Literature and Environment

Posted: 5 Nov 2011

See all articles by Lawrence Buell

Lawrence Buell

Harvard University

Ursula K. Heise

Stanford University

Karen Thornber

Harvard University

Date Written: November 2011

Abstract

Since prehistory, literature and the arts have been drawn to portrayals of physical environments and human-environment interactions. The modern environmentalist movement as it emerged first in the late-nineteenth century and, in its more recent incarnation, in the 1960s, gave rise to a rich array of fictional and nonfictional writings concerned with humans' changing relationship to the natural world. Only since the early 1990s, however, has the long-standing interest of literature studies in these matters generated the initiative most commonly known as “ecocriticism,” an eclectic and loosely coordinated movement whose contributions thus far have been most visible within its home discipline of literature but whose interests and alliances extend across various art forms and media. In such areas as the study of narrative and image, ecocriticism converges with its sister disciplines in the humanities: environmental anthropology, environmental history, and environmental philosophy. In the first two sections, we begin with a brief overview of the nature, significance, and evolution of literature-environment studies. We then summarize in more detail six specific centers of interest: (a) the imagination of place and place-attachment, (b) the enlistment and critique of models of scientific inquiry in the study of literature and the arts, (c) the examination of the significance of gender difference and environmental representation, (d) the cross-pollination of ecocritical and postcolonial scholarship as ecocriticism has extended its horizons beyond its original focus on Anglo-American imagination, (e) ecocriticism's evolving interest in indigenous art and thought, and (f) ecocri-ticism's no less keen and complex attentiveness to artistic representation and the ethics of relations between humans and animals.

Suggested Citation

Buell, Lawrence and Heise, Ursula K. and Thornber, Karen, Literature and Environment (November 2011). Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 36, pp. 417-440, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1955082 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-111109-144855

Lawrence Buell (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ursula K. Heise

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Karen Thornber

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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