fletcher, a wise and dedicated literary voice, sounds a note of powerful, tempered optimism. He lays out a fresh approach to American poetry at large, the first in several decades, expounding a defense of the art that will resonate well into the new century.Breaking with the tired habit of treating American poets as the happy or rebellious children of European romanticism, Fletcher uncovers a distinct lineage for American poetry. His point of departure is the fascinating English writer, John Clare; he then centers on the radically American vision expressed by Emerson and Walt Whitman. With Whitman this book insists that "the whole theory and nature of poetry" needs inspiration from science if it is to achieve a truly democratic vista. Drawing variously on Complexity Theory and on fundamentals of art and grammar, Fletcher argues that our finest poetry is nature-based, environmentally shaped, and descriptive in aim, enabling poets like John Ashbery and other contemporaries to discover a mysterious pragmatism.Intense, resonant, and deeply literary, this account of an American poetics shows how today's consumerist and conformist culture subverts the imagination of a free people. While centering on American vision, the argument extends our horizon, striking a blow against all economically sanctioned attacks upon the finer, stronger human capacities. Poetry, the author maintains, is central to any coherent vision of life.
A provocative new way to read and interpret the classic works of John Muir, Mary Austin, and Gary Snyder, and to bring their ideas into the discussion of ecological values and the current environmental crisis. Lewis combines a perceptive discussion of their work and ideas with an engaging account of his own trail experiences as hiker/backpacker and volunteer trail builder, proposing that such a field-based, interdisciplinary approach to literary study and outdoors experience can enrich our appreciation for the work of nature writers.
Barbara Kingsolver's books have sold millions of copies. The Poisonwood Bible was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and her work is studied in courses ranging from English-as-a-second-language classes to seminars in doctoral programs. Yet, until now, there has been relatively little scholarly analysis of her writings.
Seeds of Change: Critical Essays on Barbara Kingsolver, edited by Priscilla V. Leder, is the first collection of essays examining the full range of Kingsolver's literary output. The articles in this new volume provide analysis, context, and commentary on all of Kingsolver's novels, her poetry, her two essay collections, and her full-length nonfiction memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.
Professor Leder begins Seeds of Change with a brief critical biography that traces Kingsolver's development as a writer. Leder also includes an overview of the scholarship on Kingsolver's oeuvre. Organized by subject matter, the 14 essays in the book are divided into three sections tha deal with recurrent themes in Kingsolver's compositions: identity, social justice, and ecology.
The pieces in this ground-breaking volume draw upon contemporary critical approaches—ecocritical, postcolonial, feminist, and disability studies—to extend established lines of inquiry into Kingsolver's writing and to take them in new directions. By comparing Kingsolver with earlier writers such as Joseph Conrad and Henry David Thoreau, the contributors place her canon in literary context and locate her in cultural contexts by revealing how she re-works traditional narratives such as the Western myth. They also address the more controversial aspects of her writings, examining her political advocacy and her relationship to her reader, in addition to exploring her vision of a more just and harmonious world.
Fully indexed with a comprehensive works-cited section, Seeds of Change gives scholars and students important insight and analysis which will deepen and broaden their understanding and experience of Barbara Kingsolver's work.
Shipwreck Modernity engages early modern representations of maritime disaster in order to describe the global experience of ecological crisis. In the wet chaos of catastrophe, sailors sought temporary security as their worlds were turned upside down. Similarly, writers, poets, and other thinkers searched for stability amid the cultural shifts that resulted from global expansion. The ancient master plot of shipwreck provided a literary language for their dislocation and uncertainty.
Steve Mentz identifies three paradigms that expose the cultural meanings of shipwreck in historical and imaginative texts from the mid-sixteenth through the early eighteenth centuries: wet globalization, blue ecology, and shipwreck modernity. The years during which the English nation and its emerging colonies began to define themselves through oceangoing expansion were also a time when maritime disaster occupied sailors, poets, playwrights, sermon makers, and many others. Through coming to terms with shipwreck, these figures adapted to disruptive change.
Traces of shipwreck ecology appear in canonical literature from Shakespeare to Donne to Defoe and also in sermons, tales of survival, amateur poetry, and the diaries of seventeenth-century English sailors. The isolated islands of Bermuda and the perils of divine anger hold central places. Modern sailor-poets including Herman Melville serve as valuable touchstones in the effort to parse the reality and understandings of global shipwreck.
Offering the first ecocritical account of early modern shipwreck narratives, Shipwreck Modernity reveals the surprisingly modern truths to be found in these early stories of ecological collapse.
The violence wrought by climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war takes place gradually and often invisibly. Using the innovative concept of "slow violence" to describe these threats, Rob Nixon focuses on the inattention we have paid to the attritional lethality of many environmental crises, in contrast with the sensational, spectacle-driven messaging that impels public activism today. Slow violence, because it is so readily ignored by a hard-charging capitalism, exacerbates the vulnerability of ecosystems and of people who are poor, disempowered, and often involuntarily displaced, while fueling social conflicts that arise from desperation as life-sustaining conditions erode.In a book of extraordinary scope, Nixon examines a cluster of writer-activists affiliated with the environmentalism of the poor in the global South. By approaching environmental justice literature from this transnational perspective, he exposes the limitations of the national and local frames that dominate environmental writing. And by skillfully illuminating the strategies these writer-activists deploy to give dramatic visibility to environmental emergencies, Nixon invites his readers to engage with some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
In contrast to nature poets of the past who tended more toward the bucolic and pastoral, many contemporary nature poets are taking up radical environmental and ecological themes. In the last few years, interesting and evocative work that examines this poetry has begun to lay the foundation for studies in ecopoetics.
Informed in general by current thinking in environmental theory and specifically by the work of cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, The West Side of Any Mountain participates in and furthers this scholarly attention by offering an overarching theoretical framework with which to approach the field.
One area that contemporary theorists have found problematic is the dualistic civilization/wilderness binary that focuses on the divisions between culture and nature, thereby increasing the modern sense of alienation. Tuan’s place-space framework offers a succinct vocabulary for describing the attitudes of ecological poets and other nature writers in a way that avoids setting up an adversarial relationship between place and space. Scott Bryson describes the Tuanian framework and employs it to offer fresh readings of the work of four major ecopoets: Wendell Berry, Joy Harjo, Mary Oliver, and W. S. Merwin.
The West Side of Any Mountain will be of great interest to scholars and teachers working in the field of contemporary nature poetry. It is recommended for nature-writing courses as well as classes dealing with 20th-century poetry, contemporary literary criticism, and environmental theory.
As interest in environmental issues grows, many writers of fiction have embraced themes that explore the connections between humans and the natural world. Ecologically themed fiction ranges from profound philosophical meditations to action-packed entertainments. Where the Wild Books Are offers an overview of nearly 2,000 works of nature-oriented fiction. The author includes a discussion of the precursors and history of the genre, and of its expansion since the 1970s. He also considers its forms and themes, as well as the subgenres into which it has evolved, such as speculative fiction, ecodefense, animal stories, mysteries, ecofeminist novels, cautionary tales, and others. A brief summary and critical commentary of each title is included. Dwyer’s scope is broad and covers fiction by Native American writers as well as ecofiction from writers around the world. Far more than a mere listing of books, Where the Wild Books Are is a lively introduction to a vast universe of engaging, provocative writing. It can be used to develop book collections or curricula. It also serves as an introduction to one of the most fertile areas of contemporary fiction, presenting books that will offer enjoyable reading and new insights into the vexing environmental questions of our time.
The environmental imagination does not stop short at the edge of the woods. Nor should our understanding of it, as Lawrence Buell makes powerfully clear in his new book that aims to reshape the field of literature and environmental studies. Emphasizing the influence of the physical environment on individual and collective perception, his book thus provides the theoretical underpinnings for an ecocriticism now reaching full power, and does so in remarkably clear and concrete ways.Writing for an Endangered World offers a conception of the physical environment--whether built or natural--as simultaneously found and constructed, and treats imaginative representations of it as acts of both discovery and invention. A number of the chapters develop this idea through parallel studies of figures identified with either "natural" or urban settings: John Muir and Jane Addams; Aldo Leopold and William Faulkner; Robinson Jeffers and Theodore Dreiser; Wendell Berry and Gwendolyn Brooks. Focusing on nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers, but ranging freely across national borders, his book reimagines city and country as a single complex landscape.
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