Published on

Ecocirticism, Principles and Practices

Published in: Education
1 Comment
No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide


  1. 1. Ecocriticism, Principles and Practices Mehdi Hassanian esfahani (GS22456) Literary Theory (BBL5201) – Final Examination Coined by William Rueckert in 1978, Ecocriticism attempts to examine the relationship between human beings and nature. It investigates the common areas related to sociology, environment and ecology. It is focused on “writings about the natural world” (Mikics, 97) and evaluates literary texts in terms of “their environmentally harmful or helpful effects” (Waugh, 530). Waugh explains furthermore that there is an effort in it to understand the development of culture, and the environmental damages it had caused. Ecocriticism, unlike other literary theories, discards linguistic and [to some extent] historical and cultural aspects of a text. It embodies human and non-human context and considerations, and may also be considered a political view. In late 1970s, when the news of contaminated water and soil, threaten of nuclear destruction, extinction of species, global warming and high rate of population became widespread and worldwide issues, according to Love, interests in green reading increased. But the study of physical world can be rooted to ancient times, because nature has always been a part of literature, especially trough pastoral tradition, romantic and transcendental periods. In late 1980s, according to Barry, Ecocriticism was academically established in the United States, and in early 1990s it was discussed in the UK, although they called it ‘green studies’. Cheryll Glotfelty in the USA is among the pioneers; she is also the co-founder of ASLE
  2. 2. Hassanian |2 (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment) which was established in 1992 and is the main community of practitioners of Ecocriticism. Other 19th century American writers are Emerson, Fuller and Thoreau, whose works present the nature and wilderness of America. When they all followed traditions of Transcendentalism of 1840s, green studies in UK went after British Romanticism of 1790s, and people like Jonathan Bate and Raymond Williams are among the founders. Romanticism was the peak of environmental concerns for that time, as it was politically an objection against urban life and socially a demand to return back to the outside nature, natural beauty and rural lifestyle. Defining Nature, and districting it from culture, Barry suggests four categories for nature and natural scenes: area one is ‘the wilderness’ and includes deserts and oceans; area two is ‘the scenic sublime’ for example forests and lakes; area three is ‘the countryside’ and area four is ‘domestic picturesque’ like parks and gardens. Then he claims that British Romantic writers were more interested in area two (Wordsworth’s Prelude is famous in this case) but American Transcendentalists were concerned about area one. In another division, first two areas are preferred settings for epic and saga while the last two ones are more proper for domestic fiction and lyric poetry. An example in Ecocriticism may be Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in which she condemns extreme usage of pesticide and environmental pollution. Or the new BBC documentary series, called Planet Earth, in which they convict human being for interfering in nature and endangering lives of thousands of species. Beside pollution (and industrialization), according to Garrard, Pastoral tradition is another related topic which opposes to industrialization. In Silent Spring, again, the story starts by narrating the pastoral setting of the past, and moves to the polluted environment of present. Wilderness and animals are other issues of Ecocriticism.
  3. 3. Hassanian |3 Sixteen years academic studies in Ecocriticism, ASLE has conducted different streams of attention toward nature in history, and also observed and involved other related areas and tools, such as cinema, TV, weblogs and the like, and made Ecocriticism not a literary criticism, but a interdisciplinary approach regarding nature and natural environment. Pollution and most of activities performed by human being threatens the environment we live in. As the danger becomes strong and stronger, need for solution becomes obvious. Ecocriticism provides the study and analysis of social and cultural activities that endangers our world. Its popularity, therefore, is due to our need. Whitaker believes that global environmental crisis is the main reasons that Ecocriticism continues to grow. We need a solution, and Ecocriticism attempts to provide us the required information to find the solution. It investigates the presented environment in literary works to find if they are in the same boat with ecological concerns, and if they can help to find a solution. According to Waugh, related areas of study are Ecofeminism, which seeks to end any dominant / subordinate relationship, especially subordination of women by men, and nature by culture; Naturalist Environmentalism, which believes that global warming and other environmental problems are because of artificial products and modern lifestyle, that oppose to natural life; and Anthropocentrism, which roots to Bible and subordinates nature by placing humanity at the center of everything and giving it the right to use nature and natural resources as a tool to satisfy itself. There are also two genres or styles related to Ecocriticism; pastoral which depicts ideal nature and environment, away from modernity and urban life; and Romanticism which was once “a reaction against philosophical and industrial rationality that had separated humanity from nature” (Waugh, 540). Literary works written in these genres can be discussed in Ecocriticism as well.
  4. 4. Hassanian |4 Works Cited Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. UK: Manchester University Press, 2002. Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. USA: Routledge, 2004. Love, Glen A. Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology, and the Environment. USA: University of Virginia Press, 2003 Mikics, David. A New Handbook of Literary Terms. USA: Yale University Press, 2007. Waugh, Patricia. Literary Theory and Criticism. USA: Oxford University Press, 2006. Whitaker, Russel, Marie C. Toft. Nineteenth Century Literature Criticism. USA: Gale, 2004.