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For Emerson and those nature writers who followed his lead, it is the belief in nature’s permanence and consistency which allows them to pursue the project of deriving ‘spiritual facts’ from ‘natural facts,’ making nature the normative ground on which to raise their critiques of modern society.

In her novel Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson unmoors this ‘House of Emerson,’ the intellectual heritage of American transcendentalism. In her representations of the natural world, the protagonist Ruth employs a typological language that reverberates strongly with that of Emerson and Thoreau. However, rather than using this language to gesture towards an originary moment of unmediated experience in which the individual mind is aligned with nature’s transcendent design, her version of typology becomes a means of coping with the loss of her dead mother. This essay examines Robinson’s paradoxical method of conjuring presence from absence – her metaphors become as transient as the lifestyle that she embraces at the end of the novel. It is a therapeutic effort to ‘make the world comprehensible and whole’ undertaken in full knowledge of its ultimate futility, ‘a blossom of need’, in Robinson’s diction.

Housekeeping can be read as appropriating and rewriting a tradition which, while professing to leave behind the merely human for a higher order of being, has frequently ended up using nature to empower the subject, to validate its sense of ownership and to naturalise conventional assumptions about gender and nation. It takes seriously the notion of nature’s radical otherness and develops a highly selfreflexive language dramatising the cognitive and ethical quandaries that it entails. Robinson sketches out a version of the sublime that does not subsume its moment of negativity in the sweep towards an affirmation of humankind’s special place in the scheme of things. She reminds her readers that leaving behind anthropocentrism – if it is possible – also means abandoning the oikos, the idea of nature as our home.

In: Culture, Creativity and Environment

For Emerson and those nature writers who followed his lead, it is the belief in nature’s permanence and consistency which allows them to pursue the project of deriving ‘spiritual facts’ from ‘natural facts,’ making nature the normative ground on which to raise their critiques of modern society.

In her novel Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson unmoors this ‘House of Emerson,’ the intellectual heritage of American transcendentalism. In her representations of the natural world, the protagonist Ruth employs a typological language that reverberates strongly with that of Emerson and Thoreau. However, rather than using this language to gesture towards an originary moment of unmediated experience in which the individual mind is aligned with nature’s transcendent design, her version of typology becomes a means of coping with the loss of her dead mother. This essay examines Robinson’s paradoxical method of conjuring presence from absence – her metaphors become as transient as the lifestyle that she embraces at the end of the novel. It is a therapeutic effort to ‘make the world comprehensible and whole’ undertaken in full knowledge of its ultimate futility, ‘a blossom of need’, in Robinson’s diction.

Housekeeping can be read as appropriating and rewriting a tradition which, while professing to leave behind the merely human for a higher order of being, has frequently ended up using nature to empower the subject, to validate its sense of ownership and to naturalise conventional assumptions about gender and nation. It takes seriously the notion of nature’s radical otherness and develops a highly selfreflexive language dramatising the cognitive and ethical quandaries that it entails. Robinson sketches out a version of the sublime that does not subsume its moment of negativity in the sweep towards an affirmation of humankind’s special place in the scheme of things. She reminds her readers that leaving behind anthropocentrism – if it is possible – also means abandoning the oikos, the idea of nature as our home.

In: Culture, Creativity and Environment

This paper employs Wolfgang Welsch’s concept of a “dialectic of the aesthetic” to discuss the landscape photography collected in John Ganis’ Consuming the American Landscape (2003). According to Welsch, the modern drive towards aestheticization of the life world, in a dialectical reversal, produces anaesthetization. Ganis’ photographs draw attention to the sharp disjunction between the aesthetic effect of a landscape and its ecological condition, and deliver a subtle critique of traditional landscape aesthetics, which both facilitated the commodification of landscape and anaesthetized people to the latter’s consequences. In doing so, they present a plea for ecological education and provide a visual record of what collective human life on the land actually looks like today.

In: The Anti-Landscape

This paper employs Wolfgang Welsch’s concept of a “dialectic of the aesthetic” to discuss the landscape photography collected in John Ganis’ Consuming the American Landscape (2003). According to Welsch, the modern drive towards aestheticization of the life world, in a dialectical reversal, produces anaesthetization. Ganis’ photographs draw attention to the sharp disjunction between the aesthetic effect of a landscape and its ecological condition, and deliver a subtle critique of traditional landscape aesthetics, which both facilitated the commodification of landscape and anaesthetized people to the latter’s consequences. In doing so, they present a plea for ecological education and provide a visual record of what collective human life on the land actually looks like today.

In: The Anti-Landscape

Abstract

Everyday parlance assumes that the public is constituted as a “sphere,” a “rounded” space encompassing all citizens within a singular horizon of rationality. When the environmental crisis is referred to as a “global” crisis, this is usually taken to entail the imperative to match the public to the planetary sphere, with the health of the planet as the ideal “res publica ” around which a global polity must be assembled. This paper provides an outline of the alternative topology of public space which Peter Sloterdijk developed in his Spheres trilogy (1998–2004) and sketches its implications for the environmental humanities. According to Sloterdijk, contemporary world society is best understood as “foamy” or “froth-like”: its structure is that of an aggregation of immunological “bubbles,” i.e. small-scale spheres of shared concerns and risks, which are mutually constitutive but mutually impermeable. With its attempt to provide a “thick description” of the forms of human inhabitation in their material and semantic specificity, Sloterdijk’s spherology makes an important contribution to the environmental humanities.

In: Spaces in-between

Abstract

This essay discusses the relation between a biocentric ethics and the project of an ecocritical rehabilitation of outer mimesis as it has been proposed by Lawrence Buell, among others. It argues that a text’s ethical force arises not from the facts it may be said to represent, but from its narrative form. If we seek to understand how texts reshape attitudes towards nature, we should therefore focus our attention not on a text’s faithfulness to ecological facts, but on the way in which it picks up and transforms the narratives circulating in a culture. This argument is supported by a detailed analysis of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (1971), a children’s book that fails Buell’s criteria for enviromentally oriented work, but which nevertheless has played a significant role in environmental education in the U.S.

In: Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies
In: 9/11. Kein Tag, der die Welt veränderte
In: Framing the Environmental Humanities

In our introduction, we argued that the essays in this book are linked by a shared interest in how nature is framed – that is to say, in the ways in which different cultural and linguistic traditions, narratives, technologies, media, or institutions, shape how people perceive and interact with nature. As any reader who takes a closer look at the chapters will quickly recognize, this is itself a rather broad way of framing them – and one that may seem intent on disavowing their striking heterogeneity. In closing this volume, we should therefore emphasize that we do not consider this heterogeneity to be something that ought to be dissembled, in the first place, as it is no more than an accurate (albeit partial) reflection of the different approaches and conceptual vocabularies employed across the environmental humanities – differences that obtain no less between academic disciplines than between national or institutional traditions. What counts as good scholarly practice is not the same in ecocriticism and environmental history; and environmental history in Estonia is not the same as environmental history in Australia.

In: Framing the Environmental Humanities
In: Framing the Environmental Humanities