Out of the Twilight

By Bate, Jonathan | New Statesman (1996), July 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Out of the Twilight


Bate, Jonathan, New Statesman (1996)


There are no green films, plays or literary criticism. Why?

The political revolution never really came close to happening 1968. But it is clear now that the cultural revolutions of the 1960s are here to stay. The rights of women, ethnic minorities and gays are enshrined in law and embedded in consciousness.

How do revolutions of this kind come about? Typically, there will be a slow growth of consciousness, then a headline-grabbing series of books and events, and after that a permeation of new ideas and attitudes through the fabric of society. Education and the culture industry play an important role.

Consider feminism. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir was a bestseller when it appeared in English translation in the United States in 1953, but it was not until the very end of the 1960s that the movement gained mass attention -- thanks to the coining of the phrase "women's lib", the tabloid myth of mass public bra-burnings, and the publication of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. A decade later, feminism was everywhere: in fiction, drama and film, and across the academic disciplines (with the exception of the hard sciences).

There was a similar progression in the arenas of race and gay rights. But what about the other great cultural revolution of the 1960s: environmental consciousness?

In 1962, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring woke the world up to the dangers of toxic pesticides. In the 1970s, Love Canal and Agent Orange became symbols of the devastating ecological consequences of rampant capitalism and imperialism, while the oil crisis made everyone aware of the limits of natural resources. By the turn of the century, more people were engaged in environmental campaigning of various kinds -- from local protests over new housing and roads to the global consciousness-raising of Greenpeace -- than in any other kind of political direct action.

Yet there has not been a corresponding revolution in cultural practice. We have feminist history, feminist literary theory and feminist anthropology by the barrow-load. Ditto for "post colonial" studies. There are university departments of women's studies, MAs in sexual dissidence, the Orange Prize for women's fiction, and, in the theatre, Gay Sweatshop and Split Britches. From Salman Rushdie to Zadie Smith, the modern novel has pulsated with visions of multiculturalism. So where are the equivalents for the promotion of an environmental agenda? How often do you get to see a film or play, or read a novel or work of history or cultural commentary, that is manifestly "green"?

My own field of expertise is English literature. Over the past 20 years, just about every major author since Chaucer has been analysed in relation to race and gender. There has been a huge industry in the recovery of the lost voices of the literary past -- female poets, black autobiographers, gay novelists. Minorities of all kinds have been honoured, and the literary canon redrawn accordingly. Old liberal humanists in English departments up and down the country have had to recognise that there is no going back to the morally bracing but crampingly provincial "great tradition" of FR Leavis.

I started doing ecological literary criticism a decade ago, when I grew impatient with a tendency among the most advanced readers of William Wordsworth to claim that there is "no such thing as nature". This seemed a counter-intuitive way of looking at someone who took such an interest in the ecology of the Lake District. When I looked around for precedents for my approach, I was greeted with near silence.

As far as I am aware, the first example of self-consciously ecological literary criticism -- published just two years after Rachel Carson -- was an article called "Enclosures: the ecological significance of a poem by John Clare". Clare, a 19th-century farm labourer, was a proto-ecologist in that he perceived human society and the natural environment to be held together in a complex and delicate web. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Out of the Twilight
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.