Undomesticated Ground: Recasting Nature As Feminist Space

Overview

From "Mother Earth" to "Mother Nature," women have for centuries been associated with nature. Feminists, troubled by the way in which such representations show women controlled by powerful natural forces and confined to domestic space, have sought to distance themselves from nature. In Undomesticated Ground, Stacy Alaimo issues a bold call to reclaim nature as feminist space. Her analysis of a remarkable range of feminist writings—as well as of popular journalism, visual arts, television, and film—powerfully ...
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Overview

From "Mother Earth" to "Mother Nature," women have for centuries been associated with nature. Feminists, troubled by the way in which such representations show women controlled by powerful natural forces and confined to domestic space, have sought to distance themselves from nature. In Undomesticated Ground, Stacy Alaimo issues a bold call to reclaim nature as feminist space. Her analysis of a remarkable range of feminist writings—as well as of popular journalism, visual arts, television, and film—powerfully demonstrates that nature has been and continues to be an essential concept for feminist theory and practice.

Alaimo urges feminist theorists to rethink the concept of nature by probing the vastly different meanings that it carries. She discusses its significance for Americans engaged in social and political struggles from, for example, the "Indian Wars" of the early nineteenth century, to the birth control movement in the 1920s, to contemporary battles against racism and heterosexism. Reading works by Catherine Sedgwick, Mary Austin, Emma Goldman, Nella Larson, Donna Haraway, Toni Morrison, and others, Alaimo finds that some of these writers strategically invoke nature for feminist purposes while others cast nature as a postmodern agent of resistance in the service of both environmentalism and the women's movement.

By examining the importance of nature within literary and political texts, this book greatly expands the parameters of the nature writing genre and establishes nature as a crucial site for the cultural work of feminism.

About the Author:
Stacy Alaimo is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Undomesticated Ground is an important and informative book, and it should set the stage for an enlivened discussion of nature and feminism."—Choice, Vol. 38, No. 4, December 2000

"Students of nature writing, women's literature, and more familiar forms of imaginary domesticity will find rich insights in Undomesticated Ground."—Barbara Ryan, University of Missouri. American Literature, June 2001

"Throughout the book, Alaimo shows that women have made subversive use of the particular literary, political, and gender conventions around them to create spaces for and threads of women's liberation that do not rest on a separation from nature. . . . These insights are complex and generative, and I found Alaimo's analysis to be rich and thought-provoking. . . . In both form and content, then, this is an important book for ecological scholars of all traditions. Read it with pleasure."—Catriona Sandilands, York University. Environmental Ethics, vol. 24, No. 3, Fall 2002.

"Stacy Alaimo challenges essentialized conceptions of nature in Undomesticated Ground, calling for nature's reclamation as feminist space. . . . Alaimo persuasively asserts that feminism will benefit from a more complex understanding of nature's multiple and, at times, contradictory representations. . . . Her work importantly lays the groundwork by which we can articulate essentialized notions of nature, disrupt them, and then question the framework of dualisms that guides our inquiry."—Maureen McKnight, University of Wisconsin. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, Summer 2001.

"Undomesticated Ground explores a dazzling array of feminist texts that endeavour to inhabit and transform nature as a place of feminist possibility. Throughout, Alaimo remains sensitive to the pitfalls of any alliance between women and nature. The texts are grouped chronologically and thematically, and each is carefully considered in relation to its social and historical moment."—Meredith Criglington, Canadian Literature 180, Spring 2004

"Alaimo's Undmesticated Ground: Recasting Nature as Feminist Space. . .takes on the important work of dismantling nature-culture dualisms in which culture is viewed as dynamic and nature as static. . . . Alaimo offers feminists an alternative path in which boundaries between human and nonhuman nature are permeable but not completely collapsed."—Shannon Sullivan, Hypatia, 19.3, Summer 2004

"Emma Goldman as ecofeminist? Whales as earth mothers? Feminist cyborgs reclaiming abandoned wastelands? Undomesticated Ground even rediscovers the wacky 1970s feminist erotica Bear. Stacy Alaimo argues that the double valence of the woman-nature connection holds potential traps and benefits for both women and nature because both progressive feminisms and ecofeminism offer two sides of the same maternalist coin. What early twentieth-century writer Mary Austin found in the desert—an undomesticated female space, a hidden wildness tainted by racism—Alaimo finds in a range of American women's prose: fiction by communists; Lesbian, postmodern SFers; and even in the well-meaning ecology fundraising letters crowding our mailboxes."—Paula Rabinowitz, University of Minnesota, author of They Must Be Represented: The Politics of Documentary

"Undomesticated Ground engages important issues in feminist debate about women and nature. It will be controversial in some quarters, but it will be considered seriously by readers, and one can ask little more."—Nancy Walker, Vanderbilt University

"While Stacy Alaimo controls a wide range of theoretical reading, she does so with clarity, agility, and restraint. It is rare to see so theoretically sophisticated a writer as Alaimo so attentive to individual images and so playful with her own language. Her new and brilliant insights and her attention to texts totally overlooked in the field make Undomesticated Ground a significant contribution to ecocriticism, women's studies, and American Studies."—Melody Graulich, Utah State University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801486432
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2000
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.59 (d)

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