Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America

Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America

by Dana Phillips
     
 

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The Truth of Ecology is a wide-ranging, polemical appraisal of contemporary environmental thought. Focusing on the new field of ecocriticism from a thoroughly interdisciplinary perspective, this book explores topics as diverse as the history of ecology in the United States; the distortions of popular environmental thought; the influence of Critical Theory on

Overview

The Truth of Ecology is a wide-ranging, polemical appraisal of contemporary environmental thought. Focusing on the new field of ecocriticism from a thoroughly interdisciplinary perspective, this book explores topics as diverse as the history of ecology in the United States; the distortions of popular environmental thought; the influence of Critical Theory on radical science studies and radical ecology; the need for greater theoretical sophistication in ecocriticism; the contradictions of contemporary American nature writing; and the possibilities for a less devotional, "wilder" approach to ecocritical and environmental thinking.

Taking his cues from Thoreau, Stevens, and Ammons, from Wittgenstein, Barthes and Eco, from Bruno Latour and Michel Serres, from the philosophers Rorty, Hacking, and Dennett, and from the biologists Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould, author Dana Phillips emphasizes an eclectic but pragmatic approach to a variety of topics. His subject matter includes the doctrine of social construction; the question of what it means to be interdisciplinary; the disparity between scientific and literary versions of realism; the difficulty of resolving the tension between facts and values, or more broadly, between nature and culture; the American obsession with personal experience; and the intellectual challenges posed by natural history. Those challenges range from the near-impossibility of defining ecological concepts with precision to the complications that arise when a birder tries to identify chickadees in poor light on a winter's afternoon in the Poconos.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Readers concerned that the community of nature writers and ecocritics has become too chummy and self-congratulatory...need look no further than Dana Phillips's witty and provocative new book for an astringent remedy.... Reading The Truth of Ecology...will make you stronger, better able to appreciate and evaluate the literature that explores our relationship with nature."—Orion

"The grand project of this text is to urge writers to question the gaps between experience and language, perception and description; these are worthwhile portals of inquiry for writers working in landscapes that seem to have a priori discrete identities."—Western American Literature

"The Truth of Ecology will help ecocriticism come of age. Dana Phillips is a tough, challenging, and unsentimental reader. Even those who disagree with him will agree that he adds two crucial elements to current discourse in the environmental humanities: a powerful philosophical armature and a genuinely sophisticated understanding of ecological science and its discontents."—William Howarth, Princeton University

"The Truth of Ecology is a fiercely interesting book at least in part because it is quite fierce. Dana Phillips takes on the very young tradition of ecocriticism, which he finds already moldy. He declares a pox on both the houses of nature-as-text and nature-as-the-world-out-there. But if he has a sharp eye for an argument, Mr. Phillips is also immensely learned, balanced, generous. Nature-writing is the most classic American literature and The Truth of Ecology does it full and rare justice."—Myra Jehlen, Rutgers University

"The Truth of Ecology provides a penetrating assessment of contemporary conceptions of nature and ecology, which have been plagued by a combination of mysticism and literalism. Dana Phillips is setting ecocriticism on the right track: toward a theoretically rigorous, truly interdisciplinary, and imaginative discussion of the entanglements of nature and culture."—Bonnie Costello, Boston University

"The Truth of Ecology is a significant intervention in the ongoing nature/culture debates. Within its original contributions to these debates, Dana Phillips's book raises important questions abut the relationship between science and the humanities through querying the function of theory in both these fields. It is a polemic of exceptional theoretical rigor and imagination, written with a fine sense of style, of which wit is a welcome component. Whether or not one is interested in ecocriticism per se, the book has a lot to offer in its wide ranging interests and is a pleasure to read for the lively critical intelligence therein engaged."—Eric Cheyfitz, University of Pennsylvania

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195137699
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
03/27/2003
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Dana Phillips earned a doctorate in English at Duke University. He has published articles on American literature in Raritan, American Literature, Arizona Quarterly, Nineteenth-Century Literature and New Literary History.

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