Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U. S. and Beyond

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Overview

The environmental imagination does not stop short at the edge of the woods. Nor should our understanding of it, as Lawrence Buell makes powerfully clear in his new book, which aims to reshape the field of literature and environmental studies. Emphasizing the influence of the physical environment on individual and collective perception, his book thus provides the theoretical underpinnings for an ecocriticism now reaching full power, and does so in remarkably clear and concrete ways.

Writing for an Endangered World offers a conception of the physical environment -- whether built or natural -- as simultaneously found and constructed, and treats imaginative representations of it as acts of both discovery and invention. A number of the chapters develop this idea through parallel studies of figures identified with either "natural" or urban settings: John Muir and Jane Addams; Aldo Leopold and William Faulkner; Robinson Jeffers and Theodore Dreiser; Wendell Berry and Gwendolyn Brooks, Focusing on nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers, but ranging freely across national borders, Buell reimagines city and country as a single complex landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Buell (American literature, Harvard) is godfather to the academic field of ecocriticism, which argues that acts of the imagination are crucial tools in the battle over America's remaining, revived, or paved-over green spaces. Expanding on his Environmental Imagination (Harvard Univ., 1995), his new book examines how a vast array of U.S. texts including works by Melville, Faulkner, and Gwendolyn Brooks as well as contemporary best sellers written from the perspectives of endangered species reveal a sense of place in disparate ways. In occasionally dense prose, Buell dredges up the environmental unconscious in literature and uncovers hidden metaphoric assumptions underlying the often log-jammed debate between people who hunger for fuel and condos and those who seek to save the proverbial spotted owl. Buell, a historicist rather than formalist critic, raises rather than resolves some urgent concerns underlying environmental activism (for instance, whether animals have rights that are independent of how humans perceive animals). But his revisionist literary history successfully shifts our focus to the imagination's role in today's acute environmental battles, and he shows that green is an important color in the multihued American canon. Recommended for academic and research libraries only. Ulrich Baer, New York Univ. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Choice

Author of the widely influential The Environmental Imagination, Buell is a major figure in contemporary ecocriticism. Here, in broadening the scope of his earlier book, Buell blurs the usual distinction between natural and built environments. Exploring how a variety of texts imagine urban, rural, ocean, and desert places, he convincingly argues that literary imagination is powerfully shaped by—and shapes—a single, complex environment that is both found and constructed...Buell's book is important: it points ecocriticism in profoundly new and welcome directions.
— W. Conlogue

Choice - W. Conlogue
Author of the widely influential The Environmental Imagination, Buell is a major figure in contemporary ecocriticism. Here, in broadening the scope of his earlier book, Buell blurs the usual distinction between natural and built environments. Exploring how a variety of texts imagine urban, rural, ocean, and desert places, he convincingly argues that literary imagination is powerfully shaped by--and shapes--a single, complex environment that is both found and constructed...Buell's book is important: it points ecocriticism in profoundly new and welcome directions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674004498
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1901
  • Pages: 378
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Buell is Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature at Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Toxic Discourse 30
2 The Place of Place 55
3 Flaneur's Progress: Reinhabiting the City 84
4 Discourses of Determinism 129
5 Modernization and the Claims of the Natural World: Faulkner and Leopold 170
6 Global Commons as Resource and as Icon: Imagining Oceans and Whales 196
7 The Misery of Beasts and Humans: Nonanthropo-centric Ethics versus Environmental Justice 224
8 Watershed Aesthetics 243
Notes 267
Acknowledgments 341
Index 345
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