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Lawrence Buell

Lawrence Buell

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It is a critical review of Lawrence Buell's work.
It is a critical review of Lawrence Buell's work.

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Published by: Kerim Can Yazgünoğlu on Aug 08, 2011
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Yazgünolu 1
Kerim Can YazgünoluProf. Dr. Serpil OppermannIKA 718 Culture and Environment in BritainMarch 2011³Environmental Entanglement´: Buell¶s Account of Environmental Criticism
Lawrence Buell carries out an exploration into the emergence of environmentalcriticism and its historical process in environmental and literary-cultural studies in
The Futureof Environmental Criticism,
which vividly exemplifies the scope of environmental criticism, by pointing up the varied points of view regarding ³first-wave´ and ³second-wave´environmental criticism. This paper sets out to go into what Buell highlights in the firstchapter, ³The Emergence of Environmental Criticism,´ through shedding light upon theconcepts like environmental criticism and ecofeminism.Buell, first of all, walks into the fact that ³[t]he environmental turn in literary andcultural studies emerged as a self-conscious movement´ (1), and environmental criticism has been expanding its horizons around the world, in particular, by referring to the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE), which is of great importance to makeenvironmental criticism more widespread in literary and cultural studies. It is worth remarkingthat Buell regards ³ecocriticism´ as ³the commonest omnibus term for an increasinglyheterogeneous movement´ (1); however, he is in favour of using the term ³environmentalcriticism´ in the book. Moreover, he contends that ³if environmental criticism today is still anemergent discourse it is one with very ancient roots´ (2) by pointing out that his aim is todraw attention to the fact that environmental discourse are of ancient roots and are variedthroughout the history. He argues that it is claimed that the cause of ³western
 
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technodominationism´ emerged from Judaeo-Christian thought, and he gives some examplesfrom Mayan mythography and Maori cosmology. Buell continues to argue that through the1980s environmental issues have been taken into consideration, and Jonathan Bate poses the problem in his study on Wordsworth. Then, Buell explains the fact that the setting or place infiction was ignored as an active agent in his times by giving example of US writer EudoraWelty.Furthermore, ³[w]hy do the discourses of environment seem more crucial today thanthey did to Welty in the 1940s?´ asks Buell. For instance, in 2011 a recent catastrophic breakdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant has occurred in Japan as a result of the earthquakeand subsequent tsunami. It is pointed out that
[u]nderlying the advance has been a growing malaise about modernindustrial society¶s inability to manage its unintended environmentalconsequences that Ulrich Beck, the Rachel Carson of contemporarysocial theory, calls ³reflexive modernization,´ meaning in particular the fear that even the privileged classes of the world inhabit a global³risk society´ whose hazards cannot be anticipated, calculated, andcontrolled, much less escaped. (Buell 5)
What should interest us in this context is that we live in risk society, and Ulrich Beck pointsout that ³[r]isks are not the same as destruction. They do not refer to damages incurred. [...]However, risks do threaten destruction´ (³Risk Society´ 212-213). So, every disaster has greatimpact over the lives of human and nonhuman as seen in Japan. It might be true to say thatenvironmental issues begin to be one of our primary concerns in the twentieth-first century because of global warming which directly affects the ways in which human and nonhumanlive.In subtitled ³Fin-de-siècle Ferment: A Snapshot,´ Buell starts by providing an inquiryinto how the conception of ecocriticism took shape in the 1980s and 1990s through the
 
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 primary publications related to the ecocritical movement such as the American ISLE and theGreen Letters. It is obvious to point out that ecocriticism has been an inter- and cross-disciplinary area
stretching the new movement¶s horizons beyond the academy and of  provoking a self-examination of premises that has intensified as themovement has evolved beyond an initial concentration on nature-oriented literature and on traditional forms of environmental educationto take into account urban as well as rural loci and environmental justice concerns as well as nature preservation. (Buell 7)
It can be deduced from the abovementioned statements that environmental criticism is gettingmore and more inclusive and emerging. What is more important is that Buell remarks that³self-evidently no human can speak as the environment, as nature, as a nonhuman animal´(7). Hence, it is necessary to see humans as the part of ³the biotic community´ called by AldoLeopold. So, if humans become environmentally embedded, then they can be more consciousof their environment and the nonhuman. Buell explains one of the main differences betweenfirst-wave and second-wave environmental criticism through the conception of ³biopolitics´offered by Michel Foucault. For the second-wave environmental criticism, the sociocentric point of view is of great significance in terms of cultural, political and economic issues. For instance, for those who live in toxic areas, what should we do? It is obvious that this issue ismultidimensional, and some precautions should be taken in order that humans might be savedfrom this toxicity. Besides, Buell provides some insights into how ³literary ecotheory´ has been evolved. It is said that British ecocritic Dominic Head offers a dialogue betweenenvironmental criticism and postmodern theory. Buell, then, explains why he prefersenvironmental criticism to ecocriticism by pointing out that ³the term implies a nonexistentmethodological holism´ (12), and it is because of ³the implicit narrowness of the µeco¶´ (12).It refers to natural rather than ³built´ environment. It is important to note that ³environmentalcriticism¶s working conception of µenvironment¶ has broadened in recent years from µnatural¶to include also the urban, the interweave of µbuilt¶ and µnatural¶ dimensions in every locale,

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