Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism

Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism

Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism

Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism

Synopsis

Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies is a collection of essays written by European and North American scholars who argue that nature and culture can no longer be thought of in oppositional, mutually exclusive terms. They are united in an effort to push the theoretical limits of ecocriticism towards a more rigorous investigation of nature's critical potential as a concept that challenges modern culture's philosophical assumptions, epistemological convictions, aesthetic principles, and ethical imperatives. This volume offers scholars and students of literature, culture, history, philosophy, and linguistics new insights into the ongoing transformation of ecocriticism into an innovative force in international and interdisciplinary literary and cultural studies."

Excerpt

Over the last one and a half decades, ecocriticism has evolved from a regional movement of Western American literature scholars interested in drawing attention to the cultural value of nature writing and environmental literature into a growing international and interdisciplinary community of scholars who agree that the current environmental crisis is the troubling material expression of modern culture's philosophical assumptions, epistemological convictions, aesthetic principles, and ethical imperatives. A rather loosely defined and fiercely contested term during its inception in the early 1990s – was it the mere application of ecological concepts to literary and cultural studies, a blueprint for political environmentalism, or something else entirely? – ecocriticism entered the new century on equal terms with such established methodologies as structuralism, new historicism, feminism, psychoanalytic criticism and postcolonial theory. At least this is what Peter Barry suggests with the inclusion of ecocriticism in the second, revised edition of hisBeginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory (2002). Barry defines ecocriticism as a critical enterprise rooted in environmentalist revisions of U.S.American nature writing and 19 -century Transcendentalism (with a particular focus on Emerson, Thoreau and Fuller), and of the British tradition of late 18 -century Romanticism (most prominently represented by Wordsworth).

While we, the editors of this volume, endorse the representation of ecocriticism as a theoretical and methodological force that focuses on real and imagined boundaries between nature and culture without denying nature's physical existence, we disagree with Barry's charac-

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