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Ecosublime: Environmental Awe and Terror from New World to Oddworld

By: Lee Rozelle

144 pages, no illustrations

University of Alabama Press

Hardback | Feb 2006 | #158820 | ISBN: 081731492X
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NHBS Price: £26.50 $35/€30 approx

About this book

Lee Rozelle examines the natural environment's place in American literature and culture through the lens of what he calls the "ecosublime," an aesthetic moment that in its awe and terror provokes a cognitive and spiritual re-conception of place. Focusing on a variety of literary works and cultural artifacts, "Ecosublime" explores 19th-century, modern, postmodern, and millennial texts as they portray the changing ecological face of America. In the 19th century, Rozelle argues, Isabella Bird and Edgar Allan Poe represent the western wilderness as culturally constructed and idealized landscapes - gardens, forests, and frontiers - 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. 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.

Ecosublime is a genuinely engaging and provocative demonstration of contemporary ecocritical practice, pushing the edges of the discipline in a variety of exciting ways.... Rather than arguing simply that certain contemporary authors such as Wendell Berry and Barry Lopez are extending the classical tradition of the sublime aesthetic in their recent environmental fiction and poetry, Rozelle shows how the particular forms of awe and horror that accompany the ecosublime force the human subject into radical new psychological and political stances and may serve to force not only literary characters but real-world authors and audiences to rethink their lives and their relation to the Earth. - Scott Slovic, editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment"

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Lee Rozelle is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Montevallo and publishes in scholarly journals as Twentieth-Century Literature, Critical Studies, and ISLE.

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