by Lee Rozelle
University of Alabama Press, 2006
Cloth: 978-0-8173-1492-7 | Paper: 978-0-8173-6078-8 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-9058-7
Library of Congress Classification PS163.R69 2006
Dewey Decimal Classification 810.936

Explores 19th-century, modern, postmodern, and millennial texts as they portray the changing ecological face of America

Lee Rozelle probes the metaphor of environmental catastrophe in American literature of the last 150 years. In each instance, Rozelle finds evidence that the ecosublime--nature experienced as an instance of wonder and fear--profoundly reflects spiritual and political responses to the natural world, America’s increasingly anti-ecological trajectory, and the ascendance of a post-natural landscape.

In the 19th century, Rozelle argues, Isabella Bird and Edgar Allan Poe represented the western wilderness as culturally constructed and idealized landscapes. Gardens, forests, and frontiers are conceptual frameworks that either misrepresent or uphold ecological space. Modernists like Nathanael West and William Carlos Williams, on the other hand, portray urban space as either wastelands or mythical urban gardens. A chapter on Charles W. Chesnutt and Rebecca Harding Davis analyzes a new breed of literary eco-advocate, educating and shocking mainstream readers through depictions of ecological disaster. A later chapter probes the writings of Edward Abbey and the Unabomber Manifesto to delve into the sublime dimensions of environmental activism, monkey-wrenching, and eco-terrorism. 

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