Ecocriticism, Literary Theory, and the Truth of Ecology Author(s): Dana Phillips Source: New Literary History, Vol

. 30, No. 3, Ecocriticism (Summer, 1999), pp. 577-602 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20057556 Accessed: 14/01/2010 13:55
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Ecocriticism,

Literary

Theory,

and the Truth of Ecology
Dana Phillips I. Literary Theory
In

and the Truth of Ecology

his classic Eco Umberto 1975 essay "Travels in Hyperreality," still waiting for a good answer after twenty-five years: asks a question the truth of ecology lie?"1 The last word of this "Where does one more can mean its than but is scarcely ambiguity thing; question in the Eco spirit. That spirit was and seems very much coincidental, strangely moved by a visit to the San Diego Zoo, famous for its animal in accord with the strictest ecological rectitude. Of habitats designed and a theme park, where the course, the Zoo is both a living museum resident grizzly bear at the time of Eco's visit was known not as Ursus as "Chester." The San less dauntingly horribilis but much Diego Zoo thus to disperse of hyperreality the atmosphere did nothing through which Eco made his way during his American travels. In fact, it heightened that so Eco had to wonder: one if in of the and shrines nation's atmosphere, seems obscure, to ecology the truth of ecology then where is that truth located? And how should we react when we find ecology present but into a lie, as seems to be the case at the San Diego Zoo, given its made and its conflicted natural yet man-made alle apparently labyrinths, to science and the entertainment both Eco giance suggests industry? nature of the Zoo is a definitive that the double instance of how our desire for the real can give rise to the hyperreal, to a culture in which imitations are the dominant form of reality. As his essay makes clear, the is not just a bad idea or the product of a lapse in taste, but a hyperreal cultural condition. You cannot full-blown the hyperreal escape by more be could than authentic things wishing they are. It is too to be dealt with that way. substantial The paradox of the hyperreal is that while it is not quite real, neither is it unreal. This paradox is particularly frustrating with regard to the truth and the potential untruth of ecology. Discovering the truth of ecology is a lot more difficult than its popularizers have led us to believe, both because of the obscuring well: (1) Nature reasons effects of hyperreality, and for two additional is complex; is thoroughly (2) Nature implicated as in

New Literary History,

1999, 30: 577-602

by ecocritics theory's also would contention like to see changed. that nature They are bothered. feelings counter to it?a renewal of realism. Jay Parini celebrated To observers the seemed some . an interest in or of its attack on canonical Western literature. to add a third question agenda. belatedness of nature is a basic and other forms of theory common conviction of postmodernism. This and is unfortunate. alarm over theory in a new and the have been they sounding Although run a different risk of being labeled reaction ecocritics the also register. with ary and getting They claim to be lumped on behalf of tradition. expression entirely In a 1995 article in The New York is overdetermined. with intellectual say any activity philosophical after all. questions in so far as that truth is addressed what is the truth of ecology by literature? How well does literature address that truth? These questions a new of English by ecocriticism. ideas about I would representation to the ecocritical like. a question lie in literature? Eco: does the truth of ecology inspired by Umberto one concerns is of the chief of literary The nature of representation of is else ecocritics but the theory theory. Ecocriticism may be reactionary has antitheoretical spirit of ecocriticism use an a of fresh air?to breath laudable. but on behalf of nature. Still. its rumored in part because excesses were a complaints central feature about of literary neoconservative theory the cultural debates of the 1980s and early 1990s. And unlike conservatives. rhetoric during the natural world can be quite volatile. The considering impatience the of ecocritics hubris of the with regard to theory is understandable.578 NEW LITERARY HISTORY in nature. sharing the same feeling of representation is always tenet the that already inadequate. which in this context the formal debut of this new kind Times Magazine. something preponderance dislike about current literary studies. of which not however. the neoconservatives. then. by culture. nature-as-culturally-con dislike of theory among ecocritics structed claim. albeit in its own way. even radical. they are often speaking. By virtue of my culture. and the canon is something though. and culture is thoroughly implicated own disciplinary the this all raises for me are these: training. the prevailing not only with theory but of impatience often seems like an expression is to in traffic which with any intellectual abstractions. activity entailing some bite and force. have begun to be asked in departments the blas? attitude toward the variety of critical thinking which opposes I share their negative in literary studies. politically. based and the as it is on some dubious representation of nature. at least where nature is concerned? is all that powerful the nature of a response. While natural world predominant I this blas? about doubt whether the ecocritics' preferred attitude. they are not suspicious of theory's political implications. 1980s and 1990s neo critical. is constructed The constructedness and poststructuralism. Many of them do not want its help.

blessedly as it is a discourse discourse up here and there by some propped distincdy shaky theory." and "wilderness" are used metaphorically. and environmental concepts vaguely as if they were exactiy the same in their similar in their rough oudines of language. more weeds growing ecocritics have supposed. bridge gulf. they safely English department colleagues who do not use the same metaphors. several attended ecocritics. AND ECOLOGY 579 held that summer at Colorado State and of critique at a conference would-be He hundred included. then." "organism.ECOCRITICISM. with no of their metaphorical status. "The wilderness of signs" ironically enough. views with well-known practitioners John including and Lawrence Buell of Harvard University. of rocks. with which many theorists would be perfecdy comfortable. Elder of Middlebury College whose work I address below. the by complexity texts of Ecocritical then analysis literary proceeds haphazardly. THEORY. but accurate: Parini is reporting of ecocriticism. is a metaphor Ecocritics with such a metaphor. are. yet objects there are a number of assumptions that ecocritics share with their more aware theoretical but less environmentally chief among colleagues. myself by a of ecocriticism it the that "marks provenance by suggesting explained it also signals a dismissal of return to activism and social responsibility. wilderness the become the of And signs" pines. trees and with realism. by means out of borrowed terms: words of fuzzy concepts fashioned like "ecosys tem. as if literary. ."2 This description rivers that lies behind on what he learned in inter effusive. But all. From a literary aspect. graduate they often treat literary theory as if it were a noxious weed that must be more it overwhelms before native and greener forms of suppressed a so new not The result much is kind of untheoretical speech. but they ought to be less comfortable like to treat literary. ecological. the jargon of literary theory. poetic details. them assumptions about the ontological gulf between culture and and the metaphysics of representation to required supposedly to that After ecocritics have been school. The contradictions of their antitheoretical are already evident in Glen A. with the actual universe engagement is the wilderness of signs. Thus the complexity in particular. There in their own gardens than are. those who see no connections between "the wilderness of important or decisive and of scorn. itmarks a re theory's more solipsistic tendencies. language is seen as expressive of or even determined of nature. Love's 1990 article "Revaluing polemic Nature: Toward An Ecological Criticism. ecological. acknowledgment were a lot more of and environmental than ways speaking compatible as and if their differences could be overlooked." Love was one of the first to nature. One of the most traits of ecocritical rhetoric is echoed by interesting of the jargon of ecology and environmentalism Parini: its merger with.

"3 To discourse which values unity rising over post-structuralist on to from the ecocritical what has the Love say subject. who writes that the "new ecology emphasizes Hagen. and to an of continually of responding characterization theory is supported by a similar sketch of the subject by ecological indetermin B. a as of of it demonization "nihilism." theory's dangers. and to assume that its representation of nature has and been more truth?it has. unceasing be regarded changing barrage as a landscape through perturbations. Imagining example. to Love. The environmental historian of unity.580 identify the new NEW LITERARY HISTORY trend. only to ignore the recent ecocritics Even more negligently. judge not does entail an of "dismissal" Parini's term) literary theory (again. instability. constructed. "unity" implies that it is an plumps successful than?in "ecological" value. just go about ecologists ecological import. textures." understanding theory. fact For that theory many has not been of very the ego-consciousness. John of both of the world" is a phenomenon that "the inextricable wholeness as and poetic is. postmodern as not an if "dead" effective historical too. appears. "should colors. the poststructuralist persuasions. make discourse it would their celebratory edging is than Love's of ecology much more A misprision thorough-going assumes the Earth." theory by "the idea of the lowly 'patch. something overlooking a seem little hollow. theorists the ego?that is. and in his article complains bitterly about how are. ism. restorative. "subject"?is or interest. "solipsism. After a tide "theory" and "theorists" are no more of he envisions battle "realist and other and ecocriticism. It is not.7 That ecocritics have . over fashionable critics and theorists" who prefer "ego-consciousness" "eco-consciousness."6 Ecology today thus might be said to be more like poststructuralism recent and less like the sort of values-rich." Worster reports. They often appeal to the an of scientific they then exploit authority which authority ecology. and recuperative discourse have a knack for it to be. for whom then this sort of detail does not matter very much than fighting words. have tended history of ecology. a as for moral sanction their own dis and rhetorically philosophical as and for does he Love when course."5 of development for human leaves us "with no model society to emu late. ecology change. Excessive agent and object of critical ego-consciousness to is of But recall the Parini's least term. Ecocritics imagined are to since acknowl do bound this they irony. really only "the colleagues. Elder in for Elder's evident. not anymore. space. What he remiss members of English departments environmentally not in all has is of his mind. theory turning nihilism." kind to Love ignores the either."4 of patches time and Worster's of all sizes. Donald Worster notes that the ideal of the ecosystem as amodel in recent ecological has been supplanted "of order and equilibrium. however. Joel It constant that and then.'" "Nature.

Tansley intended to be understood the ecosystem not as organistic." Since the 1960s. in this respect. literary history and natural history are. is faulty on scientific the the organismal Earth."8 How much pressure and ecosystem? and climate. the poet's all poets subject matter must be is given by because the regionalists are poets. "about" the same things? Or does he mean are a and climate of of deterministic and its landscape region's poetry flora and fauna. the of life around it" {IE 150). concepts proved for be affirmation. documenting same verse. too: that the relationship land between and poetry. disjoint. THEORY. He characterizes contemporary ecology "The science of ecology confirms of natural process: the indivisibility each feature of a landscape must be understood to the with reference whole. not a "manifestation" is of anything. G. On to which this account.ECOCRITICISM. and depend upon. as but The organismal mechanistic. and scape and climate. in some loose sense." Such not have to amenable scientific however confirmation. and the structural and motivations aesthetic effects of the genres and languages in which they write. . just as the ecosystem's flora and fauna are. To as well as literary grounds. What Elder does not seem to community realize is that the science of ecology has not been able to confirm "the of natural process. one after another." landscape climate. Tansley concept the landmark article in which the concept of the "ecosystem" published was first put forward. AND ECOLOGY 581 "the inextricable wholeness" of particular ecosystems. of vague concepts of this sort. Elder simply runs the two as follows: concepts together. poet's according address. The organismal community was discredited as long ago as 1935. like the relationship between flora and fauna. intend the analogy between poem and ecosystem He does not appear to be bothered in his inherent by the determinism analogy. he conflates Throughout concept of Imagining the ecological with that of the ecosystem. "Poetry. apart from the conscious Poetry and unconscious decisions of poets. ecology has had to indivisibility divest itself. are we in to put on the "just as" of Elder's analogy between poem Does he mean that poetry tends to be about landscape the same manner that an ecosystem's flora and fauna that are. in about that that is not all. in its stronger form. wholeness But go poets praising a Elder "becomes manifestation of and writes. just as the habits of each creature reflect. ripe they may poetic ecological suppose otherwise Elder's analogy is occult.9 of the concept to Elder because him with it provides community appeals an like something objective correlative for his concept of poetry in a way that the concept of the ecosystem does not. is also a causal one? Regrettably. That such is not the case seems only too only regionalists obvious. Elder seems to landscape and climate. of which the classic example is "everything to everything is connected else. when A.

accusatory. ecocritics have ignored an inconve nient fact: a considerable body of what has to be called "theory" must be one can speak sensibly about ecology. much core concepts of ecology once notable for their expansiveness have in recent years been cut down to size. surveyed. less any ecology. emerging in order to give the reader as clear a recent book by Lawrence Buell. and they may be? less so most of the time. poetry good old-fashioned. such a similarity so as to have be broad would little similarity might a It would be coincidence. that humans the difficulty and their overlooks can produce culture without itself interactions culture.11 Only to write have made sustained attempts in defining this his work has been most important ecocritically. It is unfortunate. Elder's attempt to found his hermeneutic on what he takes to be bedrock seems truths thus ecological even quixotic. that enjoying or in one's enthusiasm about and read canoeing sharing hiking good realities are lecture or print does not make one an ecocritic. Even and favor followed ecosystem community or ecosystems if literary form and the form of ecological communities as it is to imagine in what. ism and?this itself being the organic of the ecological argument concept Tansley's against a in of the similar logic. it is the field of relationship between and. If things were truly "inextricably" or indivisibly whole. reality even of is if that the underwrites poetry. do not and a receptive attitude while out hiking or canoeing intentions a read does enable one to make ecological judgments. then. an ecosystem never and therefore could be the theoretical that somehow entity. Good at the before least. of "organic" sort. hortatory. being an organ is crucial?without culture like an organism. made more particular. a few literary Because scholars . complex organism supposedly wholeness can be organisms. Ecological not necessarily more obvious than literary values. exploratory. Thus many of the there would be no science. right" (IE 169).10 But valid concept or not. to to that has notice which One the science resemblance goes by has come in the form of that a lot of work calling itself "ecocriticism" preliminary. and celebratory essays. or abandoned It now appears that even the ecosystem concept may not be altogether. probably to date to spend their efforts in have elected ecocritics that many were similar?hard consist?that with the issues raised for them by their disgrundement addressing a little conceived and "ecology" bearing theory celebrating spuriously name. as organisms organically: a own in its But assertion this such. is primarily a valid biologically. He writes that "culture too may be understood mistaken. precisely. just significance. are?much then. good Enjoying a not make one a literary critic.582 NEW LITERARY HISTORY it counts as science tends to be a lot more reductive Ecology when than Elder allows. diagnostic In their flight from literary theory. a a close examination now turn of to to want I of field study. It should follow.

Imagination on ment he and has of his subject matter the verges encyclopedic. that be theoretical imbroglio something if one approaches the lingering literary theory without treatment of it His towards Buell still feels. give theory some of the basic analytical premises is a need "to refine and reevaluate used by 'trained' readers of literature. a Roger Tory as and Buell of and defined ecocriticism critical discussion by practiced a own as in of its ecocriticism intended others. Annie Dillard. and Leslie Marmon Silko. literary environmentally readings groundwork in take that the research ecocritical the program might suggest shape of of nineteenth and those works the future. but approach posits."13 Appealing world of praxis" allows Buell to reject out of hand texts and ." to break through the force field of formalist self-containment ecocritics which for so long cut texts off from the world.12 This balanced Buell adopts it in a principled way. to undo the "Environmental ecocritics engendered by a conflicted paradoxes texts. picture as possible of the to the A Field Guide a Peterson's of with discussion Birds. As a wide-ranging survey should find of American literature that ecocritics twentieth-century a treat Buell's is valuable book. things interesting diverse group of other writers. AND ECOLOGY 583 I will close current state of play in ecocriticism. some to at He there consideration. too. that least. Imagination can is That of ecocriticism. a to and about his about Thoreau. The Claims Lawrence Buell's of Realism to lay the The Environmental attempts Imagination aware and to of for texts. while avoiding the plunge into the universe of "intractable textuality" contemporary literary theory runs the risk of fence-straddling." and that "an inquiry into the forces us to question the premises of literary environmental imagination done only to expose the limitations of literature's insists that such will enable even-handedness representations. the book's virtues as a survey of a neglected aspect of literary Despite not The the I do that resolves think Environmental history. Aldo Leopold. The Environmental interest. Buell writes: "'Ecocriticism' might the relation commitment commitment between literature to environmental to environmental readers of succinctiy be defined as study of and environment conducted in a spirit of to the "spirit of praxis. II. say specialty. including Susan Fenimore Cooper. THEORY. theory while using Buell The principle to which praxis" its resources he appeals most is the solvent that strongly allows is not a literary one. argues willing. but nonetheless piece right.ECOCRITICISM. theory initially suspicion seems less hostile he is than that of many of his ecocritical colleagues.

14 I do not think that this is all there is to Buell's position: he ismaking can a much stronger claim. (El 430n20. And he adds: "Contemporary literary it hard to see this side of the story?and thus theory." proposition as described in no trouble that nature is suggesting agreeing. professionally?in If ecocriticism of ecological then ism and the production so. In notions theoretical a seems to be this way. over and against the tendency of some theorists to assume the efforts of natural the entire otherness of nature and to question about that otherness. less. praxis" directly participate he is not just Here one notices a break or pivot point in his argument: more than "an ideological screen. the "experiential aspects" aspects" of literature in mind. For him." Buell writes." saying that nature itself is something a or a "projective fantasy with which one has social allegory. or both. "praxis"? on of those in who are better of efforts other the fields cheering position activ environmental able to engage directly?that is. The dissociation put asunder supposedly so to not the How cured. does be may easily "spirit of commitment on link the the ecocritics with of environmental up part practice praxis" of environmental activists and working ecologists? Or is Buell speaking case the "spirit of commit in which here only of ecocritical practice." and enterprise a sense of the "experiential or referential instead seek to recover or With referential of literature. knowledge? would seem to be just another variety of academic agitprop. quite literary than "an ideological screen.15 He texts at also and in is texts certain least is often.82). makes makes the prospect of environmental of awakening from reorientation. unlikely 36. our capacity for intimate acquaintance is right to emphasize Buell with nature. and knowledge with ecocentrism. however. literature and literary criticism in and in "environmental propria persona." reject "typical of academic results of a metropolitan-based criticism. more to it the metropolitan than needs be" dream." Buell writes. But though it may be science to learn something on disjunction true that "the emphasis text and world seems between to me a at to not it all is how clear overblown." a "projective fantasy or something more . one can treat literary texts not as detractions from to our interaction with the natural world: "Vision but as contributions can correlate not with dominance but with receptivity.584 certain NEW LITERARY HISTORY as either unhelpful or harmful. he disposes of what for critics of the shibboleth of rep and postmodern "The conception poststructuralist persuasions: as an ideological nature resented "becomes screen." "spirit of commitment to is what has sufficient environmental theory join together praxis" that theory induces (El 84). or more Are in the unenviable the ecocritics ment" is. sometimes. unfruitful if it is used to portray the green world as nothing more than or to Much such social better fantasy projective allegory.

such as the claim that a text can have no direct it with the world relationship some while of the abstruse of flavor theoretical represents. the folkways of farmers. where deliverance from the constraints of culture. I believe ecocriticism the "resources" of literary theory while retaining some respect the force of theory's "premises. and the like?are characterized by ecocritics as sweeping a in the of obfuscation (counter) revolutionary away (re)estab theory of realistic lishment Because literary priorities. This is the claim that ecocriticism should a sense of the "experiential focus on recovering or referential aspects" of literature. suggests implied some of its "premises. claims that the nature for ecocritics and the nature in literature make it possible o/literature to environmental to work in "a spirit of commitment to do so without irrelevance of fretting about the possible behavior. that particularly constraint known as "theory. those priorities Buell is eager to like other ecocritics this claim. odds with fantasy. or at least relaxing one's grip on. Buell like other ecocritics falls prey to the false hope that there is some beyond of literature. By pressing that claim." for it is surely the case that the of theory are its "resources. AND ECOLOGY 585 should give one pause: it seems at social allegory. Do not get me wrong: I think there is a beyond of literature. the central claim of Buell's book." and their professional Buell taps the vein of not just realism but runs throughout ecocriticism. THEORY. retaining rhetoric and even some of the intellectual theorists have framework while constructed. the round of the seasons. the sense of place. however. Thus one gets the The Environmental that Buell has feeling reading Imagination a in embraced to Delilah-like in order of shear it its fashion. nature. Its realism-cum seems a to sort of rescue ecocriticism often be positivism explains why to nature?to mission: both nonfictional and fictional the references habits of animals. Buell. By making outright positivism which expose theory's own shortcomings and overreachings. nor can they be dismissed tions of critics who have read too much theory. praxis. and allegory are or not always the products of faulty style literature." might be found. They "homocen as the projec tric" and "egocentric" values. I just think that nature cannot deliver one from the constraints of culture." And this proposition are basic to the fact that ideology. There is." "resources" of literary theory while questioning to rejecting That seems to amount the "premises" of theory. adopting such a "premises" rationale means letting go of.ECOCRITICISM. literary theory made seem doubtful. theory one can This is when he that the utilize strength. call it nature or wilderness or ecological community or ecosystem or environment. Unlike it to use for needs a rationale that will enable Buell. any than culture can deliver one from the constraints of nature. for example." Unfortunately. more .

Buell's own expansive project therefore of involves filling the out the details vision. of its special relationship literature long ago convinced. Literary realism can seem inert and even the sharpest description privileges description. which in a spirit of advocacy of democratic and regarded as identical?over and against the hierarchical and values of its European artificial counterpart true of the study of the American This is especially Renais forerunner.18 which In other need not them arenas "realistic" cultural a surfeit of nature has produced the pursuit of realism in the depiction of kitsch. a "metropolitan" form. to nature.17 and working out the true consequences "America-as-nature" if a new or a To return to the most important point at issue. defined in American literature by the New York .586 NEW LITERARY HISTORY or referential Buell means What by "the experiential aspects" of literature are its realistic aspects. centrally Thus in these writers' Buell's attempt to imagination put nature once of more at the top of the cultural docket might be seen as the restatement of a very old and familiar theme.16 He tries to generate an account of the of a national from within the confines environmental imagination as it so happens. He recognizes has always been based on a that this conviction reductive view of "America-as-nature" (El 15). practitioners of a painted trillium or a live oak to see if a given description squinting and lively. The best example of this is that school of wildlife art running to depictions deer and of leaping whitetail of heavily-antlered mosdy nature lover with a flat. and the understanding Literary realism has always been oriented more toward the social?that is. in which Buell is most expert. at art and the bass gazing largemouth realist. and in The Environmental Imagination he often calls for a return to realism both in the literature of nature and in that literature. the eye of the dogmatic The latter is an eye not unlike is a creed seems of the that realism It also literary variety likely a for the unsuited aesthetic outworn. I have read ecocritical tree is itself well-painted essays that to little more amount than this kind of referee work. in fact. urgency. production nineteenth-century of art at the turn of the millennium. fishy eye. If ecocriticism an to be reduced its role. Realism the artificial?than is. The most important context among critics interested for Buell's natural embrace of realism often has always been values?values conducted is the study of American literature. the pre-Civil War period writers cared about values were the ones American democratic/natural and the most. may umpire's realistically. themselves Nature and their figured country. when sance. Iwonder realism with regard to nature would be as restorative of clarity texts limits itself to reading realistic thinks. or if it does not occur in a narrative context heightened by philosophical recovered as Buell psychological selves be or political to have or scientific some real interests. toward toward the natural world.

20 Buell's version of the value of literary realism scenario the notion involves of ad?quation. AND ECOLOGY 587 and Wharton. tables. to be overblown. Verbal representation of scientific the importance for one thing. are not moderates. and new tech differential equations. Paul's further qualification which of ad?quation as "an activity in words that is literally comparable to the thing itself is still a bit murky. compare you does not mean that the activity is a literal representation of the thing. and too nature is like that much contemporary writing already. largely because when Paul says that "an activity in words" is to the thing itself. fact. since that result is one with it is often which their whole comfortable. charts. understood is usually much weaker than visual representation. THEORY. of literature notbe Buell. What Paul cites. in the chapter the Environment. and vaguely Heideggerian. as an example description suggesting becomes entirely clear when he of ad?quation. Iwant to urge that the "ecocentrism" to hinge on how well literature represents the natural world." he makes entitled his case for the "Representing in such an odd way. that iswhy scientists discount and prefer whenever their ideas using they can to express writing." however. Howells. a of rolling breakers composed a of series of rolling periods: is actually realistic representational which he borrows from .ECOCRITICISM. Pointing out that the predictions of philosophy such skeptics are "overblown" does no good. Unlike sooner or later falls apart. into The notion of "a literary correspondence lapsing that the and lets it stands forth. they are entirely point.19 in the and Boston want to novels of James. describes "a of writing. to the author of Some of these worries and reservations have occurred The Environmental Imagination. the French poet Francis Ponge." all he means by "literally" is that "literally comparable in the "activity in words" to "the thing itself. ad?quation literary that respects the thing and lets it stand forth. For another. diagrams. respects equivalence thing seems too indeterminate. just as it is said to do by the skeptics of modern and literary theory alike. by way of Sherman Paul's book on American Ponge For as Paul Love the World. Buell comes to nature indirectly. its more this second definition is somewhat than murk. Ad?quation is equivalence not to be confused with correspondence: It is not a symbolic mode but an to the thing itself. Despite helpful the first. is very vague indeed. overly metaphorical. it seems to me that this way of putting the case nologies. graphs. which helps to explain why. environmental Do ecocritics and really poten promote literature retrograde terms of realism? The result can only be a middle tially contradictory brow literature of nature informed only by middle-class values. to Radical intend Skeptics critiques blow things apart: to deconstruct them."21 Paul activity in words that is literally comparable as an to understands skirt the edges of realism-as attempt ad?quation without it." He can. a passage from Thoreau's Cape Cod.

Ad?quation gives you some itmight specificity. such that writing in some measure the abyss that inevitably yawns between bridges on This the concept of the and (?7 98). Paul. giving you thing Buell makes different hay of the concept. This last assertion will seem startling to some readers. And Buell shifts Paul's grammar a feature of a his meaning. phrase. that we can be systematically is with nature. and by extension. I think. ecocritics spend their time trying to bridge Having made rift that does not exist." "replica" is a nice one. character language of is both essentially culture and nature. gloss object-world" language ad?quation bears traces of a lurking theory of correspondence. and I will try to give it cash value?to "measure" it?below. not less. Impressionism. neutral with regard to representation. Once however. According content. wherein sense of the gist of the thing. along latter are two things I think ecocritics . it may As be no distinction for "the abyss that at all. He that writes that adequate involve "verbalizations literary representations are not replicas but equivalents of the world of objects. yawns so dear language and the object-world. The are bound to take seriously. Daniel Dennett. ad?quation transpires when form becomes thereby freeing what is usually regarded as content from the gloomier prospects of referential seem inadequate. of philosophers the arguments inevitable. to the effect that traditional philosophical worries about Ian Hacking." a more in Paul's account. relatively of its implications impressionistic ad?quation idealistic concept into an armature of a more traditional it could So Buell in order form of be is argued." why does Buell credit this idea. clause. than Paul's. and qualitative general "Equivalence. without about itself overmuch concerning the itself.588 NEW LITERARY HISTORY a variety of literary Paul understands the ad?quation is impressionism. as a sort of in imitation of the which the mimesis concept entailing not at in certain the formal inheres present necessarily object qualities or to level of the individual word. some as well as thing Paul specifically rejects." mistakes the one that has broad currency in ecocritical and it circles. becomes certain kind of literary performance in Buell's: it becomes substantive and specific feature of "verbalization" the "equivalent" and the between The distinction the "equivalent. words are Of course. and out of touch with "the object-world. this accepts mistake that our seems a it. which he says he finds too But his own gloss on ad?quation is. more idealistic (E/464n31). the world ultimately make no sense the ability of language to represent in the light of our evolutionary history and our scientific practices. has to drain to turn the realism. to wants The to those theories whose he challenge? thought "premises" in touch with language. given inevitably that the two between near-synonyms. one representational. with culture. All I care to say in defense of it here is that I am persuaded by and like Richard Rorty.

and their pieced?fold. palpable. Buell reasons. plough. Buell first discusses a passage from Gerard After Manley Hopkins's poem "Pied Beauty": things. arguments Rorty. literary perform a If a and referential work. and fallow. . sustains sense of the term. animates can be no There that question in Hopkins's imaginary pool. AND ECOLOGY 589 with the sort of antimetaphysical. discred seriously.? swim. viewer can field guide the Peterson's in the touch with "put to expect that stylized environment. couple-colour For rose-moles trout all in stipple that upon Fresh-firecoal finches' chestnut-falls. then ecocriticism may benefit from a strong . . after thought delicately responsive to see trout's environmental the aestheticist the poem "rose-moles bonding. literary images thing and Peterson. THEORY. argues. it is legitimate same do the may (El 97). are never more than a ited "correspondence" theories of representation synonym or two away. With and look of chestnut-falls. with another a fish. Hopkins the mottled look of the agricultural the trout and stipple"? the poet In it registers! this way. sees Who would aestheticism landscape. Dennett. despite a vital relationship with the world and is adequate in a doing so. is invoke the Field Guide as a touchstone. In short: intended (El 98) It seems to me that if this commentary is "Spot-on. is not a literary text. texts same consider he sort the of which. Landscape And all plotted trades. gear. pragmatic and Hacking make. instant feel Literally. distortion produces effectively.ECOCRITICISM. he exclaims: is to the all in stimuli this passage. All he does. of bird in representational "stylized image" . Buell cites a few examples of invoking Ponge he considers models of works and realism. But appealing to Peterson does not fulsome. Ecocritics have not been taking those things and in those arguments and much of their work to date. because Peterson's on to before moving then. painted its body makes this is a live trout for an shimmering another evokes the glance. wings. In the crucial moment noting But have how of Buell's the poem's polished on commentary artfulness.22 Roger Tory Peterson's A Field Guide to theBirds as a text the of theory on the possibility animadversions of its which. Buell mentions Glory be to God for dappled For skies of as a brindled cow. Pongean allow Buell to make a case for the literary text's vital maintenance of the same relationship. Hopkins!" as ecocriticism. literary ad?quation Though is highly problematic. each of these examples only a couple of them need to be reexamined here. tackle and and trim." then.

The of the strengths of what Environmental Imagination is chiefly a celebration or "environmental nonfiction" he likes to call "environmental prose. formalism?and after mode correct and improve upon. even if he has to do so at the expense come to enlist also here. Otherwise. suggest that glory.'s . a trout." is elusive."23 But there are a number of trout" when. NEW LITERARY HISTORY itmay it. Consider another of his this be about examples why might suggestion of ad?quation. appreciative. things in the By trying to peg particular details in the poem to particular notion of makes the originally "stimuli"?Buell world?to expansive trout seem all in "rose-moles that reductive: upon stipple ad?quation a replica after all." A chestnut leaves? firewood scavenged from the dropped trees? the coals remaining from a fire built out of that seems motivated wood? The phrase "fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls" by across his point about to desire the put Hopkins's glory of God by for example?to creating "dappled" effects of language?alliteration. The to make mimetic of which it is very difficult chestnut-falls. is not Buell's It may be that the reading of poetry strong suit. the He only metaphorically. which seems to be not an instant of Pongean ad?quation. to interpret what Buell's consider the poem attempt "registers" as By implying terms like "all list of categorical and therefore abstract cannot be and tackle their and trim" covered trades. of meaning. not least the question of whether an "a painted to ask "imaginary pool" is the sort of habitat in which "live trout" fare the best."24 to the ghettos is usually of that such prose He complains relegated if his and special-topics freshman writing programs courses. It is swim" is a Buellian equivalent. gear. reading they he claims that the poet "literally" sees trout in Hopkins's is "painted" poem such twists of logic because he wants can effect artifice that heightened natural: "There can be no question for an instant questions chestnuts? fallen limbs of chestnut in Hopkins's about such in fact. employs his reader to accept the paradox a heightened of the perception that this is a live trout shimmering imaginary pool. contradictory approach so. For example." critical. by this rubric. can an more But neither like "fresh-firecoal ostensibly specific phrase sense. "feel and look" of "fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls" given the of what undecidable undecided. question they are: fallen perhaps "stimuli. I wonder some to it does not afford undertheorized. lapse into the merely theory?was originally appreciative to intended that Buell's of Hopkins's is "merely poem reading mean to I that it itself is rather than suggest poetic. Such a reading invites quibbles it cannot resolve. considerations into Buell tries rhythmic play sort in self-referential of this and aesthetic features formal highly seem to realist is why of the militate That support against. this one from the natural history writer John Janovy Jr.590 dose of formalism.

twigs but to build rather sensed instructions a house. Each larva colony a set of of caddis flies. to passage's In his readings of Hopkins is intended. Buell's skepticism one supposes.ECOCRITICISM. to be so in a Pongean it is also perfectly prosaic." Buell argues. that "the litde narrative" does not mean fabrication" of the caddis flies "comports Buell concedes that Janovy's description is symbiotic with the facts: the inner landscape with the entomological outer. so it nor the celebration caricature. Buell turns Janovy's literal magnification of skepticism and adopts an initial position larvae into a metaphor. because Buell treats it as if itwere as vivid and intense as Hopkins's poem. ..25 While seem it does not this description of caddis flies is entirely adequate. however. and as one to the visualize" that "has artful. of of and these food was insects was beneath coming trapped three. the down rushing-hard that creek larvae. He saying interprets Janovy's life of the caddis flies. he have what describes? of the seen" Surely his "magnification" possibly scene he describes to the hand lens he used to view is to be attributed of those the caddis fly larvae. goes and caddis back lesser flies. .The fact one by cliff chose beneath the banks. at also submerged. there large mind twigs with was lived as one within and dangling flies' dependence the One larvae sensed with no impressive in a house. that his "mind goes back" to an earlier underwater of the river. . Neither of realism that follows are seem is to it both what be closely upon convincing: by produced as the literal and of the of the metaphorical deliberate misreadings literal as the metaphorical." But since Janovy "could not possibly have seen" some of the the scene. as evidence us that his image is a that "Janovy disclaims objectivity. THEORY. . Ad?quation will not bear the construction . many covered swallows." is false. and Janovy. . were cold in My of Whitetail amounts... about Janovy's abandon when description the time of comes the caddis to celebrate flies the he is only too eager realism." Its being "a complete not living colonially is "a complete fabrication. . But sense. AND ECOLOGY 591 Keith County Journal. on for homesites twigs a hand lens. and that one "senses" no collective identity for exploration the caddis flies but only the working out of a genetic pattern. "with things he reports. Janovy some of the habits of caddis flies living in a stream in western describes Nebraska: One has to visualize three: some the life kind rate. In a passage cited for its excellence by Buell. reminding "the that little narrative" about the caddis flies and constructed thing.102). senses each fly a only until constructed colony larva that of looked itself. he has "to portray than we would see much more vividness and intensity and magnification But why does Buell think Janovy "could not it in the field" (?7101. at a very rapid to the branches branches along . to be the more it is only a "theoretical" But position. . of these being Whitetail by these .

But his brief account of offer ways of getting text does that is too simplistic.He seems to be suggesting in the it skillful of environmental lies way writing plays peek-a-boo with a world it knows is there all along. by discussing the work of Roger Tory "field-mark" system is widely regarded as the most Peterson. it seems to me how Peterson's in that Peterson's illustrations do. marking can be terms of its overall body image or coloration. This point ismade by Peterson in the "How To Use This Book" chapter of the Field Guide's first himself his illustrations.592 NEW LITERARY HISTORY that the power Buell attempts to impose on it. Regarding the sense that many of them?for . flitting ability identify juncos in winter merely by catching a glimpse of through a patch of underbrush to their white outer tail feathers. III. How To Use This Book the problems with the idea that "representa further unpack and with the idea that is the essence of environmental writing. such as color-obscuring glare. Peterson's the poor efficient effective and most way to identify birds under tion" conditions. "work against outer mimesis." stressing work as a and suggests counter outer to the mimesis that this capacity assumptions or take prece "is that somehow against dence over it" (?797-98). Peterson's ridges. both of which as remarkably variable within as across similar well species. eyebrow its near congeners: from others. not in the way he says it does. First of all. a with student of the arrows?and field-marks?occasionally. Let me is any distinctive feature setting one species of bird apart barred tail feathers. An experienced a to the has Such birder the Field Guide. success of the Field Guide that the of Peterson's images. he writes: "As they are not intended edition. is the narrative of discovery it relates what is exciting about such writing even if that narrative is ersatz. argues adequacy demonstrates "the capacity of the stylized image to put the reader or viewer precisely stylization in touch with what must needs the environment. forms of accipiters. characteristic falcons. often encountered outdoors. Buell is right to claim that texts can in touch with the world. in fact. especially an a unusual illustrations decurved bill. and kites when viewed from less than mimetic below?are by design." the silhouettes showing the example. I do not think that the example of Peterson's Field Guide makes Buell's case. flight pattern. an ability which can seem inexplicable A "field-mark" that it derives from the Buell understands Lawrence the uninitiated. highlight a bird in terms of its abstract patterns of Field Guide learns to recognize rather than in in so far as those patterns differ from others. remarkably birder is defacto also an experienced "reader" of species.

indeed. Folio of edition Birds Audubon's which Elephant of America."26 words. Wild birds not oblige you by turning to the right on request. Nor will they or in spread their tail feathers. to retranslate the term Buell borrows from Ponge. exciting as the Double reduces the visual field and makes ornithology portable. merely adequate. any way apart is considered should you "diagnostic. and it invites a quarrel about the This may seem picayune." precisely why seeing a field-mark be so lucky as to see it. a confusing. THEORY. Even color is often an unnecessary. erect their crests. and the Peterson guide's contemporaries. techniques by painters portraiture Peterson's Field Guide is only incidentally mimetic. Peterson's drawings are intentionally less vivid than Audubon's. flash their wing-bars. precisely because his were to his innovations base field-mark system on the diagnostic great one to ignore many of the and and between bird another. might have been a better text for Buell to ponder as an exemplary work of realism. if not. to the and in their natural habitats. a have of formal for identification. in order to convey more information about each species. They are. And purposes they quality significant not observable in the real world. as if they had posed for police mug shots. are not so. according depict birds numerically as of bird like refined Audubon. aesthetically. adequate image may eschew realism alto a seems and it less lot The Field Guide gether. is and In Field Guide other the factor.27 I realize." for that matter. so that "live birds may be run down by impressions. Very well. is to be pictures of form and feathering all modelling so that simple contour and pattern eliminated where it can be managed. based abstractions illustrations Peterson's only deliberately on the illustrator's field experiences. inferior Earlier field guides. numerically parsimonious. AND ECOLOGY 593 or portraits. and distinctive marks" . Mimesis images in the Field Guide are splendidly analytic.ECOCRITICISM. in a notably is synthetic. will shown in side view. And the and modify merely adequate image is not the same as a realistic image of the sort Buell the merely celebrates. the less "stylized" way. more to I instead his avian portray opting subjects schematically?and would argue. may be equally visible which. but on what might be called the consensus in the ornithological image of a given species as recorded are not of observation: the simple products they They at the of others of avian certain expense aspects physiology emphasize to an observer but are less in fact. Mimesis sameness the represented the of the and presumes representation object. sets from what them similar birds? indicate other. patterns. difference in the manner of Audubon of bird portraiture conventions and others. then: this is the claim about Peterson second point Buell's fails to consider. does not." A similar quarrel could be had about meaning the meaning of "stylization. Most of the birds in the Field Guide are literature. of the word "mimetic. remain.

typical behaviors a must And the birder "reader. required to identify the bird in hand?the a in the the of binoculars?with bird bush. the of in last hour through the Field daylight. Peterson's field-mark system encourages a that is. in order to decide "what a bird could not be. feeding they provide. its winter-worn in question is ruffled in appearance. after all. images is not a quality they possess then. Using Peterson's guide is not. I do not think the same can be said of Thoreau's in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. and impress upon "readers" in the course of their perusal of the Field Guide front to back. The adequacy of Peterson's images evolves out of their use by birders. the Field Guide is not a narrative. so of its further status actual calls into its description Doing question as a touchstone of realism. the birder first realizes . The user of the Field Guide must therefore consult both its illustrations and the book's other text accompanying such as the descriptive each illustration on resources. as Peterson puts it in his 1934 preface down live birds in this way means that the Peterson-trained Running birder does not look for the whole bird or the bird-in-itself." Such the become case. but also comprise habitat range. by birders in the field. are so common. the "reader" of Peterson say. the opposite page. the chickadee Poconos Because of northeastern Pennsylvania. pair learn. because these species exemplary they precisely making an an nonde birder glimpses that apparendy inexperienced Suppose on a a winter walk while out for gloomy day in the script chickadee it is cold. almost never. "Field-marks. as opposed to Carolina the identity of Black-capped Establishing to out turn be and I am Chickadees may surprisingly complicated." the explains as a to "It is behind this often know what bird process: logic quite helpful could not be as what it might be" (FG xx). or of Dillard's images. Field Guide in terms of its usefulness Buell's celebration of Peterson's as a text also seems problematic no for a third reason: he provides use. feathers elevated for is And it the sake of the insulation flitting about. Flipping actively remaining that either version of the chickadee's Guide. patterns. simply a matter of it and matching in the up a visual representation perusing text with the visual appearance of a bird in the field: more than that is bird. The adequacy of Peterson's inherently. and of Dillard's.594 NEW LITERARY HISTORY (T^Gv-vi). being or Annie is not like the reader of Thoreau. flocking." like visual features. Dillard: a piece of software. then the birder description must resort to the habitat maps in the back of the book (included in its recent editions). or It ismore like a cookbook. of Thoreau's images in Waiden." Peterson tion by elimination. the new CD-ROM version is a piece of software." If that a bird's not does the issue of setde identity. things geographic and flight such as interspecial preferences. are not it to should be limited clear. in view through as novice birders soon process of "identifica In "How To Use This Book. not very often.

wear. All of this users is what habituated of Peterson's pair Field Guide might do in such cases. Society's Interactive CD-ROM Guide toNorth American Birds. angle of light. and perhaps even the rare bird alerts posted at She <http:www. THEORY.virtualbirder. and the note to Map 247 points out that the Carolina's range what To make matters worse. or the same thing. Pa. tic white wing-stripe Then she reads Peterson's note about conditions ("season.com>. N.Ohio.") having seen it does not mean was not there. and realizes that she has chosen that day to go for a walk in one to a note on Map 246. audio and video the National Audubon recordings. AND ECOLOGY 595 song?chick-a-dee-dee-dee.28 Next plausibly Peterson's illustrations. Map "slighdy overlaps" that of the Black-capped. to become better user? to figure out what he means when he says that a of Peterson's guide. a hybrid. which are or by no means unusual The not user has the of the in atypical. her attention notices that Map 248 shows the range of called wandering." but only in "chickadee flight years. Peterson's?and by text?in it is now that dark night in which all chickadees are black. where a better "reader"?a It will help her.. our conjectural naturalist. bird is "casual" in a given area and to learn what "chickadee flight years" are." a phenomenon seen this rare visitor she possibly Could to the described. two the text's reiterates that the 247 warning species "mingle at times and hybrids are known. She may have to consult other field guides. In this instance. She may need to buy a new of binoculars. which that is not Md. of course. intervening." Finally. of those liminal areas the maps chart. to be followed there are protocols in cases like hers. poor discouraging to not and confess has that her that etc. in aggressively day. order to decide which of the two. and put Peterson test?30 she has This birder is now confronted with a variety of interpretive options. "stylized image" put guide touch with the environment. back issues of Birder's Digest and Birder's World. a regional bird list.J. she is going to have to rely on more something than just the resources provided this case.. possibly it three. or something teratological? to the picked a worse time and place to go for a walk. is "casual south to n. and realizes that she did not see the characteris of the Black-capped.ECOCRITICISM. 111. the chickadee's life by "pishing" the alarm bird's call) in (mimicking order to encourage it to show itself to her. world. kinds of chickadee is that she has just seen. But in Fortunately. Despairing.. might have to go back out and beat the bushes more next the if need be. but higher pitched?is she looks once more at just heard. as Buell argues. the quite . something the Boreal Chickadee.29 have Poconos? Could she glimpsed the chickadee have been a sport of even more Could she have nature. According is known to winter south of its normal range in some the Black-capped years.. the white wing-stripe she consults Maps 246 and 247.

be less realism." a to enable "in which notion like touch with the it. a cautionary should be handled with Literary texts are rarely cautionary or cautious in the same way. She text whatever as a worth touchstone itmay of have: "outer a fourth mimesis" reason why Buell's seems mistaken. of the book's virtues. and more than one medium and form to help put us resourceful. indeed. in that it is more constrained." Thoreau paraphrases that a reader . In the of Waiden entitled the screech "Sounds. admirably literary realism. working text also invites In short. in turn puts her to considering stylized image. a sign not of its shortcomings At the same time. text is probably less like the sort of text Buell really wishes to Peterson's All celebrate. and computers and "pishing. then. Buell on uses Scientific the term." quences care: "A quick field observer who does not temper his snap judgment with a bit of caution is like a fast car without text (TGxxi). gives getting environment" use of Peterson fresh (El97)." because even be opposed in it the is sense less reliant to one another. and the development like binoculars of tools and techniques. to the environment for another. now and again. and yet while she returns. and to know what kind of she really wants bird and "stylized image"?if chickadee she saw. and explains why copies of it are often dog-eared." Peterson urges those who wish to employ of the old school mark system to recall a salient fact: "The ornithologist a sight record unless it was made along the barrel of a seldom accepted a surrogate of sorts for shotguns. and world and text. Peterson's in touch with the natural world." And that "transaction. Suppose screech chapter of Thoreau should conceive a desire to hear the heard it one lonesome owl call just as Thoreau night.596 reverse NEW LITERARY HISTORY the environment has put the user of the guide has happened: as Buell calls in touch with the "stylized image." another it." "How To Use This Book" is. Every impressions in a lot of this back-and-forth?between is going to have to engage and world. more scientific. while the consequences are not. "reading" but of its usefulness. the field To Use This Text. transaction entails further action. I think that it is this going back and forth between text and world. to less do that text's these much But have with quibbles quibbles. and between nature and culture. of of scientific realism are immediate." This.31 brakes. in the differences than which between with myriad ways species vagaries This should remind us in the course of avian evolution. But realism may than the literary conse in which representation. like the perpetually this means that Peterson's Field Guide ismore no texts recent celebrated than Buell open recognizes: by theory ever one is of the Field Guide achieves "closure. "How has In the if it deliberate any. between "stylized image" and bird. in more they may "realistic. have ramified realism and literary realism are not only not the same that scientific thing. the field-mark As system also shotgun.

things to It's time for a walk! Mimic the call of the screech owl according Thoreau matter how ("Oh-o-o-o-o competent that I never his had been may bor-r-r-r-n!"). not unlike As a representation of the screech owl's call. or wail. It works only when interlocutors share similar assumptions about what is and its proper such sharing is not perfecdy ordinary description. He describes a series on a in pitch. and it will stare at your finger. But Peterson it in fairly abstract terms as a "mournful screech owl's call. and he rolled his large head in the direction of a vacant chair. Itmay be quite rare. then: (1) It is a trite expression. operational. your no well woodcraft. AND ECOLOGY 597 been bor-r-r-r-nr52 This paraphrase is owl's call as uOh-o-o-o-o that I never had the versions of birdcalls Peterson offers inmany of the entries to paraphrase the the opportunity declines in his guide. express and concern your for friend. universal. for the single pitch. of description more much macabre the than gestures ordinary something perfecdy to describe: "He did not rise from the desk at which he Howells means was writing. Sometimes whinny. of the same call. kind That ideal sort representation. think. it can point to some carefully it must describe and locate in circumscribed aspect of the world which more or less detail for a competent reader who understands what it is as to to of the do. simple not amenable to the sort of verbal treatment Thoreau attempts to give it. but he gave Bartiey his left hand for welcome. Speak to your not regard your speech as a representation and it will of how puppy. and the results will we want to call your whistling a literary But would improve dramatically. uOh-o-o-o-o that I never had been bor-r-r-r-n!" is faulty on two counts. That is. THEORY. as some a to or call of but action kind another: Fetch! Bark! are. Lapham. like a screech owl. writer and reader. and the being. opposed trying indicated by Buell's use of the term "mimesis. in order to make realism a sentence one is apt to misinterpret like the Otherwise."34 Realism is idiomatic. descending more circumspect in I is this Peterson case." is conventional: elaborate must of cultural competence protocols always be followed by both speaker and auditor.ECOCRITICISM. if your friend thinks he has heard something like that before. it is the screech owl's that unparaphrasable. Itwill not put Thoreau's reader (2) It sounds nothing in touch with the world. . as a straw man in order to make I have used Thoreau the following to Buell's advocacy of a return to realism: and final point with regard the literature that points to the world is no way to counter celebrating is no doubt that claims of literary theory. There antirepresentational literature can be realistic and even in some limited sense representa tional: it can point to the world. tremulous."33 reason call is That is. Point at something for the benefit of your new Labrador puppy. as a The from Rise Howells's Silas of following. Learn to whistle like a screech owl. Repeat verbatim Peterson's description results will be a little better.

the embrace of modernism. into and some literal-minded of praise and?here is the rub?critical his canon of works worthy where at least this score. example: attention. ecocritics. all.598 performance? Or?the more extreme NEW LITERARY HISTORY alternative?would we want to treat it as a model of literary performance? I think we would balk at that. realism may not be the world view best it for the worse. to from the environmental the metropolitan crisis involves a return the fact to the that dream"?ignores past?"awakening our understanding of nature by of the environment has come about through the disruption rise of science. might be there At would "environmental best. On literature not a realist?as less valuable than they have been thought to be. only a very imagination. Buell has the courage of his convictions. cally-neglected Cooper's account of mid-nineteenth in life New and York. But on what grounds? If successful "outer mimesis" is the acid test of the then Buell. his representations" is not nearly so strong as his desire to those limitations desire to explore of theory about the naivete of realism. But to imagine that the solution thought were somehow untheoretical. at the heart of Buell's arguments in The Environ The contradictions of ecocritical mental Imagination axe ones that have become characteristic in general. as a minor work of Americana at best. so would Lawrence Buell (and so would other ecocritics who have also argued for a return to realism). century Cooperstown. criti is concerned: he enthusiastically hitherto praises an like Susan Fenimore Rural works Hours. and the concomitant industrialism and agriculture there be no in other environmental Without words. the discovery And he seems to believe that those habits of advent of the postmodern. faith. and the of relativity. runaway agriculture. Though discourse Buell asserts that an inquiry into the of the "limitations of environmental involves an exploration imagination in the light of recent literature's literary theory. He may be much less willing to do that. We would still and repair the mechanisms era is considerable in There the of "natural history. Four-square . is going to have to admit some unliterary but realistic texts but realistic works of art. to realism. may consistency's treating begin seem indisputably for after Thoreau. But for a book long regarded to texts which other Buell have sake. was literary?Waiden. if he is serious about returning environmental imagination. many recover to of thought of habits is the and environmentally ecologically some era in the past before and natural the disruption of the human a the loss of worlds by a heedless industrialism. Nor might understand there be ecologists attenuated struggling of a damaged natural world. like duck decoys." be living irony in we to alter to first had understand the fact that in order to begin nature. Like other flout the warnings that to think he imagines and environmentalists. crisis." to one.

Worster only recently. Tansley. The Origins of Ecosystem Ecology (New Brunswick. environmental that reality is hyperreal or not. ed. pp. "Travels in Hyperreality. Hagen. applying remarkably Utopian like Gilbert White the work of literary figures and Thoreau. faces in a disorderly the challenges world ecology A History Ideas.. Donald p. 73-74. Another story is also being are especially at and critics of Western American that writers literature argues adept of because the and "eco-consciousness"?presumably epistemo achieving appreciating that this from living under Western he suggests skies?and they derive logical advantage Glen A. (Chicago.C. the real is contested not only in the academy. Umberto Eco. 1996). pp..3 (Fall 1992): deftness 4 Michael in Reinventing "Nature of History. He makes this to nature. distinct ecosystem obstacles from the grosser forms of the as a biological to determining since entity. and a host of other for the complexities ills. (29 October 1995): 52. whether Philadelphia." ed.. 8 John Elder.William Weaver in his Travels inHyperreality. (Athens.. Imagining cited in text as IE. Economy: of Ecological 6 a 1994) (1977. Real and James of Ecology. 212. of as the related. ence to the hyper-sophistication. N. Poetry and the Vision of Nature.ECOCRITICISM. Worster. and the Disorder Nature?. Soul? and Gary Lease D. p. AND ECOLOGY 599 that irony." 27. 69-91. Today. 194. global warming. Love. 5 Joel B. E. presents a term Worster view of ecology. Cheryll of Ecocriticism" and Harold Glotfelty Principles Fromm (Athens. Brown 1991).3 (Fall 1990): 205. An Entangled Bank. prepare Cooperstown present-day of acid rain. means 7 By "inextricable. 72." (New York. Pennsylvania NOTES tr. Meets 195-207. pp. parts are not genetically versus of organic in processes inorganic . and the elitism of intellectuals in a follow-up "Et in Arcadia Ega Pastoral Theory much more directly piece." Concepts reprinted Foundations ed. of the Humanities. Leslie A.J. just as a sense of place of the suited to helping us understand in Rural Hours or by Thoreau in Waiden will not sort displayed by Cooper or one in less much life for Concord. Ga. 2nd ed. 10 Today that the ecosystem is beset recognize ecologists concept by a variety in theoretical and practical difficulties the initial identification of problems: ecosystems. 1995). its constituent questions about the status of in H. the Earth. the relative importance landscape." The New York Times Magazine "The Greening 2 Jay Parini. THEORY." Elder apparently that is both all of one piece or something and inseparably bound indivisible. 2nd ed. of a corrective the indiffer may serve as something from either of the two coasts. Cambridge. 1986). 318-41. 1996). is usually the only history The of Economy shortcomings in this respect have been in his essay "Some ecocriticism Howarth addressed by William in The Ecocriticism Reader. Western American Nature: Toward An Ecological Criticism. 49. p." "Revaluing told in Love's article: he 25. it to then used very loosely. hereafter 9 A. suggestion Western American Literature. (Washington. Ecocriticism. 39. up with a particular place. but in reality. himself His has recognized 1977 book Nature's "Nature and the Disorder of History." Worster. 1 3 Literature. G. Ga. 1. Classic Papers with Commentaries. pp. 1992). It is worth noting that Nature's of ecology cited by ecocritics. "The Use and Abuse of Vegetational and Terms.

16 This he borrows also helps from explain. of The Ecocriticism Reader (my essay "Is Nature Necessary?" The Environmental the and 12 Lawrence Buell. of theoretical positions phrases think. Discordant Harmonies. 14 Cheryll in An Age also raises this question Glotfelty to The Ecocriticism Reader." American Literary History. 2nd ed. ecosystem of scale natural phenomena. Whether Buell cut its theoretical implications in real-world. 1990). 4 (Fall 1992): 411 has to do not just with quality of the rhetoric Buell employs prophetic context in the other of his project for literary studies. I in his argument weakness is due.. "How then can we our just in our spare time. but with the urgency movement.. Literary ("Introduction: p. (Cambridge. (New York. R. David Quammen. Nature Imagination. Nature Management The Song of the Dodo. P. (Chicago. have yielded results. and tend to speak in the language by evangelical possessed in the past. Stephen Budiansky. P. so much takes the form of the jeremiad. Attempts design. Nature.. Haven. in the convenient 11 A representative in the field is available form sample of early work is included in this volume). A History of the Ecosystem Concept in Ecology. Botkin. problems in experimental the ecosystem concept theoretical debates Worster's Nature's NEW LITERARY HISTORY of quantitative to the applicability techniques to use in experiment and so on. but from within not exactly theorists 15 And the proposition are unreliable. as a not while term." The Ecocriticism Reader. para put forward. as text Formation American Culture hereafter in cited 11. pp. strategy has backfired intemperate about some environmental of the excesses matters of popular were shown to have been just during that "ecological" discourse discusses (R. Peters. 1985). 5. Island 1995). Economy. as professors of literature?" capacity (p. Daniel (New York. H. assumptions undergirding ideological to have a Marxist flavor the word intends on his insistence against activities. Mclntosh the 1970s in The Background of Ecology). 1995). Background of Ecology: Concept and Theory B. . since is the ecocriticism Studies study of the relationship takes an earth-centered of Environmental between literature and the to literary studies" approach Crisis. but implying from practice. Emergence 42. Sharon Modeling the Sum of the Parts (New in theHistory of Population Nature's Keepers. A Critique for Ecology 1991). environmental is precisely 18 This writing why a clear-eyed to produce at odds with the desire of can be somewhat a form which appraisal the truth of ecology. to the way he?like other and ecocritics?treats to appropriate hesitating or watered-down ways. of EL 13 the "Praxis" is a term from not just practice. when claims This rhetorical the converted. Ecology. have This Buell's either. environmental that of the American which his work must be understood. xviii). Many of are environmentalists fervor. see his essay "American as to characterize literature American Literary "postcolonial": by the way. Biogeography Golley. More Than E. R. xxi). the grounding of ecocriticism nonideological somewhat less qualified of ecocriticism: definition Glotfelty's the Marxist theoretical tradition and/or deriving is doubtful. Frank Century (Cambridge. Compare Cheryll "Simply put. Kingsland. Episodes 1993). The Mclntosh. Thoreau." which his peculiar a certain resentment of and which expresses theory postcolonial In fact. (New York. On very mixed practice see the final sections of the second edition of in contemporary ecology. Buell has attempted Eurocentric values seen as oppressive by the less metropolitan. 17 The his sense of as a Postcolonial somewhat Phenomenon. "theory" generic terms like "praxis" in nonidiomatic theoretical use of the word "metropolitan. in an Age of Extinctions 1996). A New Ecology for the Twenty-First (New York. ecocriticism physical environment. Mass. to redeploy in her introduction of disciplinary relevance not to environmental contribute restoration.600 about doubts maintenance. Writing. The New Science of 1995).

cited in text as FG. (Lincoln. also illustrated is already familiar performed only if one intimately that chickadee calls differ in pitch would be of very with that call. just as it is in Peterson's to birds. Rorty. Philosophy 1979) and Conse of Nature C. Consciousness 1982). Imagination. 1968). 19. because there is no need for it: the is presumed and the tint of blossoms is indicated green of foliage throughout. by Peterson The great majority of its plates do not show color. But Twain's cultural violence. See and Margaret A Field guide Roger Tory Peterson McKenny. Facsimile ed. and Intervening. implications 21 Sherman Paul. of havens from the temporary and very little of the novel's narrative. realism" is a contradiction argue that a "frontier and culturally in the socially River provides Huck and Jim with only the social turmoil which Huck's continually interrupts content has to do with the river. Daniel of Pragmatism (Minneapolis. Giving Field Marks of AU Species Found in Eastern North America. (as in. of course. p. 1991) and Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Itmay seem that Buell 23 is doing much the same thing with "Pied Beauty" that Sherman Paul does when he reads the passage from Cape Cod as echoing the waves it describes in the textures and rhythms of its prose. for purposes guide's organization. AND ECOLOGY 601 19 A novel claim like Adventures here. Imagination. by considering other field guides.. Keith County fournal A Field Guide to the Birds. of aesthetic many varieties 24 See The Environmental 25 John Janovy. but maintains to overstate studies tended their case. 1992).ECOCRITICISM. unshaded line drawings of their flowering mostly of these illustrations is a principle of parts. Dennett. most ofHuckleberry Finn might I do not think it is an exception frontier setting is one in which in realist real fiction is precisely the Mississippi be put forward as a counterexample to the rule that realism is social and the kinds of social norm thus that are the focus in flux. xix. I would descriptive are very much is at stake what 429nl6. The righthand individual wildflowers consist of simple. and regards form as one of the 22 See Richard As for the natural world. frontier ismore or less "closed" and theMirror (Princeton. a chickadee 28 the pitch of its call is. Explained and theMeanings (Boston. hereafter 27 The I am making to Peterson's with to birds Field Guide is argument regard I think. Evolution of Life (New York. 1978). No doubt he has a point. Peterson's to our novice. 105 (my ellipses). The visual impoverishment the wildflower and is enabling of identification. to preserve seasoning. with a few leaves. 1996). by a legend in the upper corner of each illustrations of printed righthand page. indication little use . Representing Introductory Topics of Natural Science (Cambridge. Guide toWildflowers and North-central North America of Northeastern (Boston. such as A Field Guide toWildflowers. But the two cases are quite different: Buell does not quences claim as a whole that Hopkins' reflects the overall structure of a particular poem of the natural world is a sonnet. p. Jr. for example. (1934. in the Philosophy 1995). 1983). Boston. For Love of theWorld. and thus avoids ignores the polemical seeing some of their for his own point of view. then the Owen Wister's The Virginian). that would be a very difficult (since the poem experience to make). Essays on Nature Writing (Iowa City. claim more His much ambitious claim is that the discrete details of "Pied have a one-to-one to particular moments of an experience of the Beauty" relationship natural world?to "stimuli. content as such. even less mimetic and arguably than the Field Guide to birds. determining on frontier novel. in the course of this chapter Buell notes 20 that a number of studies published in the 1980s argued for the constructed of American character that such realism. to my metropolitan. Ian Hacking. 26 Roger Tory Peterson. p. the novel's factors The in terms: if realism is possible. THEORY." Paul is concerned to render form as a kind of higher-order is concerned Buell content. as the source which Buell cites Paul's book first made him aware of Ponge in The Environmental 464n31. but it seems to me that Buell intent of the overstatements he rejects. a feat that can be Identifying by judging strengthened.

Dean Howells. Because the objects of their interest are often poisonous. This natural as birds history. (New York. 34 William of Silas Lapham . 32 33 or Life in theWoods Waiden. a scenario In the Field Guide's first edition. to be especially hunters have and the field are. mushroom circumspect. Thoreau. Sadie Coats describes manner quickly similar descending to Peterson's: with "Song a pronounced louder toward The Rise a on a 'whinny. we failed to notice it" ("How to Use This Book. for example. 248. p. Roger 246. 1980). the probability it was a Red-breast. usually growing 1983].' long beginning rising pitch and in quaver. makes the identification accurately is clearly shown in the plate but because we had not known what soft merging to look for. certain. which describes the bird we have seen. but more a bird that is a female than mine: "We may. 247.. Maps (Boston. be puzzled hopeful by certainly A consultation of the brief descriptions of those birds eliminates the Hooded a dark one. 2. 5. 30 similar Peterson offers to.602 29 NEW LITERARY HISTORY A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America Tory Peterson. use reflect in making the solemnities involved sound of identifications they guides mushrooms. Short barks or yelps also given" ( [New York. to reproduce field guides the screech owl's call. In the Audubon also avoid the temptation Guide to Birding. vol. 160). p. increases coast which. consequences characteristic. p. And finally. (New York. p. John Farrand. 210. Other Peterson. ed. p. xvii-xviii)." pp. 1963). 102. It was seen on the because the bird sought had a reddish head?not Merganser so the text tells us. never such as mycology. Merganser. A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. length. variable end. we learn that in the Red-breasted 'the rufous of the head blends into the white of Merganser as in the American the throat and neck instead of being sharply defined' This Merganser. 172. Also a rapid trill on 1 pitch. Henry D. it in a Society Master Jr. 1991). If Peterson's seems a bit heavy 31 snap judgments warning against ornithological in other areas of consider the possible of incautious identification handed.

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