Ecocriticismis . . .
“. . . the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment. Just as feminist criticism examines language and literature from a gender-conscious perspective, and Marxist criticism brings an awareness of modes of production and economic class to its reading of texts,ecocriticismtakesan earth-centered approach to literary studies” (Glotfeltyxviii).
Ecocriticsask questions like:
“How is nature represented in this sonnet?What role does the physical setting play in the plot of this novel?Are the values expressed in this play consistent with ecological wisdom?How do our metaphors of the land influence the way we treat it?How can we characterize nature writing as a genre?” (Glotfeltyxviii-xix)
Place as Category
“In addition to race, class, and gender, shouldplacebecome a new critical category?Do men write about nature differently than women do?In what ways has literacy itself affected humankind’s relationship to the natural world?How has the concept of wilderness changed over time?” (Glotfeltyxix)
“Ecocriticismtakes as its subject the interconnections betweennature and culture, specifically the cultural artifacts of language and literature. As a critical stance, it has one foot in literature and the other on land; as a theoretical discourse, it negotiates between the human and the nonhuman” (Glotfeltyxix).
Ecosystem vs. Ethical System
“We are facing a global crisis today, not because of how ecosystems function but rather because of how our ethical systems function. Getting through the crisis requires understanding our impact on nature as precisely as possible, but even more, it requiresunderstanding those ethical systems and using that understanding to reform them. Historians, along with literary scholars, anthropologists, and philosophers, cannot do the reforming, of course, but they can help with the understanding” (Worster, quoted byGlotfeltyxxi).
Nature as Actor in Drama
“Worsterand other historians are writing environmental histories, studying thereciprocal relationshipsbetween humans and land, consideringnature not just as the stage upon which the human story is acted out, but as an actor in the drama” (Glotfeltyxxi).
First Stage in Fem/Eco Criticism
The “images of women” stage, “concerned withrepresentations, concentrating on how women are portrayed in canonical literature.”“Analogous efforts inecocriticismstudyhow nature is represented in literature. “Stereotypes of nature: “Eden, Arcadia, virgin land, miasmal swamp, savage wilderness”Absences are important: “whereisthe natural world in this text?” (xxiii)
Second Stage in Fem/Eco Criticism
The “women’s literary tradition stage…serves the important function ofconsciousness raisingas it rediscovers, reissues, and reconsiders literature by women.”Ecocriticismreconsiders “neglected genre ofnature writing.”Ecocriticsdraw from “existing critical theories—psychoanalytic, new critical, feminist,Bakhtinian, deconstructive…” (xxiii)
Third Stage in Fem/EcoCritcisim
The “theoretical phase, which is far reaching and complex, drawing on a wide range of theories to raise fundamental questions about thesymbolic constructionof gender and sexuality within literary discourse.”“Analogous work inecocriticismincludes examining thesymbolic constructionof species. How has literary discourse defined the human?” (xxiv)
“In ecology, man’s tragic flaw is his anthropocentric (as opposed tobiocentric) vision, and his compulsion to conquer, humanize, domesticate, violate, and exploit every natural thing” (Rueckert113).Anthropocentric: “assumes the primacy of humans, who either sentimentalize or dominate the environment” (Martin 217-218)Biocentric: “decentershumanity’s importance… explores the complex interrelationships between the human and the nonhuman…” (Martin 218)
Domination Model: “The anthropocentric view…exemplified both by the pastoral and the literature of territorial expansion…humans dominate the environment”Caretaking Model: “…still anthropocentric, positions humans as caretakers of the earth.”BiocentricModel: “rejects anthropocentric views… [explores the] connectedness of all living and nonliving things.” (Martin 218)
“A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things,interbeing,intermezzo. The tree isfiliation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance” (DeleuzeandGuattari1609).Rhizomaticthought:a rambling nonhierarchical network, without genesis or endpoint; the rhizome is subterranean, interconnected, associative,omnidirectional, always in the process of becoming.Therhizome is a usefulecocriticaltool; it expands theoretical possibilities by dismantling hierarchical thought and proposing a generative, egalitarian model.
Roots of “ecocritic”
Interestingly,ecocriticWilliamHowarthdraws our attention to the roots of “ecocritic”: “Ecoandcriticboth derive from Greek,oikosandkritis, and in tandem they mean ‘house judge,’ . . . So theoikosis nature, a place Edward Hoagland calls ‘our widest home,’ and thekritosis an arbiter of taste who wants the house kept in good order…”(Howarth69).
Deleuze, Gilles andGuattari, Felix.A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Excerpt fromIntroduction: Rhizome.The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B.Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2001. Print.Glotfelty,Cheryll. “Introduction.”TheEcocriticismReader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed.CheryllGlotfeltyand Harold Fromm. The University of Georgia Press: Athens, 1996. Print.Howarth, William. “Some Principles ofEcocriticism.”TheEcocriticismReader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed.CheryllGlotfeltyand Harold Fromm. The University of Georgia Press: Athens, 1996. Print.Martin, Michelle. “Eco-edu-tainment: The Construction of the Child in Contemporary Environmental Children’s Music.”Wild Things: Children’s Culture andEcocriticism. Ed. SidneyDobrinand Kenneth Kidd. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004. Print.Rueckert, William. “Literature and Ecology: An Experiment inEcocriticism.”TheEcocriticismReader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed.CheryllGlotfeltyand Harold Fromm. The University of Georgia Press: Athens, 1996. Print.