New Essays in Ecofeminist Literary Criticism

By Glynis Carr | Go to book overview

Ecocritical Uses of the Erotic

Catrin Gersdorf

EVER since Herbert Marcuse's reminder that nature is [the very negation of the market society, with its values of profit and utility] and a symbol of [a nonrepressive order,]1 ecological thinking, especially in its political realization as environmentalist activism, has been considered the epitome of resistance and revolution. More than twenty years later, however, critics who politically share Marcuse's radical critique of capitalism, are skeptical about its ideological foundation in nature as the ultimate model for alternative social and political structures. Feminism, poststructuralism, and postcolonialism have been particularly influential for critical revisions of intersections between the discourses of ecology, green politics, and revolution. British feminist philosopher Kate Soper cites Jonathan Dollimore's Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault (1991) as [a work offering many insights on the ideological service that the concept of nature has been called upon to perform in the field of gender politics.]2 Dollimore's case in point is the representation of homosexual practices as [a crime against nature,] and on a more general level he is concerned that [much reactionary thought will return on the backs of nature.] This position is quoted by Soper, who particularly cautions against a revival of nature as a concept that polices sexuality and naturalizes social and political structures which are based on the assumption that femininity is [naturally] inferior to masculinity. The West's cultural tradition to symbolically align [nature] and [woman,] and the subsequent hegemonist argument that woman has to be controlled and domesticated in much the same way as wild nature needs to be controlled and restrained in order for culture to operate effectively, creates what Soper calls an [ideological tension] and a linguistic problem for ecofeminists. What images, what metaphors can be employed for a project that was launched to rethink the nature/culture relationship? And in what language can we imagine ecologically more benign ways of not being natural?3 How can we avoid linguistically [reproducing] the woman-nature equivalence that has served as legitimation for the

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