Thursday, November 6, 2008

Buell - The Future of Environmental Criticism

Larry Buell – The Future of Environmental Criticism.
The first chapter of Buell’s third book of/on Environmental Criticism (the others being the Environmental Imagination and Writing for an Endangered World) is a history of the emergence of environmental criticism (aka ecocriticism). Buell offers a good overview of what he calls the first and second waves of environmental criticism (first: looking primarily at nature writing, as LB does at Thoreau in The Env. Imag.; second: begins to question “organicist” view of environmental criticism – begins to look at urban/toxic/non-natural landscapes. Also, other streams of criticism creep in) and introduces many different threads of criticism that have arisen: very interesting one, ecofeminism, which sees the history of man’s dominion over nature as analogous to the oppression of women. Problems: dependence of “eco”criticism on science, which most lit scholars are weak on. Also, he acknowledges that the “environmental turn” is a recent development (he places it in the 1980-90s), but that it pursues a line of questioning that is Ancient. Also, it asserts itself as important because environment is universal. He thinks it will attain the level of AfAm Studies, Gender studies, etc. He concludes with the suggestion that environmental criticism will have to go more “mainstream” and link back up with more “traditional” critical methods before becoming more accepted, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s apparently already a rapprochement between hardcore ecocritics and other critical/theoretical techniques.

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