"Not since Thoreau has an American author displayed such a profound appreciation for the aesthetics of nature; but, unlike Thoreau, Berleant has designed a program for allowing others to join in on that appreciation."
--E. F. Kaelin, Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University
Environmental aesthetics is an emerging discipline that explores the meaning and influence of environmental perception and experience on human life. Arguing for the idea that environment is not merely a setting for people but fully integrated and continuous with us, Arnold Berleant explores the aesthetic dimensions of the human-environment continuum in both theoretical terms and concrete situations. Insisting on the need to reconceptualize environment and recognize its aesthetic implications, he pursues a variety of topics and approaches to environmental aesthetics.
Aesthetic experience, maintains Berleant, is always contextual. Recognizing that humans, along with all other things, inhabit a single intraconnected realm, he names the quality of engagement as the foremost characteristic of environmental perception. Berleant moves from natural to nonnatural environments, suggesting that the aesthetic aspect of any human habitat is an essential part of its desirability. From outer space to the museum, from architecture to landscape, from city to wilderness, this book discovers in the aesthetic perception of environment the reciprocity that constitutes both person and place.
"Arnold Berleant's Aesthetics of Environment poses an important path for philosophy to walk down--instead of environmental ethics, where what is right and wrong in nature is discussed, he goes after the difficult destination of deciding how to articulate what is beautiful in the nature we want, not the nature we see."
--Human Ecology Review
"Berleant's new environmental aesthetics is a challenge not only to the philosophers but also to the practitioners of environment-making. With rich illustrations and freedom from technical jargon, Berleant applies his new aesthetics to analyzing and solving the practical problems concerning various environmental designs of today."
--Canadian Philosophical Review
"A pioneering contribution to this discipline. It raises a large number of challenging questions and suggests new dirrections in the analysis of the environment as an aesthetic category."
--Michael H. Mutias, Professor of Philosophy, Millsaps College
A philosophical and cultural distillation of the bleak joys in today’s ambivalent ecologies and patterns of life
Bleak Joys develops an understanding of complex entities and processes—from plant roots to forests to ecological damage and its calculation—as aesthetic. It is also a book about “bad” things, such as anguish and devastation, which relate to the ecological and technical but are also constitutive of politics, the ethical, and the formation of subjects.
Avidly interdisciplinary, Bleak Joys draws on scientific work in plant sciences, computing, and cybernetics, as well as mathematics, literature, and art in ways that are not merely illustrative of but foundational to our understanding of ecological aesthetics and the condition in which the posthumanities are being forged. It places the sensory world of plants next to the generalized and nonlinear infrastructure of irresolvability—the economics of indifference up against the question of how to make a home on Planet Earth in a condition of damaged ecologies. Crosscutting chapters on devastation, anguish, irresolvability, luck, plant, and home create a vivid and multifaceted approach that is as remarkable for its humor as for its scholarly complexity.
Engaging with Deleuze, Guattari, and Bakhtin, among others, Bleak Joys captures the modes of crises that constitute our present ecological and political condition, and reckons with the means by which they are not simply aesthetically known but aesthetically manifest.
For poets, artists, philosophers, and even environmental activists and historians, the landscape has long constituted a surface onto which to project visions of utopia beyond modernity and capitalism. Yet amid fracking, deep sea drilling, biopiracy, and all the other environmental ravages of late capitalism, we are brought to re-examine the terms of landscape formations. In what ways might artistic, scholarly, and scientific work on nature push our thinking past seeing the world as something we act on, and instead give agency to the landscape itself?
Natura takes up this challenge, exploring how recent activist practices and eco-artistic turns in Latin America can help us to reconfigure the categories of nature and the human. Moving from botanical explorations of early modernity, through the legacies of mid-twentieth-century landscape design, up to present struggles for the rights of nature and speculative post-human creations, the critical essays and visual contributions in this anthology use interdisciplinary encounters to reimagine the landscape and how we inhabit it.
What constitutes an environment in American literature is an issue that has undergone much debate across environmental humanities in the last decade. In the field, some have argued that environments are markedly natural or wild sites while others contend literary spaces can be both wild and urban, or even cultural. Yet, few of the works produced to date have addressed the pronounced influence the author of a text has on a literary environment. Despite exciting work on materiality and culture in conceptions of environments, critics have not yet fully examined the contributions of poetry’s language, form, and self-awareness in rethinking what constitutes an environment.
By approaching environments in a new way, Nolan closes this gap and recognizes how contemporary poets employ self-reflexive commentary and formal experimentation in order to create new natural/cultural environments on the page. She proposes a radical new direction for ecopoetics and deploys it in relation to four major American poets. Working from literal to textual spaces through the contemporary poetry of A.R. Ammons’s Garbage, Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, Susan Howe’s The Midnight, and Kenneth Goldsmith’s Seven American Deaths and Disasters, the book presents applications of unnatural ecopoetics in poetic environments, ones that do not engage with traditional ideas of nature and would otherwise remain outside the scope of ecocritical and ecopoetic studies.
Nolan proposes a new practical approach for reading poetic language. Ecocriticism is a very fluid and evolving discipline, and Nolan’s pioneering new book pushes the boundaries of second-wave ecopoetics—the fundamental issue being what is nature/natural, and how does poetic language, particularly self-conscious contemporary poetic agency, contribute to and complicate that question.