Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
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.
derives partly from the anxieties of late industrial culture, partly from deeper-rooted habits of thought and expression. The subtler complications of “toxic discourse” will take this whole chapter to explain. For the moment, however, it can be sweepingly de ﬁned as expressed anxiety arising from perceived threat of environmental hazard due to chemical modiﬁcation by human agency. As such, it is by no means unique to the present day, but never before the late twentieth
nothing completely, that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk. Especially signiﬁcant here is Ammons’s insistence that “I” can “enjoy the freedom that/Scope [capital S] eludes my grasp”: the willing acquiescence in not being able to know no matter how hard one tries. More often than not, that is the like-it-or-not condition to which the serious seeker after place wisdom is reduced, especially if an outsider. Anthropologist Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places is particularly
imagination of the mutuality of physical environment and human action—not just as it obtains at a single moment but also historically, from pre-Columbian times, to Dutch colonization, to Paterson’s designation as a model industrial village, to its subsequent history as a site of capitalist greed and labor agitation, to its present condition as depressed, polluted outback of greater New York. Paterson is seen continually to have been formed and reformed, with those who lived here constituted by
by circumstance. In the ﬁrst half of the nineteenth century, a key catalyst was systematization of public health theory thanks to the emerging ﬁeld of statistics and the “sanitarian” theory that epidemic disease was caused by dirt and bad housing. This made possible a systematic account of social behavior as observance of socioenvironmental norms. In the later nineteenth century, especially inﬂuential was the adoption of evolutionary theory as a model for human
these huge garbage boxes. They were the ﬁrst objects that a toddling child learned to climb; their bulk afforded a £ £ barricade and their contents provided missiles in all the battles of the older boys; and ﬁnally they became the seats upon which absorbed lovers held enchanted converse. We are obliged to remember that all children eat everything which they ﬁnd and that odors have a curious and intimate power of entwining themselves into our tenderest memories, before