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A Century of Early Ecocriticism PDF

377 Pages·2001·18.748 MB·English
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EDITED BY DAVID MAZEL A Century of Early Ecocriticism The University of Georgia Press ATHENS AND LONDON © 2001 by the University of Georgia Press Athens, Georgia 30602 All rights reserved Designed by Kathi Dailey Morgan Set in 10.2 on 13.$ Electra by G&S Typesetters Printed and bound by Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources. Printed in the United States of America 05 04 03 02 01 c $ 4 3 2 1 05 04 03 02 01 p $ 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A century of early ecocriticism / edited by David Mazel. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index. ISBN 0-8203-2221-0 (alk. paper) ISBN 0-8203-2222-9 (pbk.: alk. paper) 1. American literature—History and criticism. 2. Nature in literature. 3. Conservation of natural resources in literature. 4. Environmental protection in literature. 5. Philosophy of nature in literature. 6. Forests and forestry in literature. 7. Wilderness areas in literature. 8. Outdoor life in literature. 9. Landscape in literature. 10. Ecology in literature, I. Mazel, David. PS163 .C46 2001 8io.9'35$—dc2i 00030216 British Library Cataloging-in-Publication Data available AT"* 4 S'*; °[ This book is dedicated to my students. Contents Acknowledgments ix Introduction i Henry Tuckerman on John and William Bartram (1864) 20 James Russell Lowell on Henry David Thoreau (1865) 26 John Burroughs on Walt Whitman, Gilbert White, and Henry David Thoreau (1867,1902, and 1919) 33 William Benjamin Carpenter on Sciences Representation of Nature (1872) 48 Alfred Austin on the Poetic Interpretation of Nature (1877) 53 Richard Jefferies on the Shortcomings of Language (1887) 70 Hamilton Wright Mabie on Hebrew Poetry, John Burroughs, and Natures Record in Language (1891 and 1897) 78 Selden Whitcomb on Nature in Early American Literature (1893) ^7 Mary Woolley on the Love of Romantic Scenery in America (1897) 101 Exchanges from the “Nature Faker” Controversy (1902-1907) 113 Charles G. D. Roberts on the Evolution of the Animal Story (1902) 148 Mabel Osgood Wright on Nature, Gender, Outdoor Life, and Fiction (1903 and 1905) 154 Fannie Eckstorm on Thoreau s The Maine Woods (1908) 163 Havelock Ellis on the Psychological Roots of the Love of Wilderness (1909) 173 viii CONTENTS Dallas Lore Sharp on Sincerity in Nature Writing (1911) 195 Norman Foerster on Nature Cultists and American Literature (1912 and 1923) 208 Aldo Leopold on Forestry and the Hebrew Bible (1920) 228 D. H. Lawrence on Hector St. Jean de Crfcvecoeur (1923) 237 Lewis Mumford on Thoreau, Nature, and Society (1926) 249 Henry Chester Tracy on Women Nature Writers (1930) 257 Mar>' Hunter Austin on Literature and the Regional Environment (1932) 261 Mark Van Doren on Donald Culross Peattie (1937) 272 Donald Culross Peattie on Thoreau, Science, and Nature (1938) 278 F. O. Matthiessen on the Organic Style of Emerson and Thoreau (1941) 283 D. S. Savage on Nature and Immediacy in Poetry (1942) 294 Joseph Wood Krutch on the Intellectual History of Nature Writing (1950) 302 Perry Miller on Nature and American Nationalism (1955) 314 Sherman Paul on Thoreau, The Maine Woods, and the Problem of Ktaadn (1958) 329 Leo Marx on the Pastoral in American Literature (1964) 341 Sources of Selections 353 Annotated Bibliography of Early Ecocriticism 355 Index 365 Acknowledgments Many people helped make this book possible. I would like especially to thank David Taylor, Roy Underwood, and the Division of Arts and Letters at the University of West Alabama; Gregor Smith and the Julia Tutwiler Library; John Frazee, Joseph Kolupke, and the School of Arts and Letters at Adams State College; Phil Jones and Adams State College's Neilsen Li­ brary; and my friends and colleagues SueEllen Campbell, Cheryll Glot- felty, Stephen and Cindy Slimp, Phyllis Ann Thompson, Christopher Healy, and Barbara Griego. Particular thanks go to Irene Marquez and Heather Goodstein Milton, who transcribed the bulk of this books text, and to Amy Bauer and the servers at Alamosa’s legendary Campus Cafe. A Century of Early Ecocriticism Introduction That which was unconscious truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, a part of the domain of knowledge,—a new weapon in the magazine of power. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature Ecocriticism—the study of literature as if the environment mattered—has only recently come to recognize itself as a distinct critical enterprise. The term itself apparently dates no further back than 1978, when it was coined by William Rueckert.1 Of course, in such a rapidly changing field as literary studies, 1978 can seem like a long time ago, and a twenty-year history can confer a quite respectable pedigree. This is the sense I got when Cheryll Glotfelty wrote, in The Ecocriticism Reader (1996), that “individual literary and cultural scholars have been developing ecolQgicalLv^nfoiJDjecLcrijLi- cism and theory since the seventies" and that therefore the “origin of eco­ criticism . . . predates its recent consolidation by more than twenty years."2 It was as if those twenty years lent the field the sort of legitimacy The Eco­ criticism Reader itself has done so much to establish. Many of us have suspected, however, that ecocriticism actually boasts a much longer history. After all, the environment has mattered to Americans, in many of the same ways it matters today, for more than a century. Surely among the nations numerous early environmentalists there must have been an occasional literary critic whose concern for nature was reflected in an occasional essay or book. Nature writing itself is even older—more than two centuries old, if we date it from the 1789 publication of Gilbert White’s Natu­ re*/ History of Selbome—and surely it must have come now and then to the attention of a literary critic and prompted a de facto ecocriticism. Just as nature writing and environmentalism predate Earth Day, so must a kind of ecocriticism predate the essays of Glen Love, William Rueckert, 2 A CENTURY OF EARLY ECOCRITICISM Joseph Meeker, and Lynn White Jr. In searching for such work, and in decid­ ing whether to include it in this collection, I quickly realized that I would need a working definition. Just what is ecocriticism? I have already offered one formulation above, but there are others. In The Ecocriticism Reader; for example, Glotfelty defines it as “the study of the relationship between litera- ture and the physical environment.” In much the same way that “feminist criticism examines language and literature from a gender-conscious perspec­ tive,” she continues, “and Marxist criticism brings an awareness of modes of production and economic class to its reading of texts, ecocriticism takes an earth-centered approach to literary studies.” No matter how it is defined, ecocriticism seems less a singular approach or method than a constellation of approaches, having little more in common than a shared concern with the environment. It can address itself to a wide range of questions, including but hardly limited to these: “How is nature represented in this sonnet? What role does the physical setting play in the plot of this novel? Are the values ex­ pressed in the play consistent with ecological wisdom? ... How has the con­ cept of wilderness changed over time?”5 Clearly, a broad range of work may legitimately be thought of as ecocriti­ cism. In compiling this anthology I have thus tried to be as inclusive as pos­ sible, counting as “ecocriticism” any material that might be of special inter­ est not only to scholars but to all who share a love for both literature and the environment. I have not limited the collection to professional, peer-reviewed academic writing, nor even to “the best that has been thought and said” on the matter. As Glotfelty notes, ecocriticism necessarily encompasses both a “broad scope of inquiry and disparate levels of sophistication,”4 and too fussy a definition would have excluded much of interest. The bottom line was that I’d rather have readers find this collection useful and interesting than defin- itionally pristine. The result, as I hope readers will discover, is a varied an­ thology of works that are well written, highly original, and full of provocative, strikingly relevant ideas about literature and the natural environment. Should it be alleged that I have adopted such an expansive definition in order to appropriate as much work as possible as “early ecocriticism,” I can only plead guilty. In addition to making early ecocritical work available to contemporary scholars, I am also attempting to create for ecocriticism a his­ tory, a tradition, where thus far there has been none. Even in a culture such as ours, which fetishizes the new, a sense of tradition can still confer legiti­ macy and power; it can still function as what Van Wyck Brooks perceptively Introduction 3 termed “a usable past.” I want this anthology to begin constructing just such a past for the field of literature and environment I searched for early ecocriticism in two broad categories. It seemed reason­ able to look first for instances in which professional or academic critics had written specifically about nature writing, or at least about the green aspects of works in todays environmental-literature canon. It also made sense to seek critical work by nature writers—instances where nature writers took time out "from writing about nature in order to write about writing. As it turned out, many of this collections de facto ecocritics fit both of these categories— Joseph Wood Krutch, for example, excelled as both nature writer and profes­ sional critic—while others, such as D. H. Lawrence, seem to belong in neither. Prior to the emergence of environmental literary studies as an academic field in the late 1980s, there was no discourse of ecocriticism per se. What ecocriticism there was necessarily appeared elsewhere, typically as part of the more general discourses of nature writing, scholarship and criticism, and environmentalism. Unlike today's ecocriticism, which seems so clearly an offshoot of the environmental awareness of the 1960s and 1970s, the early ecocriticism of this collection seems to have been prompted only indirectly by environmentalism itself. In the United States, at least, it was much more directly a response to two separate developments. Outside the colleges and universities, ecocriticism appeared in response to the burgeoning popularity of nature writing; within the academy, it arose largely out of what might be termed disciplinary politics, a by-product of the emergence of American lit­ erature as an academic discipline. In the United States a recognizable ecocriticism first arose in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as criticism in general was beginning to un­ dergo two major changes. Academic criticism at the time was dominated by “men of letters,” genteel critics such as Harvard's James Russell Lowell— writers who were broadly “cultured” rather than narrowly specialized. Their work, like that of their nonacademic but equally genteel counterparts, ap­ peared in a small cluster of highbrow magazines, most notably the Atlantic. The dominant mode of criticism was a Matthew Arnold-style humanism, and Boston was its geographical center. Toward the end of the century, how­ ever, fundamental demographic and economic changes tilted the balance of cultural power away from an increasingly provincial Boston—which had given us writers such as Emerson and Thoreau in addition to such critics as

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