From Virgin Land to Disney World

Nature and Its Discontents in the USA of Yesterday and Today


Volume Editor:
With the publication in English in 1930 of Civilization and its Discontents and its thesis that instinct – and, ultimately: nature – had been and must be forever subordinated in order that civilization might thrive and endure, Freud contributed what some contemporaries saw to the central debate of his era – a debate which had long preoccupied both official American pundits and the American populace at large. At the beginning of the new Millennium, evidence abounds that an American debate still rages over the meaning of “nature,” the rightful weight of instinct, and the status of civilization. The Millennium itself has appeared in popular and official discourses as an appropriate marker of an age in which nature is close to the edge of radical extinction and has also become more and more unreliable as a paradigm for representation and debate. At the same time, the contemporary tailoring of nature to postmodern needs and expectations inevitably reveals the conceptual difficulty of any possible, simple opposition between nature and culture as if they were clearly distinguishable domains. If nature, then, can clearly be seen as a discursive concept, it may also be a timeless concept insofar that it has been shaped, created, and used at all times. Every epoch, age and era had “its own nature,” with myth, history and ideology as its dominant shaping forces. From the Frontier to Cyberia, nature has been suffering the “agony of the real,” resurfacing in discursive strategies and demonstrating a powerful impact on American society, culture and self-definition. The essays in this collection “speak critically of the natural” and examine the American debate in the many guises it has assumed over the last century within the context of major critical approaches, psychoanalytical concepts, and postmodern theorizing.

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"…an engaging contribution [to] the study of the construction and representation of nature in American studies, American literature, and American culture. These essays provide both fresh readings of celebrated artifacts and original considerations of overlooked and unwisely neglected moments in American culture and intellectual history. […] a valuable collection, judiciously compiled and edited." – Thomas Carmichael, University of Western Ontario, in: Transatlantica 4/2004
"…a very valuable contribution to the general ecocritical effort." - in: ZAA LI. Jahrgang, Heft 1, 1. Vierteljahr (2003)
Bernd HERZOGENRATH: Nature’s Nation/Nation’s Nature: An Introduction.
Adrian J. IVAKHIV: Re-Animations: Instinct and Civility after the Ends of ‘Man’ and ‘Nature’
James KIRWAN: The Postmodernist’s Journey Into Nature: From Philo of Alexandria to Pocahontas and Back Again, By Way of Jean-François Lyotard.
Marco DIANI: Democracy and Its Discontent: Tocqueville and Baudrillard on the Nature of “America”
Ursula GÖRICKE: Custom Is Our Nature: Cavell and Wittgenstein versus Freud
Bernd HERZOGENRATH: Looking Forward/Looking Back: Thomas Cole and the Belated Construction of Nature
Lee ROZELLE: Oceanic Terrain: Peristaltic and Ecological Sublimity in Poe’s The Journal of Julius Rodman and Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains
Bill FRIEND: Postmodern Eden: Nature and the City on a Hill in Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems
Dave WILLIAMS: “Back to the Garden:” The Liberation of the Id in the Antinomian Sixties
Asbjørn GRONSTADT: Peckinpah’s Walden: The Violent Indictment of “Civilization” in The Wild Bunch
Nicholas SPENCER: Inhuman(e) Subjects: Postmodern Theory and Contemporary Animal Liberation Fiction
Michael Angelo TATA: The Pomo Tingle: From Mundanity to Sublimity and Back Again
Laura BARRETT and Daniel R. WHITE: The Re-construction of Nature: Postmodern Ecology and the Kissimmee River Restoration Project
Tim COLLINS: Conversations in the Rust Belt.
Michael YORK: The Nature and Culture Debate in Popular Forms of Emergent Spirituality in America
William CUMMINGS: Modern Primitivism: The Recent History of Civilization’s Discontents
Roxana PREDA: ‘The Angel in the Ecosystem’ Revisited: Disney’s Pocahontas and Postmodern Ethics
Megan C. McSHANE: The Manifest Disharmony of Ephemeral Culture: Art, Ecology, and Waste Management in American Culture
Claire LAWRENCE: Wilderness Icons: The Difficulty of Representing the Desert
Natasha DOW SCHüLL: Oasis/Mirage: Fantasies of Nature in Las Vegas
Jennifer CYPHER and Eric HIGGS: Colonizing the Imagination: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
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