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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

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


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
In: 9/11. Kein Tag, der die Welt veränderte
The concept of framing has long intrigued and troubled scholars in fields including philosophy, rhetoric, media studies and literary criticism. But framing also has rich implications for environmental debate, urging us to reconsider how we understand the relationship between humans and their ecological environment, culture and nature.
The contributors to this wide-ranging volume use the concept of framing to engage with key questions in environmental literature, history, politics, film, TV, and pedagogy. In so doing, they show that framing can serve as a valuable analytical tool connecting different academic discourses within the emergent interdisciplinary field of the environmental humanities. No less importantly, they demonstrate how increased awareness of framing strategies and framing effects can help us move society in a more sustainable direction.
Social Systems Theory and U.S. Cultures
Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems is one of the most ambitious attempts to create a coherent account of global modernity. Primarily interested in the fundamental structures of modern society, however, Luhmann himself paid relatively little attention to regional variations. The aim of this book is to seek out modernity in one particular location: The United States of America. Gathering essays from a group of cultural and literary scholars, sociologists, and philosophers, Addressing Modernity reassesses the claims of American exceptionalism by setting them in the context of Luhmann’s conception of modernity, and explores how social systems theory can generate new perspectives on what has often been described as the first thoroughly modern nation. As a study of American society and culture from a Luhmannian vantage point, the book is of interest to scholars from both American Studies and social systems theory in general.
In: Framing the Environmental Humanities
In: Framing the Environmental Humanities
In: Framing the Environmental Humanities
In: Addressing Modernity