Literary and Critical Theory Ecocriticism
by
Derek Gladwin
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0014

Introduction

Ecocriticism is a broad way for literary and cultural scholars to investigate the global ecological crisis through the intersection of literature, culture, and the physical environment. Ecocriticism originated as an idea called “literary ecology” (Meeker 1972, cited under General Overviews) and was later coined as an “-ism” (Rueckert 1996, cited under General Overviews). Ecocriticism expanded as a widely used literary and cultural theory by the early 1990s with the formation of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) at the Western Literary Association (1992), followed by the launch of the flagship journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (cited under Journals) in 1993, and then later the publication of The Ecocriticism Reader (Glotfelty and Fromm 1996, cited under Collections of Essays). Ecocriticism is often used as a catchall term for any aspect of the humanities (e.g., media, film, philosophy, and history) addressing ecological issues, but it primarily functions as a literary and cultural theory. This is not to say that ecocriticism is confined to literature and culture; scholarship often incorporates science, ethics, politics, philosophy, economics, and aesthetics across institutional and national boundaries (Clark 2011, p. 8, cited under General Overviews). Ecocriticism remains difficult to define. Originally, scholars wanted to employ a literary analysis rooted in a culture of ecological thinking, which would also contain moral and social commitments to activism. As Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 (cited under Collections of Essays) famously states, “ecocriticism takes an earth-centred approach to literary studies,” rather than an anthropomorphic or human-centered approach (p. xviii). Many refer to ecocriticism synonymously as the study of “literature and the environment” (rooted in literary studies) or “environmental criticism” (interdisciplinary and cultural). Ecocriticism has been divided into “waves” to historicize the movement in a clear trajectory (Buell 2005, cited under Ecocritical Futures). The “first wave” of ecocriticism tended to take a dehistoricized approach to “nature,” often overlooking more political and theoretical dimensions and tending toward a celebratory approach of wilderness and nature writing. Ecocriticism expanded into a “second wave,” offering new ways of approaching literary analysis by, for example, theorizing and deconstructing human-centered scholarship in ecostudies; imperialism and ecological degradation; agency for animals and plants; gender and race as ecological concepts; and problems of scale. The “third wave” advocates for a global understanding of ecocritical practice through issues like global warming; it combines elements from the first and second waves but aims to move beyond Anglo-American prominence. There are currently hundreds of books and thousands of articles and chapters written about ecocriticism.

General Overviews

This section looks at some of the pioneering work in ecocriticism, as well as some of the most read work introducing the subject. Meeker 1972, presenting comedy and tragedy as ecological concepts, connects literary and environmental studies as a cohesive field of study. As an ethnologist and comparative literature scholar, Meeker helped to pioneer the critical discussion of ecocriticism in what he called “literary ecologies.” Following Meeker, Rueckert 1996 (first published 1978) actually coined the term “ecocriticism,” arguing for a way “to find the grounds upon which the two communities—the human, the natural—can coexist, cooperate, and flourish in the biosphere” (p. 107). Love 1996 builds on the work of Meeker and Rueckert by essentially anticipating the explosion of and need for ecocriticism in just a few years. Ecocriticism as a literary and cultural theory significantly expanded in the 1990s—paralleling other forms of literary and cultural theory, such as postcolonialism and critical race studies—largely due to the publication of Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 (cited under Collections of Essays), the first edited collection of essays and anthology to introduce a comprehensive critical outline of ecocriticism. Buell 1995, another critically dense and timely study, outlines the trajectory of American ecocriticism by way of Henry David Thoreau as a central figure. Kerridge and Sammells 1998 (cited under Collections of Essays), which expanded studies in race and class, as well as ecocritical history, followed both Glotfelty and Fromm 1996 and Buell 1995. Phillips 2003 offers a skeptical and refreshing critique of ecocriticism amid otherwise quite praiseworthy—bordering on mystical—celebrations of “nature” in the scholarship of the 1990s. Garrard 2012 (first published 2004), along with Coupe 2000 (under Anthologies) and Armbruster and Wallace 2001 (under Nature Writing), serves as a political and theoretical turn in ecocriticism because it addresses more of the “second wave” concerns about animals, globality, and apocalypse. Clark 2011 is a contemporary overview that integrates a unified critical history of the “waves,” including nature writing, literary periods, theory, and activism, while it also provides sample readings that deploy specific ecocritical methods to literary texts. Garrard 2014 is the most recent overview volume, with many noteworthy ecocritical scholars; it serves as a somewhat updated version of Glotfelty and Fromm 1996. (See also Anthologies and Collections of Essays for some other notable overviews.)

  • Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    Looks back at the history of American nature writing through literary analysis—with Thoreau’s Walden as a “reference point”—to establish a history of environmental perception and imagination. It examines how humanistic thought, particularly through literary nonfiction, can imagine a more ecocentric or “green” way of living. (See also Nature Writing.)

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  • Clark, Timothy. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    Provides updated introductory material to previous studies. It offers an excellent range of topics, and despite serving as an introduction, it employs incisive analysis of previously overlooked issues in introductory books on ecocriticism, such as posthumanism, violence, and animal studies. It is one of the best contemporary overviews.

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  • Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2012.

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    Examines a wide range of literary and cultural works. Two notable strengths: (1) it acknowledges the political dimension of ecocriticism; and (2) it explores a range of issues, from animal studies and definitions of “wilderness” and “nature,” to postapocalyptic narratives. It is available as an inexpensive paperback. Originally published in 2004.

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  • Garrard, Greg, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    One of the most ambitious collections to date, with thirty-four chapters, this book is aimed at both general readers and students, but it also revisits the previous twenty years of ecocriticism to offer contemporary readings from the most prominent names in the field. It is an essential work for ecocritics.

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  • Love, Glen. “Revaluating Nature: Toward an Ecological Criticism.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 225–240. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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    Argues that literary studies must engage with the environmental crisis rather than remaining unresponsive. This essay advocates for revaluing a nature-focused literature away from an “ego-consciousness” to an “eco-consciousness” (p. 232). Originally published in 1990. See also Love’s Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology, and the Environment (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003).

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  • Meeker, Joseph. The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology. New York: Scribner’s, 1972.

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    One of the founding works of ecocriticism. It spans many centuries—looking at Dante, Shakespeare, and Petrarch, as well as E. O. Wilson—and analyzes comedy and tragedy as two literary forms that reflect forces greater than that of humans. The “comedy of survival” is at its core an ecological concept.

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  • Phillips, Dana. The Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195137699.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of the more prominent critiques of ecocritical theory, this book challenges neo-Romantic themes explored by ecocritics, many of which Phillips argues support the use of mimesis as a standard way to read environments, instead of looking at more pragmatic approaches.

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  • Rueckert, William. “Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 105–123. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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    Notable primarily because it was the first publication to use the term “ecocriticism” as an environmentally minded literary analysis that discovers “something about the ecology of literature” (p. 71). Originally published in 1978.

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Influences and Origins

Ecocritical scholarship owes a great debt to environmental philosophers, historians, sociologists, and biologists who have helped to conceptualize the relationship among humans, nonhumans, nature, and culture. Although a complete list of possible influential writings would be enormous, the following provides a brief outline of some instrumental works. Leopold 1949, from a conservationist perspective, is a monumental work that challenges anthropocentric thinking with the now famous concept of “Thinking like a Mountain” as part of “The Land Ethic.” Carson 2002 (first published 1962) challenged the industrial-chemical complex by arguing that the use pesticides are, contrary to popular science at the time, both socially and environmentally harmful. Whereas Carson pioneered the activist strain in ecocriticism, Marx 2000 (first published 1964) did so through literary and historical criticism by questioning the American pastoral imagination as an environmental threat. White 1996 (first published 1967) located the root cause of the historical ecological crisis in Judeo-Christian values. White, along with many other later ecological writings, condemned Judeo-Christian theology for neglecting to care for the present physical world in anticipation of the eternal one hereafter. Rooted in cultural and Marxist theory, Williams 1973 adroitly analyzed the urban-rural dialectic between the city and country. This work partly influenced ecocritical scholarship to challenge the Eurocentric divide between nature and culture. Nash 1989 brought the ethical and social ecological dimension into contemporary debates by promoting the “rights” of nonhuman organisms. Williams 1992 is a multi-genre personal account of the ecological crisis; it has become a widely read work in classrooms as well as cited in ecocritical scholarship.

  • Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

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    Considered by many to have initiated the contemporary environmental and ecological movements. It addresses the systemic problem of environmental degradation brought on by corporate industry and advocates for protection through public awareness and resistance. Originally published in 1962.

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  • Leopold, Aldo. Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1949.

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    Calls for a revolutionary “Land Ethic” as an environmental philosophy that every human should follow: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise” (p. 189). Reprinted in 2001.

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  • Marx, Leo. The Machine and the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Largely a book about pastoralism in 19th- and 20th-century America, it traces the history of technology in society and culture. It argues that pastoralism—a utopian theme of expansive landscapes for settlement and utility—has and continues to define the environmental consciousness of America. Originally published in 1964.

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  • Nash, Roderick Frazier. The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

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    Demonstrates the influence of environmentalism in various intellectual fields. It catalogues the green wave in society and politics, and questions the rights of other nonhuman organisms. As a piece of social ecology and environmental philosophy, it was a major influence on ecocriticism.

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  • White, Lynn, Jr. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 3–14. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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    This famous essay reconsiders how cultural influence and social conditioning—through beliefs and values—can affect environmental consciousness. Specifically, the essay criticizes Judeo-Christianity for supporting anthropocentric superiority. Giving humans a licence to dominate the natural world has led to the contemporary environmental crisis. Originally published in 1967.

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  • Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.

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    Contextualizes the dialectic between rural and urban thinking that has divided culture from environments for centuries. Often framed as a pastoral critique from a Marxist perspective, this book anticipates holistic discussions about the integration of built and nonbuilt environments in contemporary ecocritical discourses.

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  • Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge. New York: Vintage, 1992.

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    Part memoir, part naturalist writing, part tragedy, this book explores Williams’s experience watching her mother’s death from breast cancer while also watching the destruction of a bird sanctuary through flooding. It remains one of the most influential narrative books of ecocritical studies (e.g., see Narrative Ecocriticism).

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Collections of Essays

There have been massive amounts of collections of essays about ecocriticism, offering a diverse range of writings on interdisciplinary topics, which is what ecocriticism accomplishes as a literary and cultural theory. This list offers some of the noteworthy publications across many subjects, beginning with Glotfelty and Fromm 1996, which serves as both an anthology of previous publications (e.g., Meeker 1972, Rueckert 1996, and Love 1996, cited under General Overviews, Silko 1996, cited under Critical Race Studies), as well as many new essays at the time of its publication. Bennett and Teague 1999 is particularly significant for including urban or “built” environments as a central part of the ecocritical discussion; it helped to challenge the idea that ecocriticism focuses on tradition notions of “nature.” Slovic and Branch 2003 bridges the gap between the first and second waves of ecocritical studies, where scholars took a decidedly more theoretical turn in scholarship. Goodbody and Rigby 2011 largely differs from others in this list because it assemble an original collection focused on European ecocritical theory (see also Global Perspectives). Turning to pedagogy, Garrard 2012 is one of several collections on teaching ecocriticism in the classroom, a trend that began with Waage’s Teaching Environmental Literature: Materials, Methods, Resources (1985). Lynch, et al. 2012 also contains a section on pedagogy, but it is couched in the larger analysis of bioregional thinking (local community and sustainable culture). Westling 2013 is a collection on contemporary literary and cultural environmental concerns in the widely read Cambridge Companion series.

  • Bennett, Michael, and David W. Teague, eds. The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999.

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    The essays in this volume invite readers to think about the environment as a larger and more holistic concept, moving away from the separation of nonbuilt (“nature”) and built (cities) environments. It remains one of the few works about urban ecocriticism.

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  • Garrard, Greg, ed. Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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    Emphasizes the roots of ecocriticism as a teaching-activist-scholarly pursuit through a range of collected essays. This book stands out as one of the few collections or monographs to focus entirely on the pedagogy and practice of a green literary and cultural study.

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  • Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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    This landmark publication in the field is both collection and anthology; it provides previously published essays (e.g., Lynne White Jr., William Rueckert, Paula Gunn Allen, Leslie Marmon Silko), along with many original essays. It introduces the critical concept of ecocriticism as a response to the global environmental crisis.

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  • Goodbody, Axel, and Kate Rigby, eds. Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.

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    Noteworthy for representing a distinctively European ecocriticism, providing a break from the dominant North American voice. This collection theorizies ecocriticism, while keeping the practice and activist element intact, through European philosophy, theorists, and environmental thinkers.

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  • Kerridge, Richard, and Neil Sammells, eds. Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature. London: Zed Books, 1998.

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    Serves as one of the early collections in the field and provides “samples of what ecocritics do” (p. 8). This collection contains essays on race and environmental justice, children’s environmental literature, pop culture, and body politics.

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  • Lynch, Tom, Cheryll Glotfelty, and Karla Armbruster, eds. The Bioregional Imagination: Literature, Ecology, and Place. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012.

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    Aims to explain the idea in literary criticism of bioregionalism—a sustainable sense of place on a day-to-day scale that we can inhabit beyond national or political boundaries. This collection is skilfully arranged in four sections: Reinhabiting, Rereading, Reimaging, and Renewal (forming a bioregional pedagogy).

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  • Slovic, Scott, and Michael Branch, eds. The ISLE Reader: Ecocriticism, 19932003. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2003.

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    Based upon early essays published in the flagship ecocritical journal ISLE, this collection charts a thorough trajectory of the essays that defined the ecocritical movement in the 1990s. It provides an excellent overview of earlier prominent ecocritical scholarship in essay form.

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  • Westling, Louise, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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    Offers a range of introductory writings on ecocriticism, as other collections in this list do, but provides a more contemporary approach. Despite the title, it also includes essays about cinema and ecotheory as well.

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Anthologies

This section includes some of the more widely used anthologies that reproduce excerpts of previously published works by writers, essayists, travelers, and poets in environmental literature and culture. Lyon 1989 is as an early anthology used in environmental writing courses in the early to mid-1990s, during the early expansion of ecocriticism as a field. Another batch of anthologies emerged on the market in the late 1990s. Halpern and Frank 1998 diversifies the range of nature and environmental writers and even includes some international figures. Anderson, et al. 2013 is a comprehensive textbook and reader that differs from many of the readers in this list, which mainly reproduce experts of previously published material. Many of the earlier volumes—Lyon 1989, Halpern and Frank 1998, and even Branch 2004, the latter of which focuses on the origins of nature writing—resemble each other in content and approach. The later volumes, starting with Coupe 2000, begin to address a wider range of “second wave” concerns. Coupe provides an extensive overview of literary periods in ecocriticism, beginning with the Romantics. Fisher-Wirth and Street 2013 is a volume devoted entirely to American environmental poetry. Hiltner 2014 is the most recent and comprehensive reader in this list, except for perhaps Coupe 2000, although it does not offer the pedagogical elements that Anderson, et al. 2013 does. A significant gap at the moment in ecocritical anthologies remains the lack of a complete anthology of environmental writers from around the globe.

  • Anderson, Lorraine, Scott P. Slovic, and John P. O’Grady, eds. Literature and the Environment: A Reader on Nature and Culture. New York: Pearson Longman, 2013.

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    This volume is one of several introductory ecocritical textbooks on the market. It contains reproductions of well-known writers, such as Muir, Thoreau, Austin, Snyder, etc. It also includes an online companion to Pearson’s MyLab. It is structured more as a textbook than as a reader. Originally published in 1999.

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  • Branch, Michael, ed. Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2004.

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    This extensive anthology focuses on the origins of nature writing in American culture, beginning in the 15th century. Unlike most studies in nature writing, this book catalogues the American environmental writing movement prior to Thoreau, instead of after.

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  • Coupe, Lauren, ed. The Green Studies Reader: From Romanticism to Ecocriticism. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    Focuses generally on themes of domination, pollution, threats of environmental destruction, and human and nonhuman oppression, through previous published and new material. Unlike many anthologies prior to this publication, it includes other writings beyond traditional nature and wilderness writing, and critical essays by contemporary ecocritics like Garrard, Armbruster, and Slovic.

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  • Fisher-Wirth, Ann W., and Laura-Gray Street. The Ecopoetry Anthology. San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 2013.

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    This anthology appears in the list because it is entirely focused on poetry, and therefore deviates from other ecocritical anthologies. The one limiting factor is that it only concentrates on American poetry.

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  • Halpern, Daniel, and Dan Frank. The Nature Reader. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco, 1998.

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    This is a particularly useful anthology of nature writing and natural history as seen through a diversity of twenty-seven writers, including Leslie Marmon Silko, Barry Lopez, Italo Calvino, Gabriel García Márquez, and Annie Dillard.

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  • Hiltner, Ken. Ecocriticism: The Essential Reader. New York: Routledge, 2014.

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    Breaks the historical writings of ecocriticism into two waves: nature and writing, and theoretical and political issues. This is the most contemporary reader providing a wide range of literature, as well as historical and philosophical essays, which critically outlines the ecocritical movement. This could also be used as a textbook.

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  • Lyon, Thomas J. This Incomperable Lande: A Book of American Nature Writing. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

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    Lyon, arguably one of the first scholars to write about environmental literature (in a 1970 essay on Gary Snyder), assembles this anthology to reflect the American tradition of nature writing. Despite the age of this volume, it remains one of the most comprehensive on the subject of nature writing.

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Journals

The many academic journals devoted to ecocriticism have been particularly useful in placing original and contemporary scholarship in the field. Most of the ecocritical journals also publish work devoted to ecology and culture in film, sociology, philosophy, media, and women’s studies, as well as in creative writing (e.g., poetry, creative nonfiction, and short stories). Although ecocritical journals tend to have national or regional affiliations (for funding purposes), most journals publish widely on international concerns related to literature, culture, and ecology. The flagship journal of the field, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, is part of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) and continues to be the most significant journal to locate essays on ecocriticism because it provides quarterly issues with an extensive book review section in each issue. However, many journals have emerged since the origin of ISLE in 1993 in order to meet the high demand for ecocritical scholarship in North America and elsewhere in the world. Founded in 2000, Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism emerged from the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment-UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI). In 2005, The Goose became the official journal of the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC); it offers a range of work about ecocriticism largely related to Canada. The Journal of Ecocriticism emerged in 2009 as a completely online and open-access journal. With the inaugural issue in 2011, Ecozon@: European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment is an open-access journal about ecocriticism; it is a joint initiative between the European Association for the Study of Literature, Culture and Environment (EASLCE) and the Group for Research on Ecocriticism in Spain (GIECO). Also founded in 2011 through the Association for the Study of Literature, Environment and Culture-Australia and New Zealand (ASLEC-ANZ), the Australasian Journal of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology is an online journal that publishes essays about ecocriticism and the environmental humanities.

Literary Periods

Because ecocriticism emerged as a literary and cultural study, it is important to outline some of the work within traditional literary periods. This list represents only some of the major periods in literary studies, in addition to those that have garnered more ecocritical attention, and is part of a larger analysis called “historical ecocriticism”—applying contemporary viewpoints and theories to historical circumstances. The Romantic period primarily opened the door to scholars looking at the relationship between writers and nature in the early 1990s (e.g., Bate 1991, cited under Romantic). Along with American 19th-century literature (e.g., Buell 1995 [under General Overviews], Glotfelty and Fromm 1996, and Slovic and Branch 2003 [both under Collections of Essays]), the Romantic period remains the most studied noncontemporary/post-1945 literary period. However, the Victorian and Modernist periods have become areas of growth because of increased attention on globalized economies, imperialism, industrialization (particularly the history of fossil fuels), and urbanization in literary and cultural study. Indeed, climate change history and the Anthropocene largely surface in the Romantic and Victorian eras and significantly expand in modernism (see Anthropocene and Climate Change). Many scholars in Renaissance, Early Modern, and Shakespeare studies have, however, produced many instrumental studies in the 21st century. The least published on period, and therefore least represented in this list, is the Medieval and Late Middle English period.

Medieval and Late Middle English

The relationship between “nature” and “culture” has evolved throughout history, and specific literary periods reflect this change. Literature and culture in the medieval and late Middle English period (c. 5th–15th centuries) regularly incorporated natural environments and nonhuman subjects, often framed as a hierarchical theistic paradigm, which would seem rife for ecocritical analysis. However, literary criticism on this period continues to be understated in ecocriticism. Stanbury 2004 writes convincingly about “medieval nature” by way of contemporary environmental ethics in the work of Geoffrey Chaucer. In many ways, Stanbury performs the most useful introductory overview of how contemporary ecocritical theory might be applied to medieval literature. Rudd 2007 performs a pastoral ecocritical reading that echoes back to earlier first-wave concerns about landforms as representation. Siewers 2009, published closely after Rudd 2007, investigates the Celtic coastlines and “Outerworlds” of early medieval landscapes through history and literature.

Renaissance, Early Modern, and Shakespeare

Many ecocritics have in the past placed the Romantic period at the forefront of an environmentally minded literature. Other scholars have argued otherwise, positioning the early modern and Renaissance periods (c. 14th–17th centuries), and particularly work by Shakespeare, as rich and diverse fields to examine historical writers’ approach to and relationship with the environment and ecology. Egan 2006 contextualizes “EcoShakespeare” into the contemporary ecocritical movement by rereading a range of plays in light of current ecological theories. Watson 2006 makes a major leap in Renaissance ecocritical scholarship by theorizing ecological movements prior to Romanticism; it is one the most critically robust works in this list. Kamps, et al. 2008 is an edited volume that frames early modern ecostudies as a neglected and yet essential component to ecocritical scholarship. Estok 2011 introduces the term ecophobia—irrational fear of environments—as another way to understand Shakespeare’s plays. Bruckner and Brayton 2011 is a volume that encompasses many ecocritical perspectives on Shakespeare about animals, weather, flora, evolution, and pedagogy. Munroe and Laroche 2011 brings various writers together to investigate how early modern women interacted with the natural world. Brayton 2012 isolates Shakespeare’s attention on oceans (tides, animals, fishers, etc.) as an ecocritical phenomenon. Nardizzi 2013 links England’s high period of deforestation with the plays of Shakespeare.

  • Brayton, Dan. Shakespeare’s Ocean: An Ecocritical Exploration. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012.

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    With the advent of ocean studies and blue ecologies (study of water and ecocriticism), this book focuses completely on the use of oceans in Shakespeare’s writings. The maritime dimension is a particularly original approach and includes connections to cartography, navigation, tides, and animals.

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  • Bruckner, Lynne, and Dan Brayton, eds. Ecocritical Shakespeare. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    Provides a wide scope of writers analyzing Shakespeare’s works as environmentally conscious. The highlight in this volume is that it contains a section on ecopedagogy in Shakespeare. It also serves as the most diverse introductory volume on Shakespeare and ecocritical studies.

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  • Egan, Gabriel. Green Shakespeare: From Ecopolitics to Ecocriticism. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    In this first book on ecocriticism and Shakespeare, Egan argues that studying Shakespeare’s interest in ecology is not only relevant for Renaissance scholars, but also remains important for contemporary theorists. The notion of “EcoShakespeare” takes into account issues from food, biology, and weather to the supernatural and anthropomorphism.

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  • Estok, Simon. Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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    Reads Shakespeare through a theoretical paradigm called ecophobia, which marks a type of fear and loathing of the environment that resembles other forms of discrimination, such as homophobia and racism. It provides an original blend of Shakespeare, ecocriticism, and the Gothic.

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  • Kamps, Ivo, Karen Raber, and Thomas Hallock, eds. Early Modern Ecostudies: From the Florentine Codex to Shakespeare. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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    Challenges the tendency for ecocritical scholars to focus on contemporary works and instead offers readings of Shakespeare, Sidney, More, and Milton, among others, to expand the ecocritical cannon into early modern ecostudies.

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  • Munroe, Jennifer, and Rebecca Laroche, eds. Ecofeminist Approaches to Early Modernity. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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    Examines how women in early modern literature used language to describe the difficult relationship between women and “nature.” It includes nine original essays on the women-nature nexus, early modern domestic practice, and landscape.

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  • Nardizzi, Vin. Wooden Os: Shakespeare’s Theatres and England’s Trees. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

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    Locates the English theater as part of a larger environmental history of deforestation. By focusing on Shakespeare, this book underscores how trees and wood function in various plays, while it also speaks to a larger ecological devastation of forests.

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  • Watson, Robert N. Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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    Locates the origins of the global environmental crisis in the European Renaissance, providing a meticulous outline of pre-Enlightenment environmental theory. This original book adeptly theorizes epistemologies of ecologies, while it also works through literature and visual art from Shakespeare, Marvell, Traherne, and Dutch painters.

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Romantic

The Romantic period (c. 1780–1830) is often considered, along with American nature writing, the genesis of literature and the environment, and green literary studies more generally, and where the problematic idea of “Nature” (distant and admired) significantly evolved. In opposition to the Enlightenment—viewing the natural world as a resource for science and reason—the Romantic movement celebrated the natural world, serving as a physical, spiritual, and symbolic refuge from the contrasting industrial improvements and positivist ideas of progress. For many Romantic writers and poets, the natural world served not only as a physical escape from industrialized society; it also cultivated health, creativity, and an awakened spirit, which all contributed to humanistic values over mechanized production. Bate 1991, a pioneering study of “Romantic ecology” or “green romanticism,” posits that the contemporary green movement originates in this period. Kroeber 1994 follows Bate’s influential study by revisiting the English Romantic poets as a model for social activity informed by contemporary science. As an important figure in both Romantic scholarship and ecocriticism, it is worth noting here that Bate has written another compelling book about the history of environmental consciousness, titled The Song of the Earth (2000). McKusick 2000 examines the link between English Romanticism and its influence on major American environmental writings in the 20th century. Rigby 2004 deploys a Continental European approach by comparing British and German Romantic writers alongside other European philosophers and naturalists at the time. Other scholars have argued that Romantic notions of nature have contributed to anthropocentric (human-centered) thinking, which ultimately undermined the environmental movement by glorifying the natural world as a domesticated space for human use and escape (e.g., Wordsworth’s Lake District). Indeed, such “natural” spaces are largely constructed and manipulated by centuries of agriculture and tourism. Thus, many scholars are considered anti-Romantic, or in opposition to the utilitarian notion of the natural world, even for spiritual or creative purposes. Morton 2007 challenges the idea of “nature” as a damaging social construct that society is still trying to correct. Hutchings 2009 identifies the political tensions between green romanticism and colonial histories in the British Atlantic world.

  • Bate, Jonathan. Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. London: Routledge, 1991.

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    The first major study to articulate that contemporary environmentalism and modern ecology studies link directly to Romantic ideals of anti-industry and pastoral escapes. It still serves as an important historical guide for readers of both Romantic literature and environmental studies.

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  • Hutchings, Kevin. Romantic Ecologies and Colonial Cultures in the British Atlantic World, 17701850. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.

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    Examines the relationship between green romanticism and colonial politics. It offers the most comprehensive overview of Romantic ecocriticism over the past twenty years, and also explores new territories in the field of postcolonial ecocritical romanticism.

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  • Kroeber, Karl. Ecological Literary Criticism: Romantic Imagining and the Biology of Mind. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

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    Argues that literary criticism must reestablish links to social activity, particularly through contemporary science. This book uses the proto-ecological methods of the English Romantic poets to compare a time when such social activities were associated with the literary establishment through the natural world.

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  • McKusick, James C. Green Writing: Romanticism and Ecology. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.

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    This book also attributes the current ecological movement to the English Romantic poets, but it takes a turn by arguing that poets like Coleridge, Wordsworth, Blake, and Shelley influenced the ideological basis for American environmentalism, particularly the transcendental movement (i.e., Thoreau, Emerson, etc.) and nature writing.

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  • Morton, Timothy. Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

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    Argues for a paradoxical position in ecocriticism: ecological thinking must divorce itself from the idea of nature. Using the Romantic period as a case study, it explains that this paradox lies in art, creating the idea of nature while also ruining it. It is an important and frequently referenced work.

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  • Rigby, Kate. Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004.

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    Compares British and German literary models of green romanticism. This book also examines other major figures in Continental literature, philosophy, and natural histories—e.g., Herder, Goethe, Schelling, Rousseau, etc.—that inform Romanic ecocriticism from European contexts.

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Victorian

With such a surplus of ecocritical scholarship on Romanticism and 19th-century American literature (see Collections of Essays and General Overviews), there is surprisingly less about Victorian literature and culture (c. 1830–1900). This absence is particularly startling because of the environmental effects of resource extraction for energy, industrialization, and imperialism in the Victorian period and beyond. Unlike the Romantics, Victorian writers emphasized fear and power of the natural world—with new Darwinian evolutionary theory creating uncertainty amid a largely determinist and Christian belief system. Nichols 2011 defines both Romantic and Victorian literature as types of “urbanature” (link between urban life and nature), which also provides contemporary insights for ecological thinking. Mukherjee 2013 expands upon the historically limited idea of English “Victorianism” by placing it as a global phenomenon that contributed to (and still does) ecological disaster. MacDuffie 2014 examines the relationship between literature and science as they relate to sustainability and the limits of growth during the rise of energy usage and production in the Victorian period. Cohen 2014 identifies tactility as a way to understand the human experience of environment in Hardy’s Woodlanders. Taylor 2015 provieds a brief and yet poignant overview of Victorian ecocriticism, locating it amid the emerging Anthropocene epoch.

  • Cohen, William A. “Arborealities: The Tactile Ecology of Hardy’s Woodlanders.” Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century 19 (2014): 1–19.

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    This article analyzes tactility as a way to access affect and ecology, leading to an understanding of the materiality of human experience and, as an extension in the Victorian period, the environment in Hardy’s novel Woodlanders (1887).

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  • MacDuffie, Allen. Victorian Literature, Energy, and the Ecological Imagination. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781107587533Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Garners much scholarly attention because of the links it makes between ecocriticism and petrocriticism (narratives on energy systems, such as oil and gas). It studies canonical Victorian writers by offering an original analysis about how the idea of energy was largely fictionalized in the Victorian period, leading to unsustainable consumption.

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  • Mukherjee, Upamanyu Pablo. Natural Disasters and Victorian Empire: Famines, Fevers, and the Literary Cultures of South Asia. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137001139Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Combines medical and environmental humanistic approaches to literature and culture in order to address Victorian theories about disease, climate, and resource extraction and distribution. Although a book about Victorian literature, it focuses on the “common global ideology of disaster” (p. 8) as an expansive ecological idea.

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  • Nichols, Ashton. Beyond Romantic Ecocriticism: Toward Urbanatural Roosting. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230117990Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Serves as a bridge between Romantic and Victorian ecocriticism, and concludes by reflecting from an informed 20th-century vantage point. It also introduces the concept of “urbanature,” which underscores a type of ecology where urban life and nature, in connection to the human and nonhuman, are all interconnected.

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  • Taylor, Jesse Oak. “Where is Victorian Ecocriticism?” Victorian Literature and Culture 43 (2015): 877–894.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1060150315000315Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This review essay provides a short but detailed overview of Victorian ecocriticism. Taylor expands these thoughts in his highly anticipated and forthcoming book about the emergence of climate change amid London’s soot-laden fog, The Sky of Our Manufacture: The London Fog in British Fiction from Dickens to Woolf (2016).

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Modernist

The Literary Periods section ends with the modernist period (c. 1880–1945), because most ecocritical studies already focus on contemporary literature. Therefore, the following thematic sections should provide a wide range of works that incorporate contemporary (post-1945) works across the globe. The few studies so far involving modernism and ecocriticism have been mostly about specific writers. Gairn 2008 is a transitional book about both Victorian and modernist writers who examine mountaineering as a form of ecological theory and philosophy. Alt 2010 analyzes the connection between Virginia Woolf’s modernist aesthetic and its relationship to the science of ecology. Scott 2012 is also about Woolf, but it grounds the study in both feminist and ecocritical theory, providing a comprehensive overview of green ecofeminist modernism. Brazeau and Gladwin 2014 incorporates a number of essays by James Joyce scholars in one volume to discuss the seemingly unlikely paring between Joyce and ecology. Lacivita 2015 also focuses entirely on Joyce, but through his most difficult to access and yet, in many ways, most ecocritical novel, Finnegans Wake (1939). McCarthy 2015 breaks the largely single-author mold, in part, by examining four modernist writers and their loose connection with the physical environment. (For postmodern approaches, see many of the subheadings under the section Thematic Studies)

  • Alt, Christina. Virginia Woolf and the Study of Nature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511762178Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Emphasizes the link between Woolf’s writings and the science of ecology through phenomenological and Darwinian approaches to natural history.

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  • Brazeau, Robert, and Derek Gladwin, eds. Eco-Joyce: The Environmental Imagination of James Joyce. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2014.

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    Although Joyce is often considered an urban writer, this collection studies his influential body of work as an ideal model to analyze modernist and ecocritical scholarship. It emphasizes the fluidity between both built and nonbuilt environments in ecological theory.

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  • Gairn, Louisa. Ecology and Modern Scottish Literature. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633111.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Marks the transition between Victorian and modernist writings about mountaineering culture in Scottish literature by exploring ecological thought as a scientific philosophy all the way to the present.

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  • Lacivita, Alison. The Ecology of Finnegans Wake. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2015.

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    Gives substantial attention to Joyce’s arguably most ecocritical work. The introduction carefully outlines modernism and ecocriticism more generally, before moving into a Joycean analysis.

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  • McCarthy, Jeffrey Mathes. Green Modernism: Nature and the English Novel, 1900 to 1930. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

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    Provides a “green” centered study on four modernist novelists from England: Joseph Conrad, Ford Maddox Ford, D. H. Lawrence, and Mary Butts. Although an early study about modernist ecocriticism, it focuses more on the social significance of modernist authors and their connection to the “natural world” than it does on ecocriticism.

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  • Scott, Bonnie Kime. In the Hollow of the Wave: Virginia Woolf and Modernist Uses of Nature. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012.

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    Drawing on feminist, ecocritical, and postcolonial theory, this book offers the most substantive study on the greening of modernism (particularly chapter 1). Scott incisively underscores how Woolf’s connection with “nature” shaped her views about power imbalances in society.

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Global Perspectives

Ecocriticism has been largely a North American and European phenomenon, with much of the critical writings on the subject focusing on Anglo-American literature and culture. However, global perspectives in ecocriticism have more recently become a promising area of growth. Some of the most exciting contemporary scholarship is being published in the areas of global, transnational, or postcolonial ecocriticism. DeLoughrey, et al. 2005 serves as a representative volume about Caribbean literature and culture, and employs postcolonial criticism on a global scale. Heise 2008 theorizes the global-local connection in ecocriticism and advocates thinking more in global terms, specifically through eco-cosmopolitanism. Kane 2010 is another collection of essays that emphasizes the need to discover environmental literature in Latin America. Thornber 2012 focuses on East Asian literature and culture through a concept called “ecoambiguity,” or the complexities associated with the human-nonhuman nexus. Caminero-Santagelo 2014, a long overdue study in ecocriticism, introduces a transnational reading of literary cultures in Africa. Slovic, the ISLE editor and first president of ASLE, has been quite the international ambassador over the past several years in an effort to globalize ecocriticism. As part of that process, particularly on the publishing front, Slovic, et al. 2014 is a collection outlining instances of “ecodegradation” that draws from Thornber’s term “ecoambiguities.” Slovic, et al. 2015 serves as a companion collection to the previous volume; it underscores the relationship between economic and military oppression and ecojustice in the Global South. (For more global perspectives, see Postcolonial Ecocriticism.)

  • Caminero-Santagelo, Byron. Different Shades of Green: African Literature, Environmental Justice, and Political Ecology. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014.

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    Analyzes African environmental writing as a form of ecojustice in world and transnational literature. It is notable because there are only a few ecocritical publications about global African literature, and because it employs critical paradigms that appear in transnational studies, such as postcolonialism, political ecology, environmental history, and activism. (See also Environmental Justice.)

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  • DeLoughrey, Elizabeth M., Renée K. Gosson, and George B. Handley, eds. Caribbean Literature and the Environment: Between Nature and Culture. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005.

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    Argues that the Caribbean has been one of the most biological, biotic, and transplanted regions in the world. It focuses on four main issues: colonial histories and plantation economies, links between colonial myths and evolutionary origins, histories of biotic and cultural creolization, and sustainability and global tourism.

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  • Heise, Ursula. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195335637.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a robust study of the global-local relationship in sustainability studies through novels, poems, films, and new media. Looking at the interdisciplinary field of risk theory in social sciences, it argues ecocriticism would benefit from larger cosmopolitan theories (i.e., eco-cosmopolitan) related to transnational readings on a global scale.

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  • Kane, Adrian Taylor, ed. The Natural World in Latin American Literatures: Ecocritical Essays on Twentieth Century Writings. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010.

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    This is important because it is one of the few books to examine ecocriticism and Latin American literature. It seeks to provide a contrast to Anglophone literary studies of the environment with studies throughout Latin America on issues of modernity and technology, ecology and the subaltern, and utopias and dystopias.

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  • Oppermann, Serpil, ed. New International Voices in Ecocriticism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.

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    A general approach to global ecocriticism, this collection surveys a number of countries, including Canada, Turkey, Spain, China, India, and South Africa. The collection offers a look at “new ecocritical trends” and “human-nonhuman relations” (p. 9). However, more emphasis on non-Western literature would increase the global scope.

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  • Slovic, Scott, Swarnalatha Rangarajan, and Vidya Sarveswaran, eds. Ecoambiguity, Community, and Development: Toward a Politicized Ecocriticism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.

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    Identifies the idea of “ecodegradation” as a way to describe the connection between cultural oppression and environmental injustice. Drawing on postcolonial ecocriticism, this collection provides a global look at the relationship between cultural and environmental conflicts in literature and film.

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  • Slovic, Scott, Swarnalatha Rangarajan, and Vidya Sarveswaran, eds. Ecocriticism of the Global South. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015.

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    One of the few studies repositioning ecocriticism from scholars writing about postcolonial ecocriticism from a First World vantage point to scholars who are personally familiar with underrepresented regions in zones of political and economic oppression. This is a companion volume to Slovic, et al. 2014.

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  • Thornber, Karen. Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literature. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012.

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    Examines East Asian literatures (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese) as a form of “ecoambiguity,” which underscores the “complex, contradictory interactions between people and environment with a significant nonhuman presence” (p. 1). This book offers an original take on an underrepresented area of ecocriticism.

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Thematic Studies

Ecocriticism offers readers an array of themes and approaches, which can be broken into dozens if not hundreds of possible topics related to literary and cultural studies of the environment. The list of themes included here is not meant to be exhaustive. Rather, they demonstrate some of the more developed and ground-breaking publications that have received a significant amount of contemporary critical attention in literary and cultural studies.

The Animal and Nonhuman

Ecocritical scholarship about “the animal” and “nonhuman” question draws on philosophical and cultural writers who have questioned the political and social connection between animal and human. How should, as intelligent and sensitive beings that share the ecologies of the planet, animals be viewed and treated in society? This section looks primarily at writings from literary and cultural scholars to provide a general overview for animal studies, which links directly to fundamental questions in contemporary ecocritical scholarship. Similar to the intellectual trajectory of posthumanism, philosophers have contributed to theorizing animal studies and the nonhuman. Derrida 2008, a printing of lectures given in 1997, analyzes the human-animal divide. Bleakley 2000 forges early connections around the animal-human nexus, specifically as a neglected area of ecocritical studies. Simons 2002 situates animal rights as an essential piece in literary scholarship. Cary Wolfe, who is largely responsible for merging animal and posthumanist theory with literary and cultural studies, has produced two influential books on the subject. Wolfe 2003a seeks to develop an “epistemological break with humanism” through posthumanistic discourses on culture and the nonhuman (p. 1). Wolfe 2003b is a collection of essays speaking directly to the “question of the animal” (p. xiii). Huggan and Tiffin 2010 is a study on both postcolonial and animal ecocriticism (i.e., zoocritical studies). Raber 2013, again pursuing the “question of the animal” in ecocritical and posthumanist theory, underscores the reciprocal human-animal relationship in Renaissance literature. Grusin 2015 is another edited volume that distinguishes the “posthuman turn,” which recognizes humanistic teleology and progress, from the “nonhuman turn” that underscores Bruno Latour’s famous dictum “we have never been human.” (For more related to the animal and nonhuman, see also Posthumanism and Material Ecocriticism.)

  • Bleakley, Alan. The Animalizing Imagination: Totemism, Textuality, and Ecocriticism. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.

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    One of the earliest studies linking animal-human relations and ecocriticism, it argues that animals are an important area of study to address the ecological crisis. It combines postmodern approaches across a range of cultural texts and disciplines, drawing from Freud, Nietzsche, and Lévi-Strauss, among other theorists.

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  • Derrida, Jacques. The Animal That Therefore I Am. Edited by Marie-Louise Mallet. Translated by David Wills. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

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    This volume collects a series of lectures given by Derrida in 1997 (both transcribed from recordings and written versions). These lectures continue to influence animal studies by addressing the suffering of animals, linguistically framing “the animal” as singular, and the question of the animal in Heideggerian philosophy. Originally published as L’animal que donc je suis (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2006).

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  • Grusin, Richard, ed. The Nonhuman Turn. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

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    The most contemporary book to trace the “nonhuman turn” in cultural studies, through nine essays by authors such as Timothy Morton, Steven Shaviro, Brian Massumi, and Erin Manning. It focuses particularly on the nonhuman turn in 21st-century studies through theoretical channels such as affect, assemblage, new materialism, system, and actor-network.

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  • Huggan, Graham, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London: Routledge, 2010.

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    Offers two specific directions in postcolonial literature: ecocritical and zoocritical studies. The second part, largely drawing on Tiffin’s work, examines the relationship between the human and animal in a posthuman world. (See also Postcolonial Ecocriticism.)

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  • Raber, Karen. Animal Bodies, Renaissance Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

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    Analyzes the relationship between human and nonhuman animals in the early modern literary period. Literature in this period specifically identifies instances where animal and human bodies shared mutually transforming environments. This book examines More’s Utopia, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, and Sidney’s poetry.

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  • Simons, John. Animal Rights and the Politics of Literary Representation. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Challenges literary studies to understand and support animal rights. It offers an overview of animal rights history and applies readings in literary texts from the classical period to the present. It serves as combination of activism and literary analysis.

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  • Wolfe, Cary. Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and the Posthumanist Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003a.

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    Provides the most theoretical overview of any book on cultural animal studies through humanism and ethics, and theorizes work from Wittgenstein, Cavell, Lyotard, Lévinas, Derrida, and Žižek, among others. After a few chapters of theory, it analyses the film The Silence of the Lambs, Hemingway’s writings, and Crichton’s novel Congo.

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  • Wolfe, Cary, ed. Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003b.

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    Aims to centralize the disparate discussion of “the animal” in posthumanist theory by collecting unified writings in one book. It contains only eight essays in cultural studies, but some are by Derrida, Ursula Heise, Steve Baker, and Wolfe.

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Anthropocene and Climate Change

Crutzen and Stoermer 2000 introduces the Anthropocene as a way to explain the human-caused geological epoch that has significantly and negatively altered the earth, beginning in 1784 with James Watt and the invention of the steam engine. The second phase of the epoch of the Anthropocene, known as the “Great Acceleration,” begins in the post–World War II period around 1945, when scientists could directly measure the changes in the atmosphere due to carbon emissions. This period is also when industrialization and urbanization massively intensified, creating worldwide ecological devastation. For Crutzen and Stoermer, global greenhouse gas emissions remain the most significant cause of this anthropogenic (or human-caused) epoch, and one that is based in scientific evidence rather than theory. Ecocritics have quickly adopted the term “Anthropocene” as a way to situate literary works addressing the environmental crisis, and most notably climate change/global warming, throughout the industrialized modern era. Morton 2013 theorizes the idea of “hyperobjects,” a combination of temporal-spatial objects that helps us to understand the phenomenon of climate change, among other environmental problems. Chaudhuri and Enelow 2014 argues that the social and political way to fight climate change is through theater, criticism, and practice. Clark 2015 questions the conceptual complexity of the Anthropocene in terms of scale—both as an enormous global phenomenon and one of the most intricate and basic elements of our lives—and identifies intellectual and literary responses to it. Trexler 2015 overviews a range of climate change novels and locates them in the Anthropocene. Bristow 2015 combines theories of place and space about poetry as one way to understand how we live in the Anthropocene.

  • Bristow, Tom. The Anthropocene Lyric: An Affective Geography of Poetry, Person, Place. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137364753Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This creative study examines geographical theories of place and space studies through poetry. Bristow explains how we might negotiate the ecological crisis in the Anthropocene through the poetry of John Burnside, John Kinsella, and Alice Oswald in order to find an affective (or emotional) synthesis of poetry and place.

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  • Chaudhuri, Una, and Shonni Enelow. Research Theatre, Climate Change, and the Ecocide Project: A Casebook. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

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    Brings creative and community engagement in the theater to the fight against climate change. It does so through the Ecocide Project, using performance and theater research to identify conceptual and aesthetic principles through the Anthropocene and current climate change effects.

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  • Clark, Timothy. Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.

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    Offers a direct study between ecocriticism and the notion of the Anthropocene. Clark argues for a new way of interpreting literature and culture through the conceptualization of the Anthropocene as a new mode of addressing the ecological crisis. It provides the clearest analysis of ecocriticism and the Anthropocene to date.

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  • Crutzen, Paul J., and Eugene F. Stoermer. “The ‘Anthropocene.’” Global Change Newsletter 41 (2000): 17–18.

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    Introduces the epoch of the Anthropocene concept. Although not a literary analysis, but rather a scientific and historical study, this article has significantly influenced the way ecocritics reimagine the ecological crisis as it relates to industry, capitalism, and climate change over the past 250 years.

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  • Morton, Timothy. Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

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    “Hyperobjects,” such as global warming and the biosphere, are massively distributed objects in time and space (relative to humans). An important “third wave” book on ecocritical theory, Hyperobjects seeks to understand how we view the end of the world, and how this pervasive viewpoint reduces our capacity to change it.

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  • Trexler, Adam. Anthropocene Fictions: The Novel in a Time of Climate Change. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015.

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    Tracing the history of the climate change novel back to the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the Anthropocene, Trexler’s book remains the most comprehensive literary study of climate change to date. It employs climatology, sociology, geography, and environmental economics to form an interdisciplinary study of the novel.

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Critical Race Studies

Social and ecological crises around the globe reflect similar needs and would suggest a symbiotic way of thinking about a greener critical race approach in literary scholarship. Historically, however, environmental movements have often been framed as a Euro-American phenomenon through activism, literature, and culture. The little amount of ecocritical scholarship analyzing critical race studies not related to Postcolonial Ecocriticism has largely centered on American racial tensions. Silko 1996 opens the wider discussion about the relationship between indigenous peoples and the land, which is a different paradigm than the Eurocentric binary of nature-culture that permeates Western society and policy. Silko draws upon her experiences as a Laguna Pueblo storyteller rather than a critic. Adamson 2001 links environmental and racial justice in a multicultural study about “American Indian literature”; the book similarly echoes Silko, but it does so through an expansive critical lens about many different Native American writers. Myers 2005 echoes similar concerns as Adamson, but it develops the theoretical connection between critical race and ecocriticism more clearly. Hicks 2006 looks at African American ecocriticism as a study of race, which Outka 2008 expands upon more completely as a study of African American writing, race, and nature between the antebellum period and the Harlem Renaissance. Myers outlines critical race theory most specifically as an ecocritical concept, but Outka and Adamson incorporate a greater range of writers and literary analysis.

  • Adamson, Joni. American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism: The Middle Place. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001.

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    This book is important because it was one of the first critical works making the explicit connection between Native authors and their relationship with justice and environmentalism. It explores the intersections among race, class, gender, and nature in Native American literature, challenging the Euro-American divide of nature and culture. (See also Environmental Justice.)

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  • Hicks, Scott. “W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Richard Wright: Toward an Ecocriticism of Color.” Callaloo 29.1 (Winter 2006): 202–222.

    DOI: 10.1353/cal.2006.0054Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Constructs “a genealogy of African American ecocriticism” by placing Du Bois, Washington, and Wright in tension with one another to establish an early 20th-century genre of environmental writing and race (p. 203).

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  • Myers, Jeffrey. Converging Stories: Race, Ecology, and Environmental Justice in American Literature. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2005.

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    Argues that Euro-American nature writers reinforce “the humans/nature duality” that ultimately is causing “ecological and racial hegemony.” The intent of this book is to employ interdisciplinary readings of “critical race studies and ecocriticism” (p. 8).

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  • Outka, Paul. Race and Nature: From Transcendentalism to the Harlem Renaissance. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-0-230-61449-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how nature became a racialized experience between antebellum and early-20th-century American literature and culture. This book demonstrates how race and nature are interlinked, and how both parallel larger waves of colonization around the globe.

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  • Silko, Leslie Marmon. “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 264–275. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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    As a Laguna Pueblo storyteller, Silko writes about her experience with the land in the American Southwest. This essay explains how oral narratives not only transmit culture and history, but also establish a way of understanding land and place, both of which are fundamental to the Pueblo people. Originally published in 1986.

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Ecofeminism, Gender, and Queer Studies

Ecofeminism affirms that environmental exploitation and the oppression of women share similar historical links with patriarchy. However, some feminists have suggested that the tension of the “eco” and “feminism” dualism in literary and cultural theory contributes to further “essentializing” women as synonymous with “nature,” thereby invalidating women’s agency and reinforcing prescriptive gender norms and identity politics. Because ecofeminists examine the complex associations among gender, sex, and the body, in connection to ecologies and culture through activism and criticism, they also investigate queer and gendered approaches to ecocriticism. Norwood 1996 is one of the first ecofeminist critiques, examining four women writers who were early contributors to the American ecological movement. Gaard 1998 creates a critical dialogue with ecofeminists and activists from the social and environmental movements in the United States. Sandilands 1999 applies both theory and political practice to democratize ecofeminism as equally feminist and ecological. Alaimo 2000 reclaims the natural world as a feminist space by challenging our preconceptions of the American nature writing genre. Mortimer-Sandilands and Erickson 2010 is a comprehensive collection of essays about the association between sexuality and environmental studies. Gaard, et al. 2013 is also an edited book of essays looking at ecofeminism, but it does so through non–North American contexts. Seymour 2013 is a book about queer ecologies, arguing that homophobia and sexism contribute to environmental exploitation. Phillips and Rumens 2015 serves as a compelling volume of essays that address some of the most poignant concerns of ecological feminism about climate, animals, and the Global South.

  • Alaimo, Stacy. Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

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    Advocates for reclaiming the natural world as a feminist space. Challenging the patriarchal notion that domesticated spaces should be relegated to women, Alaimo examines women literary and political writers who have urged feminism to rethink the concept of nature as feminist landscapes and political spaces.

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  • Gaard, Greta. Ecological Politics: Ecofeminists and the Greens. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.

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    Provides a blend of ecofeminist, environmental, and social justice approaches from personal accounts of theorists, activists, and public figures in the United States. The book aims to trigger social transformation by examining movements in green politics and social transformation.

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  • Gaard, Greta, Simon Estok, and Serpil Oppermann, eds. International Perspectives in Feminist Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2013.

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    This collection moves away from largely North American examinations of ecofeminism and focuses instead on international responses. This is a welcome volume in a field that has largely analyzed Anglo-American ecofeminism; it includes essays on decolonization, affect, bodies, and posthumanism.

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  • Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona, and Bruce Erickson, eds. Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

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    This interdisciplinary and philosophical volume underscores the link between sexuality and environmental studies through a range of topics about animals, sex, AIDS literatures, and queer studies, among others. Ecologies, or the interconnection of all things, form the basis of understanding a broad range of issues within an environmental gender analysis.

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  • Norwood, Vera L. “Heroines of Nature: Four Women Respond to the American Landscape.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 323–350. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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    Examines the writings of Isabella Bird, Mary Austin, Rachel Carson, and Annie Dillard, and their responses to the natural environments that are integral to American culture. This is one of the first critical writings, and an influential one, to analyze American environmental literature written by women. Originally published in 1984.

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  • Phillips, Mary, and Nick Rumens. Contemporary Perspectives on Ecofeminism. London: Routledge, 2015.

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    A contemporary collection linking ecofeminist theory to issues of climate change, animal studies, the Global South, and corporeality. The book argues that ecofeminism is a way of solving some of the world’s other ecological issues. Many of the essays in this collection focus on global ecofeminism.

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  • Sandilands, Catriona. The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

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    Situates ecofeminism with other contemporary writings in feminist postmodernism and radical democracy in order to reclaim feminist ecological approaches. It offers an extensive overview of the genealogy of ecofeminist theory.

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  • Seymour, Nicole. Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

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    Calls for a queer environmental ethics through queer environmentalism to challenge critical hurdles facing American society (i.e., homophobia, sexism, racism, xenophobia, etc.). By examining various forms of fiction in literature and film, it provides the most contemporary queer understandings of issues relevant to ecocriticism: nature, the nonhuman, and environmental degradation.

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Environmental Justice

The environmental justice movement (EJM), later reduced to “ecojustice,” materialized out of other social justice and civil rights movements in the 1960s. Ecojustice aims to address environmental injustices from social and cultural perspectives. It recognizes that the same systems of oppressive and hierarchical power that disenfranchise humans also objectify the natural world. Ecocritics draw from these social and cultural perspectives to also write about environmental injustices depicted in literature and culture. Adamson 2001 links the Native American social justice movement to environmental justice as they both are depicted in literature. Adamson, et al. 2002 is a collection that broadly addresses ecojustice as a subject to be taught in literary and political studies; this collection remains the most useful text used in the teaching and researching of environmental justice. Nixon 2011 posits that climate change creates environmental injustice, what Nixon calls “slow violence,” for poor populations living in the Global South in ways that are almost invisible. Caminero-Santagelo 2014 explores the political ecologies and forms of injustice depicted in African literature and culture.

  • Adamson, Joni. American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism: The Middle Place. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001.

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    This book is important because it was one of the first critical works to make the explicit connection between Native authors and their relationship with justice and environmentalism. Unlike Euro-American representations of pristine wilderness, this book underscores how other justice movements view the relationship between race and land. (See also Critical Race Studies.)

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  • Adamson, Joni, Mei Mei Evans, and Rachel Stein, eds. The Environmental Justice Reader: Politics, Poetics and Pedagogy. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002.

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    With an opening roundtable discussion and nineteen essays broken into three sections on politics, poetics, and pedagogy, this book remains an important work in the field of ecojustice. It is useful for both teaching and research because it combines interdisciplinary perspectives on ecojustice in literature, politics, and race.

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  • Caminero-Santagelo, Byron. Different Shades of Green: African Literature, Environmental Justice, and Political Ecology. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014.

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    Analyzes various forms of African environmental writing as forms of ecojustice. It is notable because of the very few ecocritical writings about African literature, and because it combines an array of critical paradigms in postcolonialism, political ecology, environmental history, and activism. (See also Global Perspectives.)

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  • Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674061194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that environmental damage from climate change in the Global North produces a type of unjust “slow violence” in the Global South, often invisible in capitalist systems that rely on immediate and sensationalized reporting. This is one of the most influential ecocritical books in the last decade. (See also Postcolonial Ecocriticism.)

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Material Ecocriticism

Drawing from “new materialism” or “the material turn” in the sciences and humanities, material ecocriticism is a relatively new effort to examine matter as a non-anthropomorphic interaction between text and world in literary studies. The “more-than-human” materiality of landforms, cities, toxicity, animals, or bodies (both inanimate and animate matter), which are forms of complex ecologies, informs humans about the world they inhabit. In turn, the material phenomena of the world provide maps to interpret various narratives. Matter, in other words, can be read as text. Material ecocriticism underscores elements of the nonhuman and posthuman, but it considers how human agency exists as one category of a much larger material world. An important influence on material ecocriticism, the philosophical book Barad 2007 introduces “agential realism” as a conceptual way to understand the intra-actions of the material world beyond anthropocentric thinking. Alaimo 2010 investigates “transcorporeal” transmissions across matter as a comparative reading of ecological networks. Iovino and Oppermann 2014 is a collection of essays that explores the way material forms like landscapes, bodies, or inorganic matter “intra-act” amid each other and in concert with the human sphere; this interaction provides a story we can read and interpret in literary studies. Morrison 2015 aims the material ecocritical analysis specifically at one pertinent issue in the ecological crisis: waste in literature. Cohen and Duckert 2015 is about turning an old concept into a new material paradigm for ecocritical studies by challenging the role humans have played in elemental theory. (See also Animal and Nonhuman and Posthumanism.)

  • Alaimo, Stacy. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

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    Asserts that bodies are “transcorporeal” vectors—moving across both bodies and nature—that relate to other material human subjects and ecological networks. This book insightfully explains interactions between places and organisms, and underscores how bodies configure ecologies of discourses within specific power structures.

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  • Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822388128Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While not a work of literary studies, this book remains influential for material ecocriticism. It argues for an “agential realism,” as a new epistemology and ontology, which accounts for “social” and “natural” agencies as intra-actions (dependent within each other rather than separate).

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  • Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, and Lowell Duckert, eds. Elemental Ecocriticism: Thinking with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

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    This collection challenges the traditional material four elements in elementary theory by disrupting the notion that humans are the center of materiality in the cosmos. Instead, the essays in this collection decenter the human in an effort to reexamine the four elements through material ecocriticism.

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  • Iovino, Serenella, and Serpil Oppermann, eds. Material Ecocriticism. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2014.

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    Explores how discourse and matter communicate in ecological literary works. The ecological crisis can be understood more acutely by examining “the way humans and their agentic partners intersect in the making of the world” (p. 6). The first major collection on the subject, it provides the best overview for readers.

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  • Morrison, Susan Signe. The Literature of Waste: Material Ecopoetics and Ethical Matter. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

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    Examines a “waste-oriented” material ecocriticism as a new way to address, manage, and theorize the abundance of waste in western societies. Unlike other titles in this list, this book explores a range of literary works, beginning with Beowulf and moving to writers like Samuel Beckett.

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Narrative Ecocriticism

Ecocriticism began as a unique way for academics to combine activism, personal lifestyle, and academic criticism into one holistic form of critical theory and practice. One of the pieces missing in this list has been personal reflection; objective and intellectual distance has dominated the field, except for writings about ecofeminism and race. Slightly different from the work of environmental creative nonfiction writers such as Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, and Kathleen Deane Moore, this section catalogues work in the slowly growing field of narrative critical scholarship, merging experience, reflection, and criticism. Elder 1996 (first published 1985), a forerunner of this genre and of ecocriticism, underscores the influence of place in our own ecological perspectives and professional practice by exploring nature poetry as a guide and instructor. Slovic 2008 reflects on the practice of teaching, writing, and the politics of working as an ecocritic for the past twenty years. This section also includes scholarship about narrative/story used in writings about the environment. Hussey and Thompson 2000 is a collection that examines environmental consciousness as an experience and tradition through forms of narrative. Allister 2001 investigates narrative form focused on autobiographical environmental literature. Hallock 2003 explores the work of writers in the American Revolutionary era that used pastoral images and story as early forms of frontier narratives.

  • Allister, Mark Christopher. Refiguring the Map of Sorrow: Nature Writing and Autobiography. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001.

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    This original study combines narrative through the autobiographical form and environmental literature. It focuses specifically on “grief narratives” about the natural world and animals, where writers address mourning both in the text (through narrative form) and outside (a reflection of their experiences). (See also Nature Writing.)

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  • Elder, John. Imagining the Earth: Poetry and the Vision of Nature. 2d ed. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

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    Demonstrates how poetry can affect our attitude toward the natural world. This book combines both ecocritical analyses of poets from the Romantics to the contemporary with personal reflection on Elder’s own transformative process. Originally published in 1985.

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  • Hallock, Thomas. From the Fallen Tree: Frontier Narratives, Environmental Politics, and the Roots of the National Pastoral, 1749–1826. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

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    Takes a novel approach to the Anglo-American genre of pastoral writings by exploring “frontier narratives” amid a background of revolutionary conflict.

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  • Hussey, Stephen, and Paul Thompson, eds. The Roots of Environmental Consciousness: Popular Tradition and Personal Experience. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    This volume of essays explores ways of narrating “nature” through personalized experiences. Many of the essays offer original approaches, including British campaigners in the Brazilian rainforest, perceptions of the environment through life stories, ecofeminist activism through personal story, and using metaphor in Yucatecan communities.

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  • Slovic, Scott. Going Away to Think: Engagement, Retreat, and Ecocritical Responsibility. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008.

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    Part academic memoir written in a narrative mode, this book is a reflection of Slovic’s experiences as a teacher, writers, and activist in ecocriticism. Despite its focus on internal experience, this book also examines topics of interest for ecocritics, such as animals, climate change, and post-911 environmental activism.

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Nature Writing

The mode of nature writing is defined as a form of creative nonfiction prose that focuses on descriptive elements of the natural world. Nature writing incorporates human and nonhuman dimensions through both scientific observation and personal reflection and through various forms of perception. Ultimately, ecocriticism attempts to disrupt any notion that nature or wilderness writing, like nature itself, reinforces anthropocentric (rather than bio- or ecocentric) thinking through aesthetic practice. Contemporary ecocriticism, however, focuses less on nature writing as a pressing concern to study, mainly because of its often depoliticized and overdetermined effect. Slovic 1992, as one of the first ecocritical books in the “first wave,” examines the internal awareness in the work of four major American nature writers. Buell 1995 underscores an American history of nature writing leading back to Henry David Thoreau and the American transcendentalist movement. Buell articulates a decidedly theoretical approach to nature writing: as a humanistic thought that provides an ecocentric or “green” way of living. Allister 2001 investigates nature writing as a form of autobiographical environmental literature. Armbruster and Wallace 2001 challenges previous genres and nationalities of nature writing in a volume of essays. It incorporates more marginalized writers, while also arguing for a move beyond nature writing as a literary pursuit to one that engages with environmental justice. Armbruster and Wallace’s influential volume seeks to expand the definition of nature writing beyond nonfiction prose reflections of the natural world, and to contest the notion of “nature” itself. Scheese 2002 revisits American pastoral writing, a move that attempts to reinvigorate nature writing into contemporary ecocritical scholarship. (See also Collections of Essays and Anthologies for more work on nature writing.)

  • Allister, Mark Christopher. Refiguring the Map of Sorrow: Nature Writing and Autobiography. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001.

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    This original study builds on Peter Fritzell’s thesis that American nature writing combines Aristotelian natural history and the Augustinian confession. It explores nature writing through the autobiographical form, specifically focusing on “grief narratives” about the natural world and animals. (See also Narrative Ecocriticism.)

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  • Armbruster, Karla, and Kathleen R. Wallace, eds. Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001.

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    One of the pivotal books to challenge the concerns of first-wave ecocriticism devoted to critical analyses of nature and wilderness writing. The final section of the collection about genres and disciplines anticipates the expansion of disciplinary boundaries in ecocriticism that came about in the second wave.

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  • Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    One of the first major studies on ecocriticism, this book surveys American environmental literature—with Thoreau’s Walden as the “reference point” (p. 22)—to establish a history of environmental perception and imagination. It examines how humanistic thought, particularly through literary nonfiction, can imagine a more ecocentric or “green” way of living. (See also General Overviews.)

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  • Scheese, Don. Nature Writing: The Pastoral Impulse in America. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

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    Serves as one of the most recent publications on nature writing, and the reason for being on this list, but it returns to first-wave ecocritical concerns of pastoralism and celebratory writing about “nature.” First Published 1995 (New York: Twayne).

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  • Slovic, Scott. Seeking Awareness in American Nature Writing: Henry Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992.

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    Explores the relationship between “nature and the mind,” or the inner life of four canonical American nature writers (p. 5). Rather than examine the physical environments each writer describes, this books analyzes the inner landscape of these writers as a result of their experiences in nature.

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Postcolonial Ecocriticism

Histories of imperialism and capitalism have continually threatened not only indigenous populations around the world, but also environmental biodiversity through forms of economic, cultural, and geographical conquest. Postcolonial ecocriticism is an attempt to examine overlapping issues among histories of colonialism and environmental destruction. The phrase, however, creates a somewhat fraught distinction, because scholars within this field investigate much more than protecting the natural world and indigenous populations from oppression. In 2010 a series of influential books were published on the subject. Mukherjee 2010 provides one of the more compelling and earliest introductions to postcolonial ecocriticism; it underscores the complexity of joining these terms (i.e., postcolonial + ecocriticism) in specific histories and geographies. Huggan and Tiffin 2010 adds another dimension to the politics of colonialism by examining animals alongside environmental degradation. Carrigan 2010 examines the relationship between globalized mass tourism and its ecological effects on sensitive ecosystems, which are often located in former colonies and exposed by writers. Roos and Hunt 2010 includes essays from a number of contributors to explore postcolonial narratives in different parts of the world. Wright 2010 looks generally at the role of the global postcolonial writer as an activist responding to environmental destruction. Nixon 2011 furthers the view of the writer as an activist and argues that environmental damage occurs slowly over time and appears almost invisible, despite the violence ecological degradation causes the poor in the Global South. DeLoughrey and Handley 2011 incorporates essays from well-established postcolonial scholars to address global examples of postcolonial ecocriticism. Bartosch 2013 uses postcolonial writers to illustrate a how literature can fundamentally alter our consciousness.

  • Bartosch, Roman. EnvironMentality: Ecocriticism and the Event of Postcolonial Fiction. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2013.

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    Argues that environmental literature can change consciousness by challenging modes of knowledge formation in a process called “EnvironMentality.” Bartosch applies this examination specifically to postcolonial writers and contexts.

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  • Carrigan, Anthony. Postcolonial Tourism: Literature, Culture, and Environment. London: Routledge, 2010.

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    Studies the role of mass global tourism promoted by multinational companies and its ecological effects. Tourism, like imperialism and capitalism, deploys oppressive strategies to both indigenous peoples and ecologies in order to generate profit. Carrigan looks at postcolonial writings the challenge these oppressive practices.

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  • DeLoughrey, Elizabeth, and George H. Handley, eds. Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    This is the most thorough and theoretical collection that examines the relationship between ecocriticism and postcolonialism. It examines a diverse global literature, but it divides sections by theme, such as place, forest fictions, animals (nonhumans), and militurism.

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  • Huggan, Graham, and Helen Tiffin, eds. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London: Routledge, 2010.

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    This book offers two specific directions in postcolonial literature: ecocritical and zoocritical. It provides a wide range of perspectives on literatures related to British imperialism in the emerging study of postcolonial criticism. (See also the Animal and Nonhuman.)

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  • Mukherjee, Upamanyu Pablo. Postcolonial Environments: Nature, Culture and the Contemporary Indian Novel In English. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230251328Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces the subject of postcolonial ecocriticism thoroughly in the first three chapters. The book also provides extensive readings of Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Indra Sinha, and Ruchir Joshi as examples.

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  • Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674061194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that environmental damage from climate change produces a type of slow and delayed violence, often invisible in capitalist systems that rely on immediate and sensationalized reporting. Nixon demonstrates in the transnational environmental justice literature how slow violence most affects the poor in the Global South. (See also Environmental Justice.)

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  • Roos, Bonnie, and Alex Hunt, eds. Postcolonial Green: Environmental Politics and World Narratives. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010.

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    Contains essays from established postcolonial scholars examining literary and environmental narratives, and serves as one of the first introductions in the field. The book is divided into geographical regions, such as Asia and the South Pacific, Africa, North America, and South America and the Caribbean, to offer a global perspective.

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  • Wright, Laura. “Wilderness into Civilized Shapes”: Reading the Postcolonial Environment. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010.

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    Explores the role of the fiction writer as activist and spokesperson in global literature through relationships among environmental, human, and animal ethics in a neocolonial framework.

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Posthumanism

Posthumanists explore the ways in which human beings are no longer human as “natural” subjects. This theme of ecocriticism looks at technological advances in science that might challenge the idea of what it means to be human and would lead, if it has not already occurred, as some argue, to the professed “end of nature.” Posthumanists study issues such as genetic modification, cloning, stem cells, artificial life and intelligence, and biometrics; these areas of exploration often intersect with science fiction literature. Although philosophers and sociologists have largely written about this topic, with its own philosophical trajectory to trace (i.e., Haraway, Derrida, Latour, etc.), this section focuses on the literary criticism addressing the concept of the posthuman and its link to ecocriticism. Morton 2007 challenges the notion that humans have ever been “natural” and argues for a posthumanist outlook of “ecology without nature” (p. 1). Wolfe 2010 is another introduction to posthumanism (probably the best summary available for literary studies), arguing that we must change the nature of thought itself to become posthumanists. Herbrechter 2013, like Wolfe 2010, provides an overview. However, it focuses on the origins of posthumanism, going back to Friedrich Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense” (1873) as a starting point, and historical development throughout philosophy and critical theory. Jaques 2015 looks specifically at the relationship between children’s literature and posthuman identity. (See also the Animal and Nonhuman for more works related to posthumanism.)

  • Herbrechter, Stefan. Posthumanism: A Critical Analysis. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

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    This book, while a work of critical theory without literary application, is in this list because it provides an excellent overview, in clear language, of the history of posthumanistic theory. It is a useful companion to ecocritical work on animal studies, posthumanism, or post-structuralism.

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  • Jaques, Zoe. Children’s Literature and the Posthuman: Animal, Environment, Cyborg. New York: Routledge, 2015.

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    Argues that children’s literature offers insightful examples of what it means to be human, partly through the human-animal nexus, in posthumanism. It explores questions not only related to posthumanism, but also to ecology, gender, and technologies found in texts aimed at children, such as Gulliver’s Travels, Pinocchio, and the Alice books.

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  • Morton, Timothy. Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

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    Argues for a paradoxical position in ecocriticism: ecological thinking must divorce itself from the idea of nature. This is a posthumanism book because it addresses the idea of “end of nature” from a traditional literary perspective, looking at the Romantic period as a case study. (See also Romantic.)

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  • Wolfe, Cary. What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

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    Broken into two sections, on theory and application, through works of literature, media, and culture, this book is one of the best overviews on the subject. Wolfe differentiates posthumanism from transhumanism (enhancement of human capabilities), and looks at ethical and disciplinary questions about changing how we think about the posthuman.

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Ecocritical Futures

What is next? That often remains the question in an academic and practice-based literary and cultural theory about the contemporary global environmental crisis. Ecocriticism contains many essays and books reflecting about the “future of ecocriticism” and environmental literary culture more generally. Buell 2005 stands out in this list because it offers both an overview of the past and predictions for the future of ecocriticism. It even emphasizes the use of “environmental criticism” to expand the disciplinary boundaries in and beyond the literary—a critical trend that has been widely adopted. LeMenager, et al. 2011 is a volume of essays that demonstrates the shift of momentum for ecocritical studies in the coming decades—such as problems of scale, environmental institutions, and conventional terms of national or global. Oppermann, et al. 2015 provides an unprecedented amount of collected essays that address the very issue of the “future of ecocriticism.” This collection arose from an international conference in Turkey. Like Buell 2005, it supports the importance of theorizing ecocriticism further, particularly in social and scientific fields. The interdisciplinary and ecological scholarship largely conducted by ecocritics has taken a wider purview in the environmental humanities (EH), despite some possible tensions arising from overlapping disciplinary concepts and methodologies. The EH as a transdisciplinary field of study has offered a wider purview of academic areas, attempting to promote environmental scholarship in the humanities to the public as well as academic sphere. Many subfields have identified themselves as close relations with ecocriticism, and yet different, such as environmental media, cinema, philosophy, and history, all of which offer complementary approaches that will not be included here for purposes of scope and scale. There are a few notable essays in the EH that provide some useful overviews and links to ecocriticism. Bergthaller, et al. 2014 demonstrates that the collaborative effort of EH is a productive direction for environmental scholars to develop in the 21st century. It emphasizes the “slow to progress” method of the humanities and argues that such a remit benefits critical approaches to ecologically based scholarship and activism. Neimanis, et al. 2015 is a provocative and dense overview of the problems EH scholarship must confront and address.

  • Bergthaller, Hannes, Rob Emmett, Adeline Johns-Putra, Agnes Kneitz, Susanna Lidström, Shane McCorristine, et al. “Mapping Common Ground: Ecocriticism, Environmental History, and the Environmental Humanities.” Environmental Humanities 5 (2014): 261–276.

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    By linking environmental history and ecocriticism as two influential pieces to the environmental humanities (EH), the article advocates for a type of “slow scholarship”—cultivating thinking across many spatiotemporal scales and sustaining pragmatic public debates. It pinpoints three main areas for discussion: eco-historicism, environmental justice, and new materialism.

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  • Buell, Lawrence. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

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    This volume is credited with dividing ecocriticism into “waves,” as discussed in the Introduction of this article and throughout, while also predicting the influx of works on globalism, scale of the local-global, and ethics in the political dimension. It works through a diversity of literary and social texts to overview the argument.

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  • LeMenager, Stephanie, Teresa Shewry, and Ken Hiltner, eds. Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Routledge, 2011.

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    This collection includes essays that push for a turn in ecocriticism in future decades, indicating that the fields of ecocriticism, environmental literary criticism, and literature and the environment are rapidly changing and expanding in many new directions in response to new ecological threats that go beyond the “environmental.”

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  • Neimanis, Astrida, Cecilia Åsberg, and Johan Hedrén. “Four Problems, Four Directions, For Environmental Humanities: Toward Critical Posthumanities for the Anthropocene.” Ethics & the Environment 20.1 (2015): 67–97.

    DOI: 10.2979/ethicsenviro.20.1.67Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Outlines four major considerations and problems for EH scholarship in the future: alienation and intangibility; the post-political situation; negative framing of environmental change; and compartmentalization of “the environment” from other spheres of concern. This article is the best overview of future concerns; ecocritics would benefit from its analysis.

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  • Oppermann, Serpil, Ufuk Özdağ, and Nevin Özkaned, eds. The Future of Ecocriticism: New Horizons. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2015.

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    With a compendium of thirty-two essays from both North American and international scholars, this collection (from the conference proceedings of the same name in 2009) is the most extensive publication to address the concept of the “future of ecocriticism.” It contains an entire section on Turkish perspectives.

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