Making Nature Sacred: Literature, Religion, and the Environment in America from the Puritans to the Present / Edition 1

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Since colonial times, the sense of encountering an unseen, transcendental Presence within the natural world has been a characteristic motif in American literature and culture. American writers have repeatedly perceived in nature something beyond itself-and beyond themselves. In this book, John Gatta argues that the religious import of American environmental literature has yet to be fully recognized or understood. Whatever their theology, American writers have perennially construed the nonhuman world to be a source, in Rachel Carson's words, of "something that takes us out of ourselves." Making Nature Sacred explores how the quest for "natural revelation" has been pursued through successive phases of American literary and intellectual history. And it shows how the imaginative challenge of "reading" landscapes has been influenced by biblical hermeneutics. Though focused on adaptations of Judeo-Christian religious traditions, it also samples Native American, African American, and Buddhist forms of ecospirituality. It begins with Colonial New England writers such Anne Bradstreet and Jonathan Edwards, re-examines pivotal figures such as Henry Thoreau and John Muir, and takes account of writings by Mary Austin, Rachel Carson, and many others along the way. The book concludes with an assessment of the "spiritual renaissance" underway in current environmental writing, as represented by five noteworthy poets and by authors such as Wendell Berry, Annie Dillard, Marilynne Robinson, Peter Matthiessen, and Barry Lopez. This engaging study should appeal not only to students of literature, but also to those interested in ethics and environmental studies, religious studies, and American cultural history.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a subtle, learned, and complex book that makes important contributions to ecocriticism and to the ongoing discussion of the persistence of responses to the natural world that it makes sense to characterize as religious." —Christianity and Literature

"The distinctive contribution Gatta makes is to add to the growing genre of ecocriticism a volume sensitive to the spiritual dimensions of nature-oriented literature. This work was not available when I first taught on spirituality and nature-oriented literature. It would have been very helpful and I intend to use it in the future."—Spiritus

"Gatta offers spiritual and imaginative hope for an age set on despair."—CHOICE

"Required reading for anyone interested not only in ecocriticism but also in an interdisciplinary approach to Christian nature spirituality."—Laurie J. Braaten, Professor of Biblical Studies, Judson College

"Gatta's ambitious work lushly draws the reader into Nature as the setting out of which the United States of America emerged.... [W]e commend Gatta's accomplishment." —Consciousness, Literature and the Arts

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195165067
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/14/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John Gatta is Professor of English at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of American Madonna: Images of the Divine Woman in Literary Culture (OUP, 1997) and a variety of other publications concerning the interplay between religion and literature.

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Table of Contents

1 Landfall : the new world as new creation 15
2 Meditating on the creatures in early American life and letters 35
3 Intimations of an environmental ethic in the writings of Jonathan Edwards 55
4 "Revelation of US" : green shoots of romantic religion in antebellum America 71
5 Variations on nature : from the old manse to the white whale 101
6 "Rare and delectable places" : Thoreau's imagination of sacred space at Walden 127
7 Post-Darwinian visions of divine creation 143
8 Imagined worlds : the lure of numinous exoticism 175
9 Reclaiming the sacred commons 199
10 Learning to love creation : the religious tenor of contemporary ecopoetry 225
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