by Steven Swarbrick
University of Minnesota Press, 2023
Cloth: 978-1-5179-1380-9 | Paper: 978-1-5179-1381-6 | eISBN: 978-1-4529-6882-7
Library of Congress Classification PR535.M33S94 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 821.309


Bringing psychoanalysis to bear on the diagnosis of ecological crisis


Why has psychoanalysis long been kept at the margins of environmental criticism despite the many theories of eco-Marxism, queer ecology, and eco-deconstruction available today? What is unique, possibly even traumatic, about eco-psychoanalysis? The Environmental Unconscious addresses these questions as it provides an innovative and theoretical account of environmental loss focused on the counterintuitive forms of enjoyment that early modern poetry and psychoanalysis jointly theorize.

Steven Swarbrick urges literary critics and environmental scholars fluent in the new materialism to rethink notions of entanglement, animacy, and consciousness raising. He introduces concepts from psychoanalysis as keys to understanding the force of early modern ecopoetics. Through close readings of Edmund Spenser, Walter Ralegh, Andrew Marvell, and John Milton, he reveals a world of matter that is not merely hyperconnected, as in the new materialism, but porous and off-kilter. And yet the loss these poets reveal is central to the enjoyment their works offer—and that nature offers.

As insightful as it is engaging, The Environmental Unconscious offers a provocative challenge to ecocriticism that, under the current regime of fossil capitalism in which everything solid interconnects, a new theory of disconnection is desperately needed. Tracing the propulsive force of the environmental unconscious from the early modern period to Freudian and post-Freudian theories of desire, Swarbrick not only puts nature on the couch in this book but also renews the psychoanalytic toolkit in light of environmental collapse.