Clear-Cutting Eden: Ecology and the Pastoral in Southern Literature

Overview

Clear-Cutting Eden examines how Southern literary depictions of the natural world were influenced by the historical, social, and ecological changes of the 1930s and 1940s.
 
Rieger studies the ways that nature is conceived of and portrayed by four prominent Southern writers of the era: Erskine Caldwell, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zora Neale Hurston, and William Faulkner. Specifically, he argues that these writers created new versions of an ...

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Overview

Clear-Cutting Eden examines how Southern literary depictions of the natural world were influenced by the historical, social, and ecological changes of the 1930s and 1940s.
 
Rieger studies the ways that nature is conceived of and portrayed by four prominent Southern writers of the era: Erskine Caldwell, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zora Neale Hurston, and William Faulkner. Specifically, he argues that these writers created new versions of an old literary mode—the pastoral—in response to the destabilizing effects of the Great Depression, the rise of Southern modernism, and the mechanization of agricultural jobs.
 
Mass deforestation, soil erosion, urban development, and depleted soil fertility are issues that come to the fore in the works of these writers. In response, each author depicts a network model of nature, where humans are part of the natural world, rather than separate, over, or above it, as in the garden pastorals of the Old South, thus significantly revising the pastoral mode proffered by antebellum and Reconstruction-era writers.
 
Each writer, Rieger finds, infuses the pastoral mode with continuing relevance, creating new versions that fit his or her ideological positions on issues of race, class, and gender. Despite the ways these authors represent nature and humankind’s place in it, they all illustrate the idea that the natural environment is more than just a passive background against which the substance of life, or fiction, is played out.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Clear-Cutting Eden is impeccably researched and interesting. Its scholarly depth and range are great strengths of the book.”
--Ann Fisher-Wirth, Professor of English, University of Mississippi

 "Clear-Cutting Eden is well-written and has an important contribution to make as a literary study that puts together some important southern texts through a lens that is well-received as one of the most fruitful lines of new scholarship in southern studies."
 --Lucinda Mackethan, Alumni Distinguished Professor of English, North Carolina State University

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“A significant contribution to our understanding of the early twentieth-century literary lower South.”—ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817316419
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Rieger is Assistant Professor of English at Southeast Missouri State University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Changes in the air and on the ground : nature, the Great Depression, and the Southern pastoral 1

1 Depleted land, depleted lives : Erskine Caldwell's antipastoral 22

2 Cross creek culture : Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's wilderness pastoral 53

3 Connecting inner and outer nature : Zora Neale Hurston's personal pastoral 92

4 The postpastoral of William Faulkner's Go down, Moses 135

Conclusion Ecopastoral and the past, present, and future of Southern literature 159

Notes 173

Bibliography 189

Index 199

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