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American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism
The Middle Place
Joni Adamson
University of Arizona Press, 2001
Although much contemporary American Indian literature examines the relationship between humans and the land, most Native authors do not set their work in the "pristine wilderness" celebrated by mainstream nature writers. Instead, they focus on settings such as reservations, open-pit mines, and contested borderlands. Drawing on her own teaching experience among Native Americans and on lessons learned from such recent scenes of confrontation as Chiapas and Black Mesa, Joni Adamson explores why what counts as "nature" is often very different for multicultural writers and activist groups than it is for mainstream environmentalists.

This powerful book is one of the first to examine the intersections between literature and the environment from the perspective of the oppressions of race, class, gender, and nature, and the first to review American Indian literature from the standpoint of environmental justice and ecocriticism. By examining such texts as Sherman Alexie's short stories and Leslie Marmon Silko's novel Almanac of the Dead, Adamson contends that these works, in addition to being literary, are examples of ecological criticism that expand Euro-American concepts of nature and place.

Adamson shows that when we begin exploring the differences that shape diverse cultural and literary representations of nature, we discover the challenge they present to mainstream American culture, environmentalism, and literature. By comparing the work of Native authors such as Simon Ortiz with that of environmental writers such as Edward Abbey, she reveals opportunities for more multicultural conceptions of nature and the environment.

More than a work of literary criticism, this is a book about the search to find ways to understand our cultural and historical differences and similarities in order to arrive at a better agreement of what the human role in nature is and should be. It exposes the blind spots in early ecocriticism and shows the possibilities for building common ground— a middle place— where writers, scholars, teachers, and environmentalists might come together to work for social and environmental change.
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Anglo-Saxon Literary Landscapes
Ecotheory and the Environmental Imagination
Heide Estes
Amsterdam University Press, 2017
Literary scholars have traditionally understood landscapes, whether natural or manmade, as metaphors for humanity instead of concrete settings for people's actions. This book accepts the natural world as such by investigating how Anglo-Saxons interacted with and conceived of their lived environments. Examining Old English poems, such as Beowulf and Judith, as well as descriptions of natural events from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and other documentary texts, Heide Estes shows that Anglo-Saxon ideologies which view nature as diametrically opposed to humans, and the natural world as designed for human use, have become deeply embedded in our cultural heritage, language, and more.
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Beyond the Land Itself
Views of Nature in Canada and the United States
Marcia B. Kline
Harvard University Press, 1970
Marcia Kline's work, which inaugurates a new series of student essays sponsored by the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature, utilizes illustrations from both fictional and nonfictional writing of the mid-nineteenth century to contrast the views of nature held in the United States and Canada during that period. Her conclusions note that while Americans romanticized their West, Canadians responded in terror to the natural world.
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Clear-Cutting Eden
Ecology and the Pastoral in Southern Literature
Christopher Rieger
University of Alabama Press, 2009
Examines how Southern literary depictions of the natural world were influenced by the historical, social, and ecological changes of the 1930s and 1940s
 
Rieger studies the ways that nature is conceived of and portrayed by four prominent Southern writers of the era: Erskine Caldwell, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zora Neale Hurston, and William Faulkner. Specifically, he argues that these writers created new versions of an old literary mode—the pastoral—in response to the destabilizing effects of the Great Depression, the rise of Southern modernism, and the mechanization of agricultural jobs.
 
Mass deforestation, soil erosion, urban development, and depleted soil fertility are issues that come to the fore in the works of these writers. In response, each author depicts a network model of nature, where humans are part of the natural world, rather than separate, over, or above it, as in the garden pastorals of the Old South, thus significantly revising the pastoral mode proffered by antebellum and Reconstruction-era writers.
 
Each writer, Rieger finds, infuses the pastoral mode with continuing relevance, creating new versions that fit his or her ideological positions on issues of race, class, and gender. Despite the ways these authors represent nature and humankind’s place in it, they all illustrate the idea that the natural environment is more than just a passive background against which the substance of life, or fiction, is played out.
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Coyote In The Maze
Peter Quigley
University of Utah Press, 1999

The works of Edward Abbey have been well known to general readers since the 1960’s. This volume, the first comprehensive collection of literary criticism devoted to the entire challenging corpus of Abbey’s fiction and nonfiction, couldn’t be more timely or significant.

From the perspective of his scholarly critics in Western American literature and environmental studies Ed Abbey is, in a word, problematic. As Peter Quigley, volume editor, comments, "The title of this collection refers to a number of references within Abbey’s work. The maze is a place of myriad canyons, of wonder, and a place where the desperadoes in The Monkey Wrench Gang could lose the authorities. The coyote refers to the slippery figure in Native American myth, a figure, known to Abbey, that always eluded definition an could slip out of every trap set to catch him." In this long-awaited anthology, eighteen intrepid scholars have chosen to ignore the coyote’s reputation, tracking Abbey in one masterful and illuminating essay after another through the canyons of anarchist politics, philosophy, feminist literary criticism, post-structuralism, and rhetoric, as well as nature and environmental theory and activism.

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Ecofeminist Literary Criticism
Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy
Edited by Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy
University of Illinois Press, 1998
Ecofeminist Literary Criticism is the first collection of its kind: a diverse anthology that explores both how ecofeminism can enrich literary criticism and how literary criticism can contribute to ecofeminist theory and activism.

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.

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Ecological Poetics; or, Wallace Stevens’s Birds
Cary Wolfe
University of Chicago Press, 2020
The poems of Wallace Stevens teem with birds: grackles, warblers, doves, swans, nightingales, owls, peacocks, and one famous blackbird who summons thirteen ways of looking. What do Stevens’s evocations of birds, and his poems more generally, tell us about the relationship between human and nonhuman? In this book, the noted theorist of posthumanism Cary Wolfe argues for a philosophical and theoretical reinvention of ecological poetics, using Stevens as a test case.

Stevens, Wolfe argues, is an ecological poet in the sense that his places, worlds, and environments are co-created by the life forms that inhabit them. Wolfe argues for a “nonrepresentational” conception of ecopoetics, showing how Stevens’s poems reward study alongside theories of system, environment, and observation derived from a multitude of sources, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Niklas Luhmann to Jacques Derrida and Stuart Kauffman. Ecological Poetics is an ambitious interdisciplinary undertaking involving literary criticism, contemporary philosophy, and theoretical biology.
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Ecology without Nature
Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics
Timothy Morton
Harvard University Press, 2009

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."

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Ecopoetry
Critical Introduction
Scott Bryson
University of Utah Press, 2002

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.

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Ecosublime
Environmental Awe and Terror from New World to Oddworld
Lee Rozelle
University of Alabama Press, 2006
Explores 19th-century, modern, postmodern, and millennial texts as they portray the changing ecological face of America

Lee Rozelle probes the metaphor of environmental catastrophe in American literature of the last 150 years. In each instance, Rozelle finds evidence that the ecosublime--nature experienced as an instance of wonder and fear--profoundly reflects spiritual and political responses to the natural world, America’s increasingly anti-ecological trajectory, and the ascendance of a post-natural landscape.

In the 19th century, Rozelle argues, Isabella Bird and Edgar Allan Poe represented the western wilderness as culturally constructed and idealized landscapes. Gardens, forests, and frontiers are conceptual frameworks that either misrepresent or uphold ecological space. Modernists like Nathanael West and William Carlos Williams, on the other hand, portray urban space as either wastelands or mythical urban gardens. A chapter on Charles W. Chesnutt and Rebecca Harding Davis analyzes a new breed of literary eco-advocate, educating and shocking mainstream readers through depictions of ecological disaster. A later chapter probes the writings of Edward Abbey and the Unabomber Manifesto to delve into the sublime dimensions of environmental activism, monkey-wrenching, and eco-terrorism. 
 
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The Emerson Museum
Practical Romanticism and the Pursuit of the Whole
Lee R. Brown
Harvard University Press, 1997

In 1832, Ralph Waldo Emerson had come to a critical pass. He had lost his wife and was on the brink of leaving his career as a minister. In this reduced state he traveled to New Hampshire, where he made his famous decision to pursue wholeness--in his life and in his writing. This book reveals how Emerson went about achieving this purpose--and how he conceived a uniquely American literary practice.

Central to this project were the aims and methods of natural science, which Emerson discovered in spectacular form at the Museum of Natural History (Jardin des Plantes) in Paris exactly a year after his momentous decision. Lee Rust Brown describes Emerson's use of these scientific techniques to integrate a disparate, constantly enlarging field of subject matter--ultimately, to reconceive himself as an institution of private research and public presentation not unlike the museum itself, methodically gathering specimens from the exotic frontiers of experience and setting them out, in their manifold affinities, on common ground.

The Emerson Museum shows how this undertaking transformed the legacy of European romanticism into a writing project answerable to American urgencies. The natural science of the time was itself informed by romantic demands for wholeness of prospect, and its methods offered Emerson a way to confront an American reality in which any manifestation of unity--literary, political, philosophical, psychological--had to embrace an expanding and fragmenting field of objective elements. In the experimental format of Emerson's essays, Brown identifies the evolution of this new approach and the emergence of wholeness as a national literary project.

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Emerson's Nonlinear Nature
Christopher J. Windolph
University of Missouri Press, 2007

  In this provocative study, Christopher Windolph analyzes Emersonian naturalism from the standpoint of nonlinearity, offering new ways of reading and thinking about Emerson’s stance toward naturalism and the influence of science on his thought. Drawing on ideas in perspective theory, architecture, and nonlinear dynamics to argue that Emerson’s natural philosophy follows from his analysis of the development of organic forms, Windolph breaks new ground in Emerson studies by exploring how considerations of shape and the act of seeing underpin all of Emerson’s theories about nature.

            Bringing to his study a focused attention to the history of Western science and philosophy, Windolph reexamines Emerson’s understanding of how the act of seeing occurs and of the eye’s ability to see through appearances to organizing principles, showing how Emerson’s naturalism extends beyond the narrow confines of traditional linear science. Through extensive readings of Emerson’s journals, essays, and lectures, Windolph shows that Emerson was an empirical idealist who integrated a scientific approach to nature with an exploration of nonlinear principles, revealing him to be more prescient in his writings about certain recent developments in scientific thought than has been realized.

            This work makes a major contribution to the ongoing study of Emerson and science, expanding Emerson’s role as a major American philosopher while rebutting those who see him primarily as a rhetorician or poetic propagandist. Emerson’s Nonlinear Nature opens new ways of thinking about Emerson’s work in its nineteenth-century contexts, reassesses his reception in twentieth-century criticism, and makes a strong case for his continuing relevance in the century ahead.

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The Environmental Imagination
Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture
Lawrence Buell
Harvard University Press, 1996

With the environmental crisis comes a crisis of the imagination, a need to find new ways to understand nature and humanity's relation to it. This is the challenge Lawrence Buell takes up in The Environmental Imagination, the most ambitious study to date of how literature represents the natural environment. With Thoreau's Walden as a touchstone, Buell gives us a far-reaching account of environmental perception, the place of nature in the history of western thought, and the consequences for literary scholarship of attempting to imagine a more "ecocentric" way of being. In doing so, he provides a major new understanding of Thoreau's achievement and, at the same time, a profound rethinking of our literary and cultural reflections on nature.

The green tradition in American writing commands Buell's special attention, particularly environmental nonfiction from colonial times to the present. In works by writers from Crevecoeur to Wendell Berry, John Muir to Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson to Leslie Silko, Mary Austin to Edward Abbey, he examines enduring environmental themes such as the dream of relinquishment, the personification of the nonhuman, an attentiveness to environmental cycles, a devotion to place, and a prophetic awareness of possible ecocatastrophe. At the center of this study we find an image of Walden as a quest for greater environmental awareness, an impetus and guide for Buell as he develops a new vision of environmental writing and seeks a new way of conceiving the relation between human imagination and environmental actuality in the age of industrialization. Intricate and challenging in its arguments, yet engagingly and elegantly written, The Environmental Imagination is a major work of scholarship, one that establishes a new basis for reading American nature writing.

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Finding Thoreau
The Meaning of Nature in the Making of an Environmental Icon
Richard W. Judd
University of Massachusetts Press, 2018
In his 1862 eulogy for Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson reflected that his friend "dedicated his genius with such entire love to the fields, hills, and waters of his native town, that he made them known and interesting to all reading Americans, and to people over the sea." Finding Thoreau traces the reception of Thoreau's work from the time of his death to his ascendancy as an environmental icon in the 1970s, revealing insights into American culture's conception of the environment.

Moving decade by decade through this period, Richard W. Judd unveils a cache of commentary from intellectuals, critics, and journalists to demonstrate the dynamism in the idea of nature, as Americans defined and redefined the organic world around them amidst shifting intellectual, creative, and political forces. This book tells the captivating story of one writer's rise from obscurity to fame through a cultural reappraisal of the work he left behind.
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For Love of the World
Essays on Nature Writers
Sherman Paul
University of Iowa Press, 1992
Along with poets, philosophers, and deep ecologists, nature writers—who may be something of all three—address the world alienation of Western civilization. By example as well as with words, they teach us to turn from the self to the world, from ego to ecos.In these deeply felt meditative essays, Sherman Paul contemplates the cosmological homecoming of nature writers who show us how to reenter the world, participate in it, and recover respect for it.
In For Love of the World Sherman Paul considers Thoreau, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold, major writers in the American tradition of nature writing; Henry Beston and Loren Eiseley, writers not yet so canonical; and Richard Nelson and Barry Lopez, our estimable contemporaries.
Paul's meditative mode follows the practice of naturalists who enter the field, come into the open, and relate their immediate experiences. In the most primary and direct way, his essays belong to our moment in history when nothing is more essential than our reattachment to earthly existence. They will reawaken our love of the world—the necessary eros of ecos—and our wonder at and gratitude for being.
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Going Away to Think
Engagement, Retreat, and Ecocritical Responsibility
Scott Slovic
University of Nevada Press, 2008
Scott Slovic has spent his life as a teacher, writer, environmental activist, and leader in the field of ecocritical literary studies. In Going Away to Think, he reflects on the twin motivations of his life—the commitment to do some good in the world and the impulse to enjoy life and participate fully in its most intense moments—and he examines the tension created by his efforts to balance these two poles of his responsibility. These essays reveal the complex inner life of one of this generation’s most important environmental critics and literary activists. They range from profound discussions of the role and responsibilities of scholarship to deeply personal ruminations on the impact of family crises and the influence of his wide-ranging travels.
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The Greening Of Literary Scholarship
Literature, Theory, and he Environment
Steven Rosendale
University of Iowa Press, 2002
A collection of thirteen original essays by leaders in the emerging field of ecocriticism,The Greening of Literary Scholarship is devoted to exploring new and previously neglected literatures, theories, and methods in environmental-literary scholarship.

Each essay in this impressive collection challenges the notion that the study of environmental literature is separate from traditional concerns of criticism, and each applies ecocritical scholarship to literature not commonly explored in this context. New historicism, postcolonialism, deconstructionism, and feminist and Marxist theories are all utilized to evaluate and gain new insights into environmental literature; at the same time, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Upton Sinclair, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Susan Howe are studied from an ecocritical perspective.
At its core, The Greening of Literary Scholarship offers a practical demonstration of how articulating traditional and environmental modes of literary scholarship can enrich the interpretation of literary texts and, most important, revitalize the larger fields of environmental and literary scholarship.
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Greening The Lyre
Environmental Poetics And Ethics
David W. Gilcrest
University of Nevada Press, 2002

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.

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Homeric Imagery and the Natural Environment
William Brockliss
Harvard University Press, 2019

Responding to George Lakoff’s and Mark Johnson’s analysis of metaphor, William Brockliss explores the Homeric poets’ use of concrete concepts drawn from the Greek natural environment to aid their audiences’ understanding of abstract concepts. In particular, he considers Homeric images that associate flowers with the concepts of deception, disorder, and death, and examines the ways in which the poets engage with natural phenomena such as the brief, diverse blooms of the Greek spring.

Taken together, such Homeric images present a more pessimistic depiction of the human condition than we find in the vegetal imagery of other archaic Greek genres. While lyric poets drew on floral imagery to emphasize the beauty of the beloved, the Homeric poets used images of flowers to explore the potentially deceptive qualities of bodies adorned for seduction. Where the Hesiodic poets employed vegetal images to depict the stable structure of the cosmos, the Homeric poets set arboreal imagery of good order against floral images suggestive of challenges or changes to orderliness. And while the elegiac poets celebrated the brief “flower of youth,” the Homeric poets created floral images reminiscent of Hesiodic monsters, and thereby helped audiences to imagine the monstrous otherness of death.

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Imagining the Forest
Narratives of Michigan and the Upper Midwest
John Knott
University of Michigan Press, 2011

Forests have always been more than just their trees. The forests in Michigan (and similar forests in other Great Lakes states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota) played a role in the American cultural imagination from the beginnings of European settlement in the early nineteenth century to the present. Our relationships with those forests have been shaped by the cultural attitudes of the times, and people have invested in them both moral and spiritual meanings.

Author John Knott draws upon such works as Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory and Robert Pogue Harrison's Forests: The Shadow of Civilization in exploring ways in which our
relationships with forests have been shaped, using Michigan---its history of settlement, popular literature, and forest management controversies---as an exemplary case. Knott looks at such well-known figures as William Bradford, James Fenimore Cooper, John Muir, John Burroughs, and Teddy Roosevelt; Ojibwa conceptions of the forest and natural world (including how Longfellow mythologized them); early explorer accounts; and contemporary literature set in the Upper Peninsula, including Jim Harrison's True North and Philip Caputo's Indian Country.

Two competing metaphors evolved over time, Knott shows: the forest as howling wilderness, impeding the progress of civilization and in need of subjugation, and the forest as temple or cathedral, worthy of reverence and protection. Imagining the Forestshows the origin and development of both.

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Imagining Wild America
John Knott
University of Michigan Press, 2002
At a time when the idea of wilderness is being challenged by both politicians and intellectuals, Imagining Wild America examines writing about wilderness and wildness and makes a case for its continuing value. The book focuses on works by John James Audubon, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and Mary Oliver, as each writer illustrates different stages and dimensions of the American fascination with wild nature. John Knott traces the emergence of a visionary tradition that embraces values consciously understood to be ahistorical, showing that these writers, while recognizing the claims of history and the interdependence of nature and culture, also understand and attempt to represent wild nature as something different, other.
A contribution to the growing literature of eco-criticism, the book is a response to and critique of recent arguments about the constructed nature of wilderness. Imagining Wild America demonstrates the richness and continuing importance of the idea of wilderness, and its attraction for American writers.
John R. Knott is Professor of English, University of Michigan. His previous books include The Huron River: Voices from the Watershed, coedited with Keith Taylor.
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James Oliver Curwood
God's Country and the Man
Judith A. Eldridge
University of Wisconsin Press, 1993

    When the wounded bear he faced on a mountain ledge that day turned aside, James Curwood felt that he had been spared. From this encounter he became an avid conservationist. He wrote relentlessly—magazine stories and books and then for the new medium of motion pictures. Like many authors of his time, he was actively involved in movie-making until the plight of the forests and wildlife in his home state of Michigan turned his energies toward conservation.
    A man ahead of his time, and quickly forgotten after his death in 1927, his gift of himself to his readers and to nature has finally come to be appreciated again two generations later.

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Knowing, Seeing, Being
Jonathan Edwards, Emily Dickinson, Marianne Moore, and the American Typological Tradition
Jennifer L. Leader
University of Massachusetts Press, 2016
Scholars no longer see Jonathan Edwards as the fire-and-brimstone preacher who deemed his parishioners “sinners in the hands of an angry god.” Edwards now figures as caring and socially conscious and exerts increased influence as a philosopher of the American school of Protestantism. In this study, he becomes the progenitor of an alternative tradition in American letters. In Knowing, Seeing, Being, Jennifer L. Leader argues that Edwards, the nineteenth-century poet Emily Dickinson, and the twentieth-century poet Marianne Moore share a heretofore underrecognized set of religious and philosophical preoccupations. She contends that they represent an alternative tradition within American literature, one that differs from Transcendentalism and is grounded in Reformed Protestantism and its ways of reading and interpreting the King James Bible and the natural world. According to Leader, these three writers’ most significant commonality is the Protestant tradition of typology, a rigorous mode of interpreting scripture and nature through which certain figures or phenomena are read as the fulfillment of prophecy and of God’s work. Following from their similar ways of reading, they also share philosophical and spiritual questions about language, epistemology (knowing), perception (seeing), and physical and spiritual ontology (being). In connecting Edwards to these two poets, in exploring each writer’s typological imagination, and through a series of insightful readings, this innovative book reevaluates three major figures in American intellectual and literary history and compels a reconsideration of these writers and their legacies.
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Landscape, Nature, and the Body Politic
From Britain's Renaissance to America's New World
Kenneth Robert Olwig
University of Wisconsin Press, 2002

    Landscape, Nature, and the Body Politic explores the origins and lasting influences of two contesting but intertwined discourses that persist today when we use the words landscape, country, scenery, nature, national. In the first sense, the land is a physical and bounded body of terrain upon which the nation state is constructed (e.g., the purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain, from sea to shining sea). In the second, the country is constituted through its people and established through time and precedence (e.g., land where our fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride). Kenneth Robert Olwig’s extended exploration of these discourses is a masterful work of scholarship both broad and deep, which opens up new avenues of thinking in the areas of geography, literature, theater, history, political science, law, and environmental studies.
    Olwig tracks these ideas though Anglo-American history, starting with seventeenth-century conflicts between the Stuart kings and the English Parliament, and the Stuart dream of uniting Scotland with England and Wales into one nation on the island of Britain. He uses a royal production of a Ben Jonson masque, with stage sets by architect Inigo Jones, as a touchstone for exploring how the notion of "landscape" expands from artful stage scenery to a geopolitical ideal. Olwig pursues these contested concepts of the body politic from Europe to America and to global politics, illuminating a host of topics, from national parks and environmental planning to theories of polity and virulent nationalistic movements.

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Mark Twain and the American West
Joseph L. Coulombe
University of Missouri Press, 2003
In Mark Twain and the American West, Joseph Coulombe explores how Mark Twain deliberately manipulated contemporary conceptions of the American West to create and then modify a public image that eventually won worldwide fame. He establishes the central role of the western region in the development of a persona that not only helped redefine American manhood and literary celebrity in the late nineteenth century, but also produced some of the most complex and challenging writings in the American canon.
Coulombe sheds new light on previously underappreciated components of Twain’s distinctly western persona. Gathering evidence from contemporary newspapers, letters, literature, and advice manuals, Coulombe shows how Twain’s persona in the early 1860s as a hard-drinking, low-living straight-talker was an implicit response to western conventions of manhood. He then traces the author’s movement toward a more sophisticated public image, arguing that Twain characterized language and authorship in the same manner that he described western men: direct, bold, physical, even violent. In this way, Twain capitalized upon common images of the West to create himself as a new sort of western outlaw—one who wrote.
Coulombe outlines Twain’s struggle to find the proper balance between changing cultural attitudes toward male respectability and rebellion and his own shifting perceptions of the East and the West. Focusing on the tension between these goals, Coulombe explores Twain’s emergence as the moneyed and masculine man-of-letters, his treatment of American Indians in its relation to his depiction of Jim in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the enigmatic connection of Huck Finn to the natural world, and Twain’s profound influence on Willa Cather’s western novels.
Mark Twain and the American West is sure to generate new interest and discussion about Mark Twain and his influence. By understanding how conventions of the region, conceptions of money and class, and constructions of manhood intersect with the creation of Twain’s persona, Coulombe helps us better appreciate the writer’s lasting effect on American thought and literature through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.
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The Matrix of Lyric Transformation
Poetic Modes and Self-Presentation in Early Chinese Pentasyllabic Poetry
Cai Zong-qi
University of Michigan Press, 1997
Pentasyllabic poetry has been a focus of critical study since the appearance of the earliest works of Chinese literary criticism in the Six Dynasties period. Throughout the subsequent dynasties, traditional Chinese critics continued to examine pentasyllabic poetry as a leading poetic type and to compile various comprehensive anthologies of it.
The Matrix of Lyric Transformation enriches this tradition, using modern analytical methods to explore issues of self-expression and to trace the early formal, thematic, and generic developments of this poetic form. Beginning with a discussion of the Yüeh-fu and ku-shih genres of the Han period, Cai Zong-qi introdues the analytical framework of modes from Western literary criticism to show how the pentasyllabic poetry changed over time. He argues that changing practices of poetic composition effected a shift from a dramatic mode typical of folk compositions to a narrative mode and finally to lyric and symbolic modes developed in literati circles.
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The Myth of Emptiness and the New American Literature of Place
Wendy Harding
University of Iowa Press, 2014
From the moment the first English-speaking explorers and settlers arrived on the North American continent, many have described its various locations and environments as empty. Indeed, much of American national history and culture is bound up with the idea that parts of the landscape are empty and thus open for colonization, settlement, economic improvement, claim staking, taming, civilizing, cultivating, and the exploitation of resources. In turn, most Euro-American nonfiction written about the landscape has treated it either as an object to be acted upon by the author or an empty space, unspoiled by human contamination, to which the solitary individual goes to be refreshed and rejuvenated.

In The Myth of Emptiness and the New American Literature of Place, Wendy Harding identifies an important recent development in the literature of place that corrects the misperceptions resulting from these tropes. Works by Rick Bass, Charles Bowden, Ellen Meloy, Jonathan Raban, Rebecca Solnit, and Robert Sullivan move away from the tradition of nature writing, with its emphasis on the solitary individual communing with nature in uninhabited places, to recognize the interactions of human and other-than-human presences in the land. In different ways, all six writers reveal a more historically complex relationship between Americans and their environments. In this new literature of place, writers revisit abandoned, threatened, or damaged sites that were once represented as devoid of human presence and dig deeper to reveal that they are in fact full of the signs of human activity. These writers are interested in the role of social, political, and cultural relationships and the traces they leave on the landscape.

Throughout her exploration, Harding adopts a transdisciplinary perspective that draws on the theories of geographers, historians, sociologists, and philosophers to understand the reasons for the enduring perception of emptiness in the American landscape and how this new literature of place works with and against these ideas. She reminds us that by understanding and integrating human impacts into accounts of the landscape, we are better equipped to fully reckon with the natural and cultural crisis that engulfs all landscapes today.
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Narrative in the Anthropocene
Erin James
The Ohio State University Press, 2022
In Narrative in the Anthropocene, Erin James poses two complementary questions: What can narrative teach us about our current geological epoch, defined and marked by the irrevocable activity of humans on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems? and What can our current geological epoch teach us about narrative? Drawing from a wide range of sources—including Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Maria Popova’s collective biography Figuring, Richard McGuire’s graphic novel Here, Indigenous and Afrofuturist speculative fiction, and more—James argues that a richer understanding of the forms and functions of narrative in the Anthropocene provides us with invaluable insight into how stories shape our world. At the same time, she contends that the Anthropocene alters the very nature of narrative. Throughout her exploration of these themes, James lays the groundwork for an “Anthropocene narrative theory,” introducing new modes of reading narrative in the Anthropocene; new categories of narrative time, space, narration, and narrativity; and a new definition of narrative itself as a cognitive and rhetorical tool for purposeful worldbuilding.
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A Natural History of Nature Writing
Frank Stewart
Island Press, 1995

A Natural History of Nature Writing is a penetrating overview of the origins and development of a uniquely American literature. Essayist and poet Frank Stewart describes in rich and compelling prose the lives and works of the most prominent American nature writers of the19th and 20th centuries, including:

  • Henry D. Thoreau, the father of American nature writing.
  • John Burroughs, a schoolteacher and failed businessman who found his calling as a writer and elevated the nature essay to a loved and respected literary form.
  • John Muir, founder of Sierra Club, who celebrated the wilderness of the Far West as few before him had.
  • Aldo Leopold, a Forest Service employee and scholar who extended our moral responsibility to include all animals and plants.
  • Rachel Carson, a scientist who raised the consciousness of the nation by revealing the catastrophic effects of human intervention on the Earth's living systems.
  • Edward Abbey, an outspoken activist who charted the boundaries of ecological responsibility and pushed these boundaries to political extremes.
Stewart highlights the controversies ignited by the powerful and eloquent prose of these and other writers with their expansive – and often strongly political – points of view. Combining a deeply-felt sense of wonder at the beauty surrounding us with a rare ability to capture and explain the meaning of that beauty, nature writers have had a profound effect on American culture and politics. A Natural History of Nature Writing is an insightful examination of an important body of American literature.
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Nature Fantasies
Decolonization and Biopolitics in Latin America
Gabriel Horowitz
Bucknell University Press, 2024

In this original study, Gabriel Horowitz examines the work of select nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin American writers through the lens of contemporary theoretical debates about nature, postcoloniality, and national identity. In the work of José Martí, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, Jorge Luis Borges, Augusto Roa Bastos, Cesar Aira, and others, he traces historical constructions of nature in regional intellectual traditions and texts as they inform political culture on the broader global stage. By investigating national literary discourses from Cuba, Argentina, and Paraguay, he identifies a common narrative thread that imagines the utopian wilderness of the New World as a symbolic site of independence from Spain. In these texts, Horowitz argues, an expressed desire to return to the nation’s foundational nature contributed to a movement away from political and social engagement and toward a “biopolitical state,” in which nature, traditionally seen as pre-political, conversely becomes its center.

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The Nature of Cities
Ecocriticism and Urban Environments
Michael Bennett
University of Arizona Press, 1999
Cities are often thought to be separate from nature, but recent trends in ecocriticism demand that we consider them as part of the total environment. This new collection of essays sharpens the focus on the nature of cities by exploring the facets of an urban ecocriticism, by reminding city dwellers of their place in ecosystems, and by emphasizing the importance of this connection in understanding urban life and culture.

The editors—both raised in small towns but now living in major urban areas—are especially concerned with the sociopolitical construction of all environments, both natural and manmade. Following an opening interview with Andrew Ross exploring the general parameters of urban ecocriticism, they present essays that explore urban nature writing, city parks, urban "wilderness," ecofeminism and the city, and urban space. The volume includes contributions on topics as wide-ranging as the urban poetry of English writers from Donne to Gay, the manufactured wildness of a gambling casino, and the marketing of cosmetics to urban women by idealizing Third World "naturalness." These essays seek to reconceive nature and its cultural representations in ways that contribute to understanding the contemporary cityscape. They explore the theoretical issues that arise when one attempts to adopt and adapt an environmental perspective for analyzing urban life.

The Nature of Cities offers the ecological component often missing from cultural analyses of the city and the urban perspective often lacking in environmental approaches to contemporary culture. By bridging the historical gap between environmentalism, cultural studies, and urban experience, the book makes a statement of lasting importance to the development of the ecocritical movement. 
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Nature's Kindred Spirits
Aldo Leopold, Joseph Wood Krutch, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard, and Gary Snyder
James I. McClintock
University of Wisconsin Press, 1994

In Nature's Kindred Spirits James McClintock shows how their mystical experiences with the wild led to dramatic conversions in their thinking and behavior.  By embracing the ecstasy of nature, they reject modern alienation and spiritual confusion.
    From Aldo Leopold, America’s most important conservationist and author of the classic A Sand County Almanac, to Pulitzer Prize winners Annie Dillard and Gary Snyder and defenders of the desert Joseph Wood Krutch and Edward Abbey, these writers share a common vision that harkens back to Henry David Thoreau and John Muir.  To nineteenth-century Romantic ideals, they add the authority of modern ecological science.  Collectively they have elevated nature’s importance in American culture, shaping the growth of the environmental movement and influencing American environmental policies.
    Widely admired among educated readers but relatively neglected by the literary establishment, these writers unite the experiential with the metaphysical, the ordinary with the sacred, the personal with the public, and the natural with the social.  Using ecology as a touchstone, McClintock further draws connections among science, politics, religion, and philosophy to create an enlightening overview of the work of these “kindred spirits.”

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A New Theory for American Poetry
Democracy, the Environment, and the Future of Imagination
Angus Fletcher
Harvard University Press, 2004

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.

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Notations Of The Wild
Ecology Poetry Wallace Stevens
Gyorgyi Voros
University of Iowa Press, 1997
In the summer of 1903, just before he turned twenty-four, Wallace Stevens joined a six-week hunting expedition to the wilderness of British Columbia. The adventure profoundly influenced his conceptions of language and silence, his symbolic geography, and his sensibilities toward wild nature as nonhuman “other.” The rugged western mountains came to represent that promontory of experience—“green's green apogee”—against which Stevens would measure the reality of all his later perceptions and conceptions and by which he would judge the purpose and value of works of the human imagination. Notations of the Wild views his poetry as a radical reimagining of the nature/culture dialectic and a reinstatement of its forgotten term—Nature.

Gyorgyi Voros focuses on three governing metaphors in Stevens' poems—Nature as house, Nature as body, and Nature as self. She argues that Stevens' youthful wilderness experience yielded his primary subject—the relationship between human beings and nonhuman nature—and that it spurred his shift from a romantic to a phenomenological understanding of nature. Most important, it prompted him to reject his culture's narrow humanism in favor of a singular vision that in today's terms would he deemed ecological.
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Pearl from the Dragon’s Mouth
Evocation of Scene and Feeling in Chinese Poetry
Cecile C. C. Sun
University of Michigan Press, 1995
The interplay between the external world (ching) and the poet’s inner world (ch’ing) lies at the heart of Chinese poetry, and understanding the interaction of the two is crucial to understanding this work from within its own tradition. Closely coordinating her discussions of poetry and criticism so that practice and theory become mutually enriching and illuminating, Sun offers sensitive and original readings of poems and a wealth of insights into Chinese poetics.
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Pilgrims To The Wild
John P O'Grady
University of Utah Press, 1993

Pilgrims to the Wild is a survey of American writers who have responded to their encounters with the natural world. Ranging in its treatment from Thoreau’s important but neglected essay, 'Walking,' to the exuberant letters of the young artist Everett Ruess (who disappeared in the Escalante canyonlands), this is a broadly based exploration that brings to bear Eastern and Western classical philosophy, as well as contemporary critical theory, on a distinctive tradition of American Writing—those works concerned with the human relationship to the nonhuman world.

In addition to offering a fresh interpretation of classic authors such a Thoreau and Muir, this book introduces readers to the less widely known but equally fascinating writers Clarence King and Mary Austin.

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A Place for Humility
Whitman, Dickinson, and the Natural World
Christine Gerhardt
University of Iowa Press, 2014
Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman are widely acknowledged as two of America’s foremost nature poets, primarily due to their explorations of natural phenomena as evocative symbols for cultural developments, individual experiences, and poetry itself. Yet for all their metaphorical suggestiveness, Dickinson’s and Whitman’s poems about the natural world neither preclude nor erase nature’s relevance as an actual living environment. In their respective poetic projects, the earth matters both figuratively, as a realm of the imagination, and also as the physical ground that is profoundly affected by human action. This double perspective, and the ways in which it intersects with their formal innovations, points beyond their traditional status as curiously disparate icons of American nature poetry. That both of them not only approach nature as an important subject in its own right, but also address human-nature relationships in ethical terms, invests their work with important environmental overtones.

Dickinson and Whitman developed their environmentally suggestive poetics at roughly the same historical moment, at a time when a major shift was occurring in American culture’s view and understanding of the natural world. Just as they were achieving poetic maturity, the dominant view of wilderness was beginning to shift from obstacle or exploitable resource to an endangered treasure in need of conservation and preservation.

A Place for Humility examines Dickinson’s and Whitman’s poetry in conjunction with this important change in American environmental perception, exploring the links between their poetic projects within the context of developing nineteenth-century environmental thought. Christine Gerhardt argues that each author's poetry participates in this shift in different but related ways, and that their involvement with their culture’s growing environmental sensibilities constitutes an important connection between their disparate poetic projects. There may be few direct links between Dickinson’s “letter to the World” and Whitman’s “language experiment,” but via a web of environmentally-oriented discourses, their poetry engages in a cultural conversation about the natural world and the possibilities and limitations of writing about it—a conversation in which their thematic and formal choices meet on a surprising number of levels.
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Placing John Haines
James Perrin Warren
University of Alaska Press, 2017
 
John Haines arrived in Alaska, fresh out of the Navy, in 1947, and established a homestead seventy miles southeast of Fairbanks. He stayed there nearly twenty-five years, learning to live off the country: hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering berries, and growing vegetables. Those years formed him as a writer—the interior of Alaska, and especially its boreal forest—marking his poetry and prose and helping him find his unique voice.
 
Placing John Haines, the first book-length study of his work, tells the story of those years, but also of his later, itinerant life, as his success as a writer led him to hold fellowships and teach at universities across the country. James Perrin Warren draws out the contradictions inherent in that biography—that this poet so indelibly associated with place, and authentic belonging, spent decades in motion—and also sets Haines’s work in the context of contemporaries like Robert Bly, Donald Hall, and his close friend Wendell Berry. The resulting portrait shows us a poet who was regularly reinventing himself, and thereby generating creative tension that fueled his unforgettable work. A major study of a sadly neglected master, Placing John Haines puts his achievement in compelling context.


 
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Reader Of The Purple Sage
Essays On Western Writers And Environmental Literature
Ann Ronald
University of Nevada Press, 2003

Literary scholar Ann Ronald gathers her most notable published essays about Nevada, environmental writing, and Western American literature in one volume. These essays reflect Ronald’s wide-ranging interests. Here are deeply informed, critical essays on writers as diverse as Zane Gray, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and Terry Tempest Williams, as well as the Tonopah Ladies—a group of literary women who found their voices in the unlikely setting of a mining boomtown—and on such varied topics as the image of Reno in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction. Included are several recent essays in which Ronald thoughtfully discusses the burgeoning field of environmental writing, some of its principal themes and concerns, and its best-known practitioners.

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Reading The Trail
Exploring The Literature And Natural History Of The California Crest
Corey Lee Lewis
University of Nevada Press, 2005

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.

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Rethinking Reality
Lucretius and the Textualization of Nature
Duncan F. Kennedy
University of Michigan Press, 2002
How deeply into the structure of physical reality do the effects of our way of representing it reach? To what extent do constructivist accounts of scientific theorizing involve realist assumptions, and vice versa? This book provides a lucid and concise introduction to contemporary debates, taking as its theme the question of the relationship of representation and reality. It treats in an attractive and accessible way the historical, philosophical, and literary aspects of this question. In particular, it explores how the present relates to and configures claims to scientific knowledge from the past, taking as its main case study On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura), the poem on physics written by the Roman poet Lucretius in the 50s B.C.E.
The book engages in a sustained argument about realist assumptions in scientific and other discourses through detailed analysis and discussion of some of the most important recent contributions to this debate. Engaging sympathetically but not uncritically with constructivist accounts of scientific knowledge, the book takes up a sustained critique of recent contributions to that debate, including those of Ian Hacking, Evelyn Fox Keller, Bruno Latour, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger. What are the implications of regarding such knowledge as "discovered" or "invented"? How is the rhetoric of such claims to be identified and the pretentions of those claims assessed?In what ways can realist and constructivist approaches be reconciled? How do these considerations affect the way we read scientific texts from the past and regard them historically?
What emerges is a fresh and challenging assessment of the role of time and temporal perspective in assessing claims to knowledge in scientific thought and of the importance of textuality to the history of knowledge. A wide variety of readers, from classicists and intellectual historians to epistemologists of science, will enjoy and learn from Rethinking Reality.
Duncan Kennedy is Reader in Latin Literature and the Theory of Criticism, University of Bristol. He is also the author of The Arts of Love: Five Studies in the Discourse of Roman Love Elegy.
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Romantic Things
A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud
Mary Jacobus
University of Chicago Press, 2012
Our thoughts are shaped as much by what things make of us as by what we make of them. Lyric poetry is especially concerned with things and their relationship to thought, sense, and understanding. In Romantic Things, Mary Jacobus explores the world of objects and phenomena in nature as expressed in Romantic poetry alongside the theme of sentience and sensory deprivation in literature and art.
 
Jacobus discusses objects and attributes that test our perceptions and preoccupy both Romantic poetry and modern philosophy. John Clare, John Constable, Rainer Maria Rilke, W. G. Sebald, and Gerhard Richter make appearances around the central figure of William Wordsworth as Jacobus explores trees, rocks, clouds, breath, sleep, deafness, and blindness in their work. While she thinks through these things, she is assisted by the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Nancy. Helping us think more deeply about things that are at once visible and invisible, seen and unseen, felt and unfeeling, Romantic Things opens our eyes to what has been previously overlooked in lyric and Romantic poetry.
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Seeing New Worlds
Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Natural Science
Laura Dassow Walls
University of Wisconsin Press, 1995

Thoreau was a poet, a naturalist, a major American writer. Was he also a scientist? He was, Laura Dassow Walls suggests. Her book, the first to consider Thoreau as a serious and committed scientist, will change the way we understand his accomplishment and the place of science in American culture.
    Walls reveals that the scientific texts of Thoreau’s day deeply influenced his best work, from Walden to the Journal to the late natural history essays. Here we see how, just when literature and science were splitting into the “two cultures” we know now, Thoreau attempted to heal the growing rift. Walls shows how his commitment to Alexander von Humboldt’s scientific approach resulted in not only his “marriage” of poetry and science but also his distinctively patterned nature studies. In the first critical study of his “The Dispersion of Seeds” since its publication in 1993, she exposes evidence that Thoreau was using Darwinian modes of reasoning years before the appearance of Origin of Species.
    This book offers a powerful argument against the critical tradition that opposes a dry, mechanistic science to a warm, “organic” Romanticism. Instead, Thoreau’s experience reveals the complex interaction between Romanticism and the dynamic, law-seeking science of its day. Drawing on recent work in the theory and philosophy of science as well as literary history and theory, Seeing New Worlds bridges today’s “two cultures” in hopes of stimulating a fuller consideration of representations of nature.
   

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Serpent & Swan
Animal Bride Folklore & Literature
Boria Sax
University of Tennessee Press, 1998
The Serpent and the Swan is a history and analysis of animal bride tales from antiquity to the present. The animal bride tale, the author argues, is an enduring expression of humankind's need to remain close to and a part of nature.
Boria Sax traces the idea of the animal bride through history by drawing upon legends and literary works from throughout the world. He pays particular attention to Eurasian sources which support his thesis that the animal bride theme originated among the serpent cults of Mesopotamia and southeastern Europe. Through time, the details of the animal bride theme changed as a result of mankind's changing perceptions of the natural world. In general, this study is an account of myths and beliefs that have surrounded animals—and women—during the rise of modern humankind.

The Serpent and the Swan identifies and explains images of the animal bride that pervade, enliven, and enrich our culture. The bride becomes Eve taking an apple from the serpent, Medea casting spells, Cinderella riding to the royal ball in a pumpkin coach, and the Little Mermaid rising from the waves.
The Author: Boria Sax, who holds a doctorate in German and intellectual history, is the author of The Frog King and The Parliament of Animals, among other books.
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Show Me Your Environment
Essays on Poetry, Poets, and Poems
David Baker
University of Michigan Press, 2014

In Show Me Your Environment, a penetrating yet personable collection of critical essays, David Baker explores how a poem works, how a poet thinks, and how the art of poetry has evolved—and is still evolving as a highly diverse, spacious, and inclusive art form. The opening essays offer contemplations on the “environment” of poetry from thoughts on physical places and regions as well as the inner aesthetic environment. Next, Baker looks at the highly distinctive achievements and styles of poets ranging from George Herbert and Emily Dickinson through poets writing today. Finally, he takes joy in reading individual poems—from the canonical to the contemporary; simply and closely.

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Shreds of Matter
Cormac McCarthy and the Concept of Nature
Julius Greve
Dartmouth College Press, 2018
Shreds of Matter: Cormac McCarthy and the Concept of Nature offers a nuanced and innovative take on McCarthy’s ostensible localism and, along with it, the ecocentric perspective on the world that is assumed by most critics. In opposing the standard interpretations of McCarthy’s novels as critical either of persisting American ideologies—such as manifest destiny and imperialism—or of the ways in which humanity has laid waste to planet Earth, Greve instead emphasizes the author’s interest both in the history of science and in the mythographical developments of religious discourse. Greve aims to counter traditional interpretations of McCarthy’s work and at the same time acknowledge their partial truth, taking into account the work of Friedrich W. J. Schelling and Lorenz Oken, contemporary speculative realism, and Bertrand Westphal’s geocriticism. Further, newly discovered archival material sheds light on McCarthy’s immersion in the metaphysical question par excellence: What is nature?
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The Song of the Earth
Jonathan Bate
Harvard University Press, 2002

As we enter a new millennium ruled by technology, will poetry still matter? The Song of the Earth answers eloquently in the affirmative. A book about our growing alienation from nature, it is also a brilliant meditation on the capacity of the writer to bring us back to earth, our home.

In the first ecological reading of English literature, Jonathan Bate traces the distinctions among "nature," "culture," and "environment" and shows how their meanings have changed since their appearance in the literature of the eighteenth century. An intricate interweaving of climatic, topographical, and political elements poetically deployed, his book ranges from greenhouses in Jane Austen's novels to fruit bats in the poetry of Les Murray, by way of Thomas Hardy's woodlands, Dr. Frankenstein's Creature, John Clare's birds' nests, Wordsworth's rivers, Byron's bear, and an early nineteenth-century novel about an orangutan who stands for Parliament. Though grounded in the English Romantic tradition, the book also explores American, Central European, and Caribbean poets and engages theoretically with Rousseau, Adorno, Bachelard, and especially Heidegger.

The model for an innovative and sophisticated new "ecopoetics," The Song of the Earth is at once an essential history of environmental consciousness and an impassioned argument for the necessity of literature in a time of ecological crisis.

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Sophocles’ Tragic World
Divinity, Nature, Society
Charles Segal
Harvard University Press, 1995

Much has been written about the heroic figures of Sophocles’ powerful dramas. Now Charles Segal focuses our attention not on individual heroes and heroines, but on the world that inspired and motivated their actions—a universe of family, city, nature, and the supernatural. He shows how these ancient masterpieces offer insight into the abiding question of tragedy: how one can make sense of a world that involves so much apparently meaningless violence and suffering.

In a series of engagingly written interconnected essays, Segal studies five of Sophocles’ seven extant plays: Ajax, Oedipus Tyrannus, Philoctetes, Antigone, and the often neglected Trachinian Women. He examines the language and structure of the plays from several interpretive perspectives, drawing both on traditional philological analysis and on current literary and cultural theory. He pays particular attention to the mythic and ritual backgrounds of the plays, noting Sophocles’ reinterpretation of the ancient myths. His delineation of the heroes and their tragedies encompasses their relations with city and family, conflicts between men and women, defiance of social institutions, and the interaction of society, nature, and the gods. Segal’s analysis sheds new light on Sophocles’ plays—among the most widely read works of classical literature—and on their implications for Greek views on the gods, moral life, and sexuality.

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Thoreau
A Naturalist's Liberty
John Hildebidle
Harvard University Press, 1983

John Hildebidle reintroduces us to Thoreau as natural history writer, bringing fresh insight to Walden, Cape Cod, and the later nature pieces--both published and unpublished--and the tradition of nature writing as well.

Hildebidle examines Thoreau's attitude toward history and science, demonstrating that he manages to use "secondhand" material while insisting that only firsthand experience has any value. Although sharing the naturalist's eye and methods, Thoreau never rests in the role of observer and collector. Hildebidle sees Thoreau as representative of a long-standing American tendency simultaneously to reject and to use the past, and shows how, as naturalist, he brought together science and literary aims. This gracefully written analysis of Thoreau's thinking and style will well serve all readers of Thoreau and those interested in natural history as a genre.

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Thoreaus Sense of Place
Essays in American Environmental Writing
Richard J. Schneider
University of Iowa Press, 2000
 Recent Thoreau studies have shifted to an emphasis on the green" Thoreau, on Thoreau the environmentalist, rooted firmly in particular places and interacting with particular objects. In the wake of Buell's Environmental Imagination, the nineteen essayists in this challenging volume address the central questions in Thoreau studies today: how “green,” how immersed in a sense of place, was Thoreau really, and how has this sense of place affected the tradition of nature writing in America?

The contributors to this stimulating collection address the ways in which Thoreau and his successors attempt to cope with the basic epistemological split between perceiver and place inherent in writing about nature; related discussions involve the kinds of discourse most effective for writing about place. They focus on the impact on Thoreau and his successors of culturally constructed assumptions deriving from science, politics, race, gender, history, and literary conventions. Finally, they explore the implications surrounding a writer's appropriation or even exploitation of places and objects.
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Traces of Gold
California's Natural Resources and the Claim to Realism in Western American Literature
Nicolas Witschi
University of Alabama Press, 2001

Artfully demonstrates the linkage of American literary realism to the texts, myths, and resources of the American West

From Gold Rush romances to cowboy Westerns, from hard-boiled detective thrillers to nature writing, the American West has long been known mainly through hackneyed representations in popular genres. But a close look at the literary history of the West reveals a number of writers who claim that their works represent the “real” West. As Nicolas Witschi shows, writers as varied as Bret Harte, John Muir, Frank Norris, Mary Austin, and Raymond Chandler have used claims of textual realism to engage, replicate, or challenge commonly held assumptions about the West, while historically acknowledged realists like William Dean Howells and Mark Twain have often relied on genre-derived impressions about the region.


The familiar association of the West with nature and the “great outdoors” implies that life in the West affords an unambiguous relationship with an unalloyed, non-human, real nature. But through a combination of textual scholarship, genre criticism, and materialist cultural studies, Witschi complicates this notion of wide-open spaces and unfettered opportunity. The West has been the primary source of raw materials for American industrial and economic expansion, especially between the California Gold Rush and World War II, and Witschi argues that the writers he examines exist within the intersections of cultural and material modes of production. Realistic depictions of Western nature, he concludes, must rely on the representation of the extraction of material resources like minerals, water, and oil.

With its forays into ecocriticism and cultural studies, Traces of Gold will appeal to students and scholars of American literature, American studies, and western history.


 
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Transcendental Wordplay
America’s Romantic Punsters and the Search for the Language of Nature
Michael West
Ohio University Press, 2000

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, America was captivated by a muddled notion of “etymology.” New England Transcendentalism was only one outcropping of a nationwide movement in which schoolmasters across small-town America taught students the roots of words in ways that dramatized religious issues and sparked wordplay.

Shaped by this ferment, our major romantic authors shared the sensibility that Friedrich Schlegel linked to punning and christened “romantic irony.” Notable punsters or etymologists all, they gleefully set up as sages, creating jocular masterpieces from their zest for oracular wordplay. Their search for a primal language lurking beneath all natural languages provided them with something like a secret language that encodes their meanings. To fathom their essentially comic masterpieces we must decipher it.

Interpreting Thoreau as an ironic moralist, satirist, and social critic rather than a nature-loving mystic, Transcendental Wordplay suggests that the major American Romantics shared a surprising conservatism. In this award-winning study, Professor West rescues the pun from critical contempt and allows readers to enjoy it as a serious form of American humor.

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Urban Pastoral
Natural Currents in the New York School
Timothy Gray
University of Iowa Press, 2010

Were the urbane, avant-garde poets of the New York School secretly nature lovers like Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and Annie Dillard? In Urban Pastoral, Timothy Gray urges us to reconsider our long-held appraisals of Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Barbara Guest, and their peers as celebrants of cosmopolitan culture and to think of their more pastoral impulses. As Gray argues, flowers are more beautiful in the New York School’s garden of verse because no one expects them to bloom there.  

      Along with the poets whose careers he chronicles, Gray shows us that startlingly new approaches to New York City art and literature emerge when natural and artificial elements collide kaleidoscopically, as when O’Hara likens blinking stars to a hairnet, when painter Jane Freilicher places a jar of irises in her studio window to mirror purple plumes rising from Consolidated Edison smokestacks, or when poet Kathleen Norris equates rooftop water towers with grain silos as she plans her escape route to the Great Plains.

      The New York School poets and their coterie have become a staple of poetics, literary criticism and biography, cultural studies, and art criticism, but Urban Pastoral is the first study of the original New York School poets to offer sustained discussion of the pastoral and natural imagery within the work of these renowned “city poets” and also consider poets from the second generation of the New York School—Diane di Prima, Jim Carroll, and Kathleen Norris.

     Moving beyond the traditional boundaries of literary criticism to embrace the creative spirit of New York poets and artists, Gray’s accessible, lively, and blithely experimental book will shape future discussions of contemporary urban literature and literary nature writing, offering new evidence of avant-garde poetry’s role within those realms.

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Walden’s Shore
Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science
Robert M. Thorson
Harvard University Press, 2014

"Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward," Thoreau invites his readers in Walden, "till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality." Walden's Shore explores Thoreau's understanding of that hard reality, not as metaphor but as physical science. Robert M. Thorson is interested in Thoreau the rock and mineral collector, interpreter of landscapes, and field scientist whose compass and measuring stick were as important to him as his plant press. At Walden's climax, Thoreau asks us to imagine a "living earth" upon which all animal and plant life is parasitic. This book examines Thoreau's understanding of the geodynamics of that living earth, and how his understanding informed the writing of Walden.

The story unfolds against the ferment of natural science in the nineteenth century, as Natural Theology gave way to modern secular science. That era saw one of the great blunders in the history of American science--the rejection of glacial theory. Thorson demonstrates just how close Thoreau came to discovering a "theory of everything" that could have explained most of the landscape he saw from the doorway of his cabin at Walden. At pivotal moments in his career, Thoreau encountered the work of the geologist Charles Lyell and that of his protégé Charles Darwin. Thorson concludes that the inevitable path of Thoreau's thought was descendental, not transcendental, as he worked his way downward through the complexity of life to its inorganic origin, the living rock.

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Walt Whitman and the Earth
A Study of Ecopoetics
M. Jimmie Killingsworth
University of Iowa Press, 2005
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.
—Walt Whitman, from “This Compost”
How did Whitman use language to figure out his relationship to the earth, and how can we interpret his language to reconstruct the interplay between the poet and his sociopolitical and environmental world? In this first book-length study of Whitman’s poetry from an ecocritical perspective, Jimmie Killingsworth takes ecocriticism one step further into ecopoetics to reconsider both Whitman’s language in light of an ecological understanding of the world and the world through a close study of Whitman’s language.
Killingsworth contends that Whitman’s poetry embodies the kinds of conflicted experience and language that continually crop up in the discourse of political ecology and that an ecopoetic perspective can explicate Whitman’s feelings about his aging body, his war-torn nation, and the increasing stress on the American environment both inside and outside the urban world. He begins with a close reading of “This Compost”—Whitman’s greatest contribution to the literature of ecology,” from the 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass. He then explores personification and nature as object, as resource, and as spirit and examines manifest destiny and the globalizing impulse behind Leaves of Grass, then moves the other way, toward Whitman’s regional, even local appeal—demonstrating that he remained an island poet even as he became America’s first urban poet. After considering Whitman as an urbanizing poet, he shows how, in his final writings, Whitman tried to renew his earlier connection to nature.
Walt Whitman and the Earth reveals Whitman as a powerfully creative experimental poet and a representative figure in American culture whose struggles and impulses previewed our lives today.
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The West Side of Any Mountain
Place, Space, and Ecopoetry
J. Scott Bryson
University of Iowa Press, 2005
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.
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What's Nature Worth
Terre Satterfield
University of Utah Press, 2004
Based on either written or oral interviews with a dozen prominent environmental writers, What’s Nature Worth? explores how the art of storytelling might bring new perspectives and insights to economic and policy discussions regarding the "value" of nature and the environment. The diverse points of view explored, and the writers’ insistence on careful interpretation, demonstrate that environmental values are complex, rich, and deeply felt—far more so than mainstream economic methodology would have us believe. There is general consensus among the contributors that the narrative form allows for an exploration of the richness of what it means to "value" nature without being preachy or didactic. Following interviews with the twelve authors, examples of their work demonstrate how indirect expressions of value, in the words of Allison Hawthorne Deming, have an "emotional hue" that can replenish the energy depleted by the coldness of cost-benefit arguments.
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Wordsworth and the Green Romantics
Affect and Ecology in the Nineteenth Century
Lisa Ottum
University of New Hampshire Press, 2016
Situated at the intersection of ecocriticism, affect studies, and Romantic studies, this collection breaks new ground on the role of emotions in Western environmentalism. Recent scholarship highlights how traffic between Romantic-era literature and science helped to catalyze Green Romanticism. Closer to our own moment, the affective turn reflects similar cross-disciplinary collaboration, as many scholars now see the physiological phenomenon of affect as a force central to how we develop conscious attitudes and commitments. Together, these trends offer suggestive insights for the study of Green Romanticism.
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Worm Work
Recasting Romanticism
Janelle A. Schwartz
University of Minnesota Press, 2012

Worms. Natural history is riddled with them. Literature is crawling with them. From antiquity to today, the ubiquitous and multiform worm provokes an immediate discomfort and unconscious distancing: it remains us against them in anthropocentric anxiety. So there is always something muddled, or dirty, or even offensive when talking about worms. Rehabilitating the lowly worm into a powerful aesthetic trope, Janelle A. Schwartz proposes a new framework for understanding such a strangely animate nature. Worms, she declares, are the very matter with which the Romantics rethought the relationship between a material world in constant flux and the human mind working to understand it.

Worm Work studies the lesser-known natural historical records of Abraham Trembley and his contemporaries and the familiar works of Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin, William Blake, Mary Shelley, and John Keats, to expose the worm as an organism that is not only reviled as a taxonomic terror but revered as a sign of great order in nature as well as narrative. This book traces a pattern of cultural production, a vermiculture that is as transformative of matter as it is of mind. It distinguishes decay or division as positive processes in Romantic era writings, compounded by generation or renewal and used to represent the biocentric, complex structuring of organicism.

Offering the worm as an archetypal figure through which to recast the evolution of a literary order alongside questions of taxonomy from 1740 to 1820 and on, Schwartz unearths Romanticism as a rich humus of natural historical investigation and literary creation.

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Woven Shades of Green
An Anthology of Irish Nature Literature
Tim Wenzell
Bucknell University Press, 2019
Woven Shades of Green is an annotated selection of literature by authors who focus on the natural world and the beauty of Ireland. It begins with the Irish monks and their largely anonymous nature poetry, written at a time when Ireland was heavily forested. A section follows devoted to the changing Irish landscape, through both deforestation and famine, including the nature poetry of William Allingham, and James Clarence Mangan, essays from Thomas Gainford and William Thackerary, and novel excerpts from William Carleton and Emily Lawless. The anthology then turns to the nature literature of the Irish Literary Revival, including Yeats and Synge, and an excerpt from George Moore’s novel The Lake. Part four shifts to modern Irish nature poetry, beginning with Patrick Kavanaugh, and continuing with the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, and others. Finally, the anthology concludes with a section on various Irish naturalist writers, and the unique prose and philosophical nature writing of John Moriarty, followed by a comprehensive list of environmental organizations in Ireland, which seek to preserve the natural beauty of this unique country.    

Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
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Writing for an Endangered World
Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond
Lawrence Buell
Harvard University Press, 2003

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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Writing Nature
Henry Thoreau's Journal
Sharon Cameron
University of Chicago Press, 1989
At his death, Henry Thoreau left the majority of his writing unpublished. The bulk of this material is a journal that he kept for twenty-four years. Sharon Cameron's major claim is that this private work (the Journal) was Thoreau's primary work, taking precedence over the books that he published in his lifetime. Her controversial thesis views Thoreau's Journal as a composition that confounds the distinction between public and private—the basis on which our conventional treatment of discourse depends.
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Zombiescapes and Phantom Zones
Ecocriticism and the Liminal from "Invisible Man" to "The Walking Dead"
Lee Rozelle
University of Alabama Press, 2016
A study of the natural world as imagined by contemporary writers, specifically their portrayals of nature as monster

In Zombiescapes and Phantom Zones: Ecocriticism and the Liminal from “Invisible Man” to “The Walking Dead,” Lee Rozelle chronicles the weirdest, ugliest, and most mixed-up characters to appear on the literary scene since World War II—creatures intimately linked to damaged habitats that rise from the muck, not to destroy or rule the world, but to save it. The book asks what happens to these landscapes after the madness, havoc, and destruction. What monsters and magic surface then?
 
Rozelle argues that zombiescapes and phantom zones depicted in the book become catalysts for environmental reanimation and sources of hope. Liminality offers exciting and useful new ways to conceptualize places that have historically proven troublesome, unwieldy, or hard to define. Zombiescapes can reduce the effects of pollution, promote environmental justice, lessen economic disparity, and localize food production. The grotesques that ooze and crawl from these passages challenge readers to consider new ways to re-inhabit broken lands at a time when energy efficiency, fracking, climate change, the Pacific trade agreement, local food production, and sustainability shape the intellectual landscape.
 
Rozelle focuses on literary works from 1950 to 2015—the zombiescapes and monsterscapes of post–World War II literature—that portray in troubling and often devastating ways the “brownfields” that have been divested of much of their biodiversity and ecological viability. However, he also highlights how these literary works suggest a new life and new potential for such environments. With an unlikely focus on places of ruination and an application of interdisciplinary, transnational approaches to a range of fields and texts, Rozelle advances the notion that places of distortion might become a nexus where revelation and advocacy are possible again.
 
Zombiescapes and Phantom Zones has much to offer to various fields of scholarship, including literary studies, ecocriticism, and environmental studies. Research, academic, and undergraduate audiences will be captivated by Rozelle’s lively prose and unique anthropological, ecocritical, and literary analyses.
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