ECOCRITICISM AS AN
IMAGINING OF THE POST-HUMAN

--Tom Gannon--
("Review Essay" for Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam Portfolio, November 2000)



 

If, however, we and the gnat could understand each other we should learn that even the gnat swims through the air with the same pathos, and feels within itself the flying center of the world.  --Nietzsche ("On Truth and Falsity in their Extramoral Sense" 88){1}

If like Thoreau one imagines animals as neighbors; if like Muir or traditional Native Americans one imagines life-forms as plant people, sun youths, or grandmother spiders, then the killing of flies becomes as objectionable as the killing of humans.  --Lawrence Buell (303)

                 For the discerning intellect of Man,
                 When wedded to this goodly universe
                 In love and holy passion, shall find these [images of nature]
                 A simple produce of the common day.
                 --I, long before the blissful hour arrives,
                 Would chant, in lonely peace, the spousal verse
                 Of this great consummation. . . .
                          --Wordsworth (Poetical Works 5:3-4; ll. 52-58)

 

         Wordsworth's "Prospectus" to The Excursion is a self-proclaimed "spousal verse" to the divine marriage of the "intellect of Man" and "this goodly universe," or "Nature"; and recent "literary ecologists" have no doubt rightly grasped the crucial importance of such key Romantic pronouncements to their own agenda, which includes both a revisionary "naturalist" reading of such canonical works and a self-legitimization of their critical tack via these very texts. But despite, say, Bate's and Kroeber's hagiographic elevations of Wordsworth and company as proto-environmentalists, the cynic might well point to the poet's bald assertion just previous to this passage, that his "main region" firmly remains grounded in the "Mind of Man" (ll. 40-41)--and then analyze both "Mind" and "Man" as problematic terms that have historically tended to militate against the very ecological vision of Wordsworth's "goodly universe" that Bate and Kroeber would champion. Thus, as some of the scholars presented below have pointed out, "Mind" has long served as a Cartesian/Kantian abstraction, a "self"-hood independent of the (racial and gendered) body's situatedness in a specific environment, or "place." (That Wordsworth's "I" above is an ego in isolation, "in lonely peace," is thus symptomatic.{2}) And "Man"--or "human," let us say, to put aside the "man/woman" binary for the moment--sets up our own species over other "animals," like Nietzsche's gnat and Blake's fly, as the primal act of homo- or anthropocentrism that is a major theme, too, among eco-scholars. (Even the concept of "species," as a rigid "it"-ness of identity independent of ongoing evolution, mutation, and hybridization has also been called into question by recent biologists and ecologists, a move anticipated by Nietzsche.{3}) For these reasons, many ecological scholars have put forth such terms as "biocentrism" with which to counter the dominant anthro-hegemony, if you will. But one might deconstruct even further such a privileging of the "bio-" in "biocentrism," "bio-diversity," etc.: is our limited human point of view so sure, after all, that "life" is more important than "non-life"? In other words, "ecocentrism" would seem to be the preferable term, although one might ultimately wonder whether any "-centrism" or center will "hold."{4}

         Furthermore, Wordsworth's call for a future, nearly millennialist, marriage of mind and nature is already imbued with a notion of ameliorative progress, of psycho-social "organic" evolution; no doubt, the primitivism in Wordsworth is rampant enough, but one can easily guess that the "growth" of this particular "poet's mind," to him, moves on a more advanced plane than the birds whose "thoughts he cannot measure," or even the puerilized psyche of his "dear Sister" in "Tintern Abbey." In sum, Wordsworth's "Mind of Man" is still that of patriarchal Western Civilization,{5} whatever the poet's atavistic tendencies; to this Western male logos, women, children, and the "primitive" serve as recuperative "spousal" Others for the vulnerable, and thus often melancholy, "self" or "mind" referred to above,{6} alienated as that self is from the "body"--and at last, from "nature," that feminized "bride" who may have no need of Wordsworth's ravishments. Indeed, another motif ubiquitous in the theoretical works discussed below is how the body, the female, and the Native American have been conflated with Nature and the "animal" in this act of Othering,{7} this construction of a metonymic series of Hegelian "slaves" to prop up the colonizing subject as "Master." Viewed in this way, the Romantics' would-be marriage of the "Mind of Man" with "Nature" becomes a troublesome betrothal, indeed.

         I have begun with such an "ecocritical" angle on a few lines from Wordsworth to suggest, first of all, that ecocriticism, even in its early manifestations, hasn't been just some blithe re-privileging of "nature" writing. Secondly, the issues under debate within this school are as politically based as its poststructuralist and New Historicist predecessors; therefore, nor is it (in general) some blithe retreat from the socio-political (though, of course, the emphases and omissions of individual scholars are necessarily open to critique). Next, as evident above, what "Nature" is--as a quite human, and especially Western, construct--remains in great question, in a debate fraught with various poststructuralist and cultural-studies manoeuvres, including the attribution of sexist, colonialist, and (above all) speciesist motives to even the most laudable (proto-)"environmentalist" writers. (And thus the tendency to deify a Thoreau or Muir is often a muted one.) Finally, how not to be speciesist, anthropomorphic, and homocentric is the most difficult question of all: especially given the inevitable symbiosis of ecocriticism and poststructuralism, the very possibility of transcending the species via some viable "post-human" awareness that withstands the onslaught of poststructuralism itself is likewise tenuous, at best. Current cultural/literary "ecology," then, seems to be on a precarious perch--let's say, a perch beside one's nest in a cottonwood tree: on the one side, our fledgling's fatal drop to that hard asphalt below means the "death" of "nature," an admission of constructivist solipsism and defeat; on the other side is a flight into a clearing: into a multi-colored--uh, fog, or mist, or--rainbow? But there's the problem: we can't quite make that "fog" out yet--and hope it's not a retreat to some "foggy" mysticism--and nor are we sure whether we have the wings or the will to leave the "nest." In fact, would transcending the human by such a flight be too much a hubris-deflation that one best not venture there? And/or is the postmodern "dilemma" in some ways a rather smugly conservative fear of just such a venture?

         However, the gist of the last paragraph has been my own take--in some ways, my own "ideal"--of what ecocriticism's questions and possible responses are, or should be (if one adds the fog-ward venture and leap from the nest). Plenty of ecocritics do assume that their job is to write about nature writing, or the weed imagery in the poetry of Crabbe--or to critique "literature" via the (often homocentric) politics of environmentalism. Some definition of terms is in order, then. The earliest definition of "ecocriticism" per se is William Rueckert's, in 1978, when he defined "ecocriticism" as "the application of ecology and ecological concepts to the study of literature" (Glotfelty and Fromm 107){8}--simple enough, though a rather circular definition, one might note. Cheryll Glotfelty (who is as responsible as anyone for the current "renaissance" of ecocriticism in the 90's, after its muted beginnings in the 70's with Kroeber and Rueckert) offers the following in the "Introduction" to her anthology of ecocriticism: "ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment" (xviii); better, but she emphasizes "place" to the apparent exclusion of flora and fauna as crucial aspects of said environment, or assumes other animals, etc., to be part of that environment apart from humankind. Elsewhere, Glotfelty is more illuminating, and also distinguishes an "ecocriticism" per se and its literary/rhetorical aspect:

[E]cocriticism takes as its subject the interconnections between human culture and the material world, between the human and the nonhuman. Ecological literary criticism is that subset of ecocriticism that focuses specifically on the cultural elements of language and literature and their relationship to the environment; it is a critical stance that has one foot in literature and the other on land. (qtd. in Branch 47)
But one might still wonder what "interconnections" of the first, larger category, lying as they do beyond "language and literature," can viably be dealt with, in discourse. Moreover, despite the verbage regarding "interconnections," Glotfelty's explicit juncture of "human" and "non-human" may well be what a more fruitful ecocriticism might well want to bridge: but at last, the human versus non-human schism, here, remains intact.

         The subsequent plethora of such "eco-lit." definitions soon begins to sound like self-parody. Indeed, William Howarth provides us with a fine semi-tongue-in-cheek definition of the "ecocritic": "a person who judges the merits and faults of writings that depict the effects of culture upon nature, with a view towards celebrating nature, berating its despoilers, and reversing the harm through political action" (Glotfelty and Fromm 69). This may well be, in spite of the intentional self-satire, the best description of the present state of ecocriticism, for better or worse--especially its overt admission of a political agenda--and it correlates well with Lawrence Buell's more solemn definition of ecocriticism as the "study of the relation between literature and environment conducted in a spirit of commitment to environmental praxis" (430).{9}

         But said "commitment" is problematized when "nature" and "environment" as social constructs become the focus. Thus the British brand of ecocriticism often puts a more social-constructivist, "cultural-studies" emphasis on the project. Richard Kerridge is characteristic here, defining ecocriticism as "the new environmental cultural criticism," which includes a critique of environmentalism's own "fascist and colonialist forms" (Kerridge and Sammells 5, 7). Similarly, (the American) Michael Branch sees ecocriticism as an exploration of "constructions of environment in literature texts and theoretical discourse," as "an ecologically informed approach to nature and literature . . . which questions the hegemony of anthropocentric constructions of environment" (42). Such "questions," as we shall see, often look askance at the "nature" of the "environment" itself, to the point of rendering environmental activism a rather moot concern.

         Au fond, these definitions range from a rather transparent approach to the "land" in literature to a radical deconstruction of said "environment." But let me anticipate my conclusion by predicting that all such proposals may fall from within by the very Western poststructuralist critiques in which many of them partake; indeed, a truly efficacious "ecocriticism" may well require a transcending, first, of the dominant weltanschauung (e.g., through Native American worldviews), to finally go beyond the Western anthropocentrism that these same scholars perceive to be the original sin. Secondly, the current landscape-centered bias of ecocriticism, as lamented above, has fashioned a huge aporia in its "subject matter": an ecocritical approach that relegates species alterity to the periphery is an unnecessarily limited and impoverished one, symptomatic of the ideological schism between ecologists and animal-rights theorists.

         Issuing from ecology, a key term in much recent eco-scholarship is that of biospheric or eco-"relatedness," a holistic notion that would make the environment and its creatures the original "world-wide web," as it were. Such an idea is, of course, à propos to poststructuralist decentering in general--in this case, the deconstruction of homocentrism by a radical ecocentric egalitarianism that would deny privilege to any aspect--including species--of the "whole." (However, poststructuralism would deny all such "wholes," a key difference to be broached again later.) Arne Naess is crucial in this regard, whose central tenets are reiterated (again and again) in Devall and Sessions' Deep Ecology (1985), the title of which stems from a coinage by Naess. Indeed, Deep Ecology might be deemed as a manifesto and summary of the Deep Ecology movement, as the authors frequently invoke the names of (and quote extensively from) the movement's "big guns," particularly Arne Naess and Sessions himself, and the many precursory figures in the minority-mystical tradition--or "perennial philosophy"--of which Deep Ecology sees itself as an integral extension.{10} The book's format per se may be read as a reflection of the work's themes of eco-diversity and egalitarianism, as its ostensible linear discourse is disrupted by a textual/authorial "egalitarianism," its flow often dialogically interrupted by sometimes lengthy passages from poets and creative nature-writers (e.g., Robinson Jeffers, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Gary Snyder), by various "green" platforms, and at last, by small-print appendices of essays by Naess, Merchant, Seed, LaChapelle, etc., that are actually the real "meat" of the book. (A less sympathetic reading: the work has a very "cut-and-paste" feel.) Deep Ecology's "minority" precursors (which include Native American traditions, Eastern religious philosophies, Spinoza, the Romantics and Transcendentalists, Heidegger, the "New Physics"--and even St. Francis of Assisi) are contrasted, naturally, with the mainstream Western patriarchal and positivist faith in progress, a "domination of Nature" that is ultimately alienating. Interestingly, this latter "stream," according to the authors, is also responsible for the recent obsession with linguistics in English/Humanities studies. (As for the former stream, the Spinoza and Heidegger parallels remain less than convincing to this reader.)

         Deep Ecology's two main tenets (again, from Naess) are "biocentric equality" and "Self-realization" (wherein the "Self" equals an "organic wholeness" that supposedly issues from Spinoza--and smacks of Jung). These are expanded upon in Naess and Sessions' eight "Basic Principles" of Deep Ecology, the gist of which--bio-egalitarianism and diversity--leads to their most controversial statement, that a "substantial decrease of the human population" would be both better for the planet and for the "quality" of human life (70).{11} Such a personalist "quality" speaks for a quite individualist-subjectivist perspective, an ideal calling for (a few) more John Muirs and many less factory workers. Indeed, for better or worse, the truths of Deep Ecology rely heavily on their Romantic forebears: a "biocentric perspective" can "satisfy our deepest yearnings," in "joyous" and "sensuous" fashion, via "spontaneous, playful intercourse," especially through "silence and solitude"--in sum (it would appear), through the blessèd fews' "direct intuitive experiencing of Nature" (7-9, 47).{12} (The constant privileging of "primal peoples" [e.g., 80] also strikes one as a rather Romanticized stereotype of the "noble savage," however "positive.")

         And yet, amazingly, such ultimately individualistic intuitions still result in a "comprehensive and philosophical worldview" (with a crucial "religious component") and also allow for a political activism whose agendas "flow naturally" from these tenets (65, 71). Also, this emphasis upon the intuitive and "experiential" sometimes comes across as an anti-intellectual obscurantism, and the "philosophy" herein is ultimately a quite "poetic" one: significantly, "ecological consciousness seems most vibrant in the poetic mode" (102). If Deep Ecology would seek to understand nature without imposing "an ideology upon it" (37--if such a thing were even possible?), its project must be considered a grand failure, a task so infused with tinges of Romantic nostalgia and messianism that the book itself is in some ways itself a "Ghost Dance for all that is lost: condor, bison . . . and passenger pigeon"--and a dance towards a future when such crimes against Nature no longer occur.

         In fact, Deep Ecology's intuitive holism may well be a trace, a remnant, of the overarching monism that its proponents preach against, a continuation of Christian monotheism, Spinozan rationalism, and Romantic idealism. Its best--and worst--feature is the arational faith in species equality that defies Western "logic" and rationalism (despite Naess's frequent quotations of Spinoza), a "feeling"-based ethos that reminds sympathetic readers of the philosophy of Romanticism at its most powerful--and unsympathetic readers, of a "blood-and-soil" fascism at its most terrifying. I've dealt with this work first because much ecocriticism either accepts much of Deep Ecology's tenets implicitly or explicitly,{13} or makes a concerted effort (especially the constructivist version thereof) to distance itself from such a "totalizing" worldview. Also, Deep Ecology's "deep" attention to other species is one that I will invoke often, as an emphasis often neglected in ecocriticism of the 1990's.

         Returning now to the roots of ecocriticism, one cannot ignore the work of Joseph Meeker: the first edition of Meeker's The Comedy of Survival (1972) coined the term "literary ecology" and was one of the first critical works to discuss literature in "ecological" terms. The book's central thesis is that the tragic genre (and related worldview) is bad--that is, ecologically unhealthy. Literary comedy--since it is more conducive to our species' "survival and well-being" (7)--is good, as is its behavioral correlative, play. ("Play," furthermore, is more "universal" to animals in general [15].) Comedy is adaptive, working towards a "recovery" of social and natural "equilibrium" (16). Tragedy is Western literature and culture gone awry, from the Greeks on, representative of a homocentric domination of nature, an exaggerated emphasis on the egocentric individual, and a metaphysical and polarized morality that has led only to "ecological disaster," in both culture and nature. (This is, of course, the same cultural hegemony that Deep Ecology rails against.) But the tragic worldview is on the wane, according to Meeker, and good riddance; the "comedic" has been on the rise since the Renaissance, apparently--as evident in Hamlet, in which the title character plays a "comic" game in a tragic literary universe, a game of wit, adaptation, and survival in a dangerous world of either-or moral absolutes. (Biologically speaking, Hamlet's delay exemplifies the "redirection of aggression" common to many animal species, following an innate directive, as Meeker would have it, not to kill their own. [Apparently, "good, playful animals" don't have Oedipal complexes, or bipolar disorders.])

         The superiority of the comic view is pursued in Meeker's dichotomy between the "pastoral" and the "picaresque." The former is an illusory escape, the latter, realistic adaptation (51). Pastoralism is a nostalgic retreat to the Garden of Eden and agrarianism,{14} and like tragedy, leads to pathos, even self-pity, as the pastoralist realizes that his/her escape is an illusion and ends in "final despair" (71). (But is this always true, or even the rule, in the pastoral literary genre in general?) For the picaresque hero, on the other hand, nature--and--society--is "not a garden, but a wilderness": an amoral landscape with no polarized praise or blame possible,{15} an "infinite game" with no possibility of winning (59), but myriad in its possibilities for adaptation, role-playing--and sheer animal cunning, as it were. Thus Meeker expresses the comic-picaresque theme of Catch-22 as follows: "Adapt to circumstances and take evasive action" (61). Meeker's use of Mann's "Felix Krull" is a less successful example, finding as he does in Felix's very psychopathology a further example of animal adaptation. But the message for humankind today is clear, then. We should be picaresque heros, living life "as infinite play, with no hope of winning much, but [with] endless enthusiasm for keeping the game alive" (73). Meeker even speculates on the emergence of a "New Story" for Western culture, towards which recent findings in evolutionary psychology and ethology (the study of animal behavior) have made crucial contributions in closing the gap between human and non-human cognition and instinct. And towards which Meeker offers his (hardly original{16}) notion of "play" as the "instinct" perhaps most universal to (at least) birds and mammals--including humans. An obvious critique here, though: the need for adaptive play seems to be most required in the amoral landscape of the (post)modern era: but to find the ethical response to such a time in the "timeless" instincts of animal behavior seems, at last, a strangely "backward" move, in this context.

         Meeker then returns to literature, to Dante's Divine Comedy, in another of his more ingenious and less successful readings. The Inferno is, in many ways, prophetic of modern pollution and overpopulation[!]; Purgatory is a psychic healing via the "forest--alive with green, divine" (96); and Paradise is "comedy without tragedy," a vision of ecological integration, instinctual vitalism--heck, it's very like "an ultimate climax ecosystem" (100)! In sum, "Paradise is for the playful" (101).

         In the final chapter, we are all called to "cosmic" play once more: even the simple "play" of phatic conversation may be therapeutic enough--it's like the play of birds' songs, after all, which say, "'I'm here; where are you?[?!]'" (108). (I might swear, in my more empathetic moments, that a Red-Eyed Vireo does say this; but not Cardinals, or Western Meadowlarks, or most other "songsters.") Seriously, whether all or any bird songs can be so translated is indicative of the main problem that I have with Meeker's book. While he refers/defers to the science of ethology at several points, his examples of animal behavior are inevitably idealized, as if all non-human species are instinctually "wise" players in the Divine Comedy of the cosmos. Indeed, Meeker can criticize pastoralism as an ideology of false perfection, and yet his own deployment of "play" and "instinct" are, at times, an idealization that is pretty hard to take.{17} But it is still important to note that this "first" work, perhaps, of ecocriticism deals with other species in a much more earnest manner than most later ecocritical pronouncements.

         Since the next major "statement" in ecocriticism is that of William Rueckert, I will now deal with the anthology of ecocritical essays that includes it, Glotfelty and Fromm's The Ecocriticism Reader (1996). This collection is likely the most well-known (and still best) introduction to the recent "coming of age" of ecocriticism, with essays representing both general eco-theory and the practical eco-criticism of specific texts. I would concentrate on several theoretical essays,{18} some manifestos of sorts, others key indicators of the various directions in which ecocriticism is headed. And some are actually "landmarks," such as Lynn White, Jr.'s early essay (1967) lambasting Christianity as the cause of our current ecological plight; an excerpt from Meeker's original edition of Comedy as Survival (1972); and Rueckert's 1978 essay in which the term "ecocriticism" is first employed. (The various definitions of "ecocriticism"--as indicated above--from Rueckert on is a fascinating evolution in itself.) Rueckert's notion of "ecocriticism" is a rather unexpected, even eccentric, one: humankind's creative endeavors are "ecology" at work, renewable expenditures of "stored energy" that are "used" again and again by readers (108); the literature classroom is an ecosystem itself, where the poem as "stored energy" is released, and "recycled" (118), in some grand cultural imitation of nature (and good ecological praxis). But the particular poets and poems that Rueckert cites are specifically "ecological" in content (a shift, apparently, from his general notion of writer-reader as ecosystem): Song of Myself, for example, is a "complete ecological vision [?!]" (118)--and Roethke, Merwin, and Snyder are pretty ecologically sound, too. The essay ends with the italics, "Free us from false figures of speech" (121). But one is left wondering if such statements as "Poems are green plants among us" are just the sort of metaphors we need to be freed from. Thus, in my view, the 70's ecocritical writings of Meeker and Rueckert are rather hesitant, wayward starts to a "school" that would receive a clearer direction in the 80's with Glotfelty, et al.

         Glotfelty's "Introduction," in fact, provides a clear evolution of 80's and 90's ecocriticism, parallel to Showalter's three stages of feminism. Thus ecocriticism's first task has been to critique old, canonical, "bad ecology" texts, especially in the ways that Nature has been stereotypically depicted. (These stereotypes include the "Indian" and the "body" [xvii].) Stage two is the championing of (usually more recent) "good ecological" works, and nature writing per se. Finally, stage three: develop some theoretical acumen, evidenced so far in deep ecology and ecofeminism; and some promising rapprochement with poststructuralism may be forthcoming? (A prediction that has come true.)

         Such a rapprochement is here attempted by SueEllen Campbell (1989) and David Mazel. Campbell's "The Land and Language of Desire" traces many parallels between poststructural theory and ecocriticism, especially the anti-homocentric and generally decentering impulses evident in both. At last, she earnestly desires to "bridge the gap" between the two. But given the "Desire" of her title and the earnest discussion of Lacan, one is disappointed that her final "desire" to read about and experience nature includes no reference/analysis of Lacanian (or even Freudian) "desire." More concertedly postmodern is Mazel's critique of environmentalism (and "environment") as a cultural construct. Employing Foucault and Edward Said, Mazel's reading of environmentalism as a movement complicitous in a Western "environmental discourse" is enough to make the most rabid environmentalist pause: "the construction of the environment is itself an exercise of cultural power" (142). Moreover, as heirs to an America based upon "imperial conquest," the U.S. environmentalist must question his/her motives all the more.{19} Is the ecological conscience no more than "a seamless refinement" of empowered ways of "knowing"--and ultimately "controlling"--the "land and life of the continent" (144)? (Frankly, this essay is so disturbing that I'm still surprised that it was included in the anthology.)

         Aside from these (attempted) mergers of ecocriticism and poststructuralism, the editors also give both ecofeminists and Native Americans their due. Ecofeminism is represented well in Kolodny's analysis (1984) of white male colonialist Americans' "conquest" of nature as based upon an "archetypal" metaphor of the earth and landscape as feminine (171); subsequently, American culture has been torn between its originary idolization of the earth as mother and its subsequent (and painfully conscious) "rape" of the "feminine" that is the American landscape. Paula Gunn Allen's exposition of Native American literature and worldview (1992) achieves its clarity in distinguishing between the "Western" and Native American approaches to nature; yes, the old clichés about "Indian" time being "cyclical," etc., are recirculated (246), but in such a critically sophisticated and yet non-pretentious way that the essay should be required reading in any "Native American Lit." class. However, various dependencies upon Jungian concepts, including the collective unconscious, are problematic: for instance, Native American literature "can best be approached as a psychic journey" [255]. (But then--mea culpa.) Gunn's distinction between Native and Western views of nature will find greater clarification and power, I think, in Vizenor's essay on "Literary Animals," discussed below.

         Also worthy of note is William Howarth's essay (1995), whose "Principles" of ecocriticism are more science-based than most, and whose disdain for--and rebellion against--poststructuralism, New Historicism, and deconstruction is perhaps more representative of ecocritics in general than this collection's (and my) emphasis would lead one to believe. Finally, Thomas J. Lyons' "taxonomy" of nature writing (1989), a spectrum ranging from relatively "straight" expository-informational prose (e.g., Peterson's bird guides) to the self-expressive, philosophical essays of Thoreau and Wendell Berry, is also a welcome boon to those future ecocritics who would find as much fit fodder for thought in Peterson as they would in Thoreau. In sum, this collection is a fine presentation of the subject matter and critical tacks that ecocriticism has thus far undertaken.

         Compared to Glotfelty and Fromm's (U.S.) collection, Writing the Environment (ed. Kerridge and Sammells, 1998) is quite "British" in its greater emphasis on the theoretical and political concerns of neo-Marxism, postcolonialism, and Cultural Studies.{20} Thus, as the title indicates, contributors herein are more likely to view the "environment" as a problematic "text," and a text "marked" by class, race, and gender. Poststructuralist critiques are even more common here; but while Kerridge's introductory use of Zizek's Lacanian reading of environmental crises as returns of the "'repressed,'" as eruptions of the "Real," seems inordinately promising, Zizek's quoted claim of an "'irreducible gap'" between nature and language, of a nature that is "real" beyond "representation," creates a huge theoretical gap itself that Kerridge fails to bridge satisfactorily (2-3).

         In a similar problematic vein, Head's "The (Im)possibility of Ecocriticism," which issues from SueEllen Campbell's earlier attempt to reconcile ecocriticism with poststructuralism, finds the extreme--and essentialist--ecocentrism of radical eco-scholars to be theoretically insufficient. (Deep Ecology, especially, is rather "dark Green" in its "drive towards fundamentalism" [27]). For one thing, Head claims, an extremist, "undialectical critical orientation" may not be viably subversive from the "outside"; the ecocritic must acknowledge his/her postmodern cultural milieu and "compromise on ecocentric values" (38). Ecocentric decentering is not enough--one must regain a "position of informed recentering," or even what Andrew Dobson has called "'weak anthropocentrism'" (29). (Though hardly a happy phrase, that.) Thus retaining a postmodernist "focus on textuality," ecocriticism can be "an integral part of postmodernity rather than a reaction against it": but, as Head admits, this stance may not "be deemed properly ecocentric in many quarters" (37)--quarters inhabited, apparently by unreflecting ecocritics too busy looking at "real" nature to have read Derrida and Foucault. (Having done both, I still look askance at such an attitude--a telling example of ecocriticism deconstructing itself via its own Western intellectual approach.)

         The human political milieu is also the main concern of the essays by Legler and by Killingsworth and Palmer. Gretchen Legler examines "nature" as "body politics," as evident in the poems of Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, and Lucille Clifton. Noting that much (traditionally white and male) nature writing has "erased" the "raced, classed, and sexed body" (82), Legler finds in Oliver's "nature" poetry a landscape charged with "female and lesbian sexuality" (77), in Harjo's poems, a contestation via "bodies marked as native" (80), and in Clifton, a healing "re-engagement" of the black "body" with its "older, forgotten relationship to the land" (82). Unlike their Romantic white forebears, these authors combine, in sum, an originary connection of a nature-as-past with a contemporary political insurgency, a marked-body "repossession of place in the landscape" (84). Killingsworth and Palmer also look at three women authors, Gloria Anzaldúa, Ana Castillo, and Leslie Marmon Silko, as multicultural champions of "environmental justice." Thus Anzaldúa's lesbian and Hispanic "alienation" finds a sympathetic correlative in the "voice of the earth, the living body of the world alienated from modern consciousness" (200); Castillo's carnivalesque version of Catholicism in So Far from God equates the "concern for endangered species with concern over oppressed peoples" (202); and Silko's Almanac links the "brownness" of the native people with the very color of their native ground, and the "whiteness" of the colonizers with "death" and sterility--although, given the great number of mixed-bloods in the novel, this last may be too simplistically polarized a reading.

         More "traditional" ecocritical voices in the book are those of Jonathan Bate and John Lucas (both men, of course). Bate's essay spouts the buzzwords of biodiversity and bioregionalism, but is above all a championing or re-privileging of several poets of "place," such as Edward Thomas, Basil Bunting, and the Australian poet, Les A. Murray. However, Bate's lengthy appeal to Heidegger's own "Black Forest" mystical sense of place, of "dwelling" (55), at the essay's beginning, may have sent several other of the contributors to this collection into a fit of apoplexy--smacking as this essay does, perhaps, of the "dark Green" that Head warns us against. Lucas' is a rather predictable reading of all the "weeds" in Crabbe's work as indicators of the poet writing "against" his own Augustan "love of order" (111)--as momentary, unruly upcroppings of Crabbe's sometime "refusal to keep in bounds" (113), his "instinctive distrust of order" (122). But Lucas' compliance with the critical methods of deconstruction and New Historicism are clear: Crabbe's weeds undermine (or deconstruct) his general ostensible "order," and/or they serve as disruptive forces against the dominant political order of the day.

         One last essay, a pop-culture critique, may be the collection's true gem. Karla Armbruster's analysis of several recent television nature documentaries underlines how problematic it is to "speak for" nature. Such problems include a "monolithic" focus on one species that misrepresents and downplays the larger ecological context, and the schism between "human" and "nature" created by displaying animals and landscapes sans humans: this "distancing" actually allows the human viewer to detach him/herself from any real concern for the documentary's subject matter (221)--and to remain ultimately an alienated subject of the split between humans and the natural world. (The people who do occasionally show up in such programs are usually "savages" or criminal poachers, thus still allowing us to perform an "us-them" splitting--and a denial of responsibility.) Another lamentable tactic involves the emphasis upon past human ecological crimes of land destruction or animal extinction, allowing us to assume that things are much better now. Some programs, moreover, stress the human "lesson" to be learned or the human "use" to be enjoyed from the animals or their life histories, exemplifying an "obsessive focus on what humans can gain from nature" (227). Armbruster also finds many of the anthropomorphic fancies in which such documentaries indulge (e.g., an animal going out on a "date") to be ethically criminal, a "colonizing move of turning the other into the same" (230-231). Towards essay's end, Marty Stouffer's program, Wild America, receives some praise for consciously resisting some of these tendencies, above all, by "foregrounding" the show's "constructed nature" (236), calling the viewer to the consciousness that an act of human linguistic and cinematographic interpretation is indeed taking place--a reminder similar to this collection's title, of course, that the "environment" is always being "written." Thus nature-as-construct is the gist of the entire collection: as far as praxis, the best thing to do is to keep our mouths shut and our pens in abeyance, so that anthropocentric language acts don't occur. (I overstate my case, of course, out of sheer exasperation.)

         As intimated above, Jonathan Bate is one who hasn't kept his mouth shut, however, writing often "against the grain" of the poststructuralist critical milieu. In Romantic Ecology (1991), the first major text of British ecocriticism, he attempts to subvert the hegemony of the Yale School and New Historicism in recent Wordsworthian criticism, to "politicize" literary studies "in a new way"--and to render Wordsworth once more, and all the more, "timely" (4). His counter-argument: Wordsworth was a "nature" poet, a fact missed or utterly downplayed and obfuscated by the deconstructionists, et al. (10). (To Hartman, Liu, etc., who would take the "nature" out of Wordsworth, and out of literary studies in general, Bate retorts: "When there have been a few more accidents at nuclear power stations, when there are no more rain forests, and when every wilderness has been ravaged for its mineral resources, then let us say 'There is no nature'" [56].{21}) Wordsworth's approach to "Nature," in fact, included a nascent ecological consciousness that had a seminal influence in England, both on later literary figures (e.g., Clare, Ruskin, and Morris) and on subsequent (eco-)political activism.{22} Indeed, the seeds of the British national-park movement originally sprouted, apparently, very near Dove Cottage or Grasmere, as Bate would have it.{23} As support, Bate re-privileges several lesser-read works from Wordsworth's corpus, especially The Excursion, "Poems on the naming of Places," and his prose "tourist manual," Guide to the Lakes. Not only was Wordsworth the first to achieve a "truly ecological poetry" (103), but his aforementioned influence also played a role in the development of English socialism, which subsequently, via Ruskin and Morris, has always been more "green" than "red."

         Here Bate at least implicitly directs his barbs at another "school," at the neo-Marxist bent of British Cultural Studies. Bate is well aware that these latter (especially) would view his reading as a conservative, even reactionary, act of retrenchment in literary studies, and thus he goes out of his way (often sounding chords of a protesting-too-much defensiveness) in claiming that he is not ignoring human social issues, even quoting approvingly the letter of a "working man" offering two shillings to the National Trust's nature-reserve drive because he "once saw Derwentwater" and could "never forget it" (53-4). (However, Bate's at least sometime implicit acceptance of such a "nature-reserve" system as a sufficient eco-answer also seems a bit short-sighted and smug.{24}) If the reader feels reassured that Bate's conservationist interests "need not be the dupe of conservative politics" (114), he/she still may wince at such statements as the following: "Whatever our class, nature can do something for us" (56). Bate also seems content to ignore the ready critiques of poststructuralist "high theory" of such a leap to the "Real" of nature sans consideration of the human socio-linguistic constructs that severely color (or perhaps even disallow) such a leap. And yet his final eloquent plea that the current environmental crisis requires just such a rejection of poststructuralist doubt remains a call that cannot be ignored. Regarding Wordsworth's concluding sonnet on the River Duddon, Bate laments: "but now it is not only water that glides inexorably into the sea off Wordsworth's coast" (61; emphasis added). And, as for Wordsworth's "There was a Boy"--and opposed to the deconstructive readings thereof: "let us not forget that it is also about a boy alone by a lake at dusk blowing mimic hootings to unseen owls. Which are there to answer him" (115). And which may not be, a century from now. At last, Bate's ecocritical stance is a rejection of much contemporary critical theory, an "end-around" attempt to counter the opposition through rhetorical eloquence. And yet Bate's stirring citations of environmental disasters and answering owls are also, at last, but words on a page: and my positive "eco"-reactions to his words issue from the my own previously conditioned constructs of the "nature" that he and I would save.

         My pessimism above stems, in part, from such poststructuralist-grounded ecocritics as Michael Branch, whose essay, "Ecocriticism: The Nature of Nature in Literary Theory and Practice" (1994) epitomizes much ecocriticism of a poststructural influence. Indeed, he sees nature as one of the oldest "cultural artifacts" (41), and yet would offer his own "biocentric" revision of our constructs of nature (42), which he calls "ecosophy" (41).{25} But naturally, "environmental awareness" itself has a venerable tradition: 1) there have always been "questions about the proper role of humans in the cosmic scheme," including "maintaining or restoring a right relationship to nature" (42); 2) "literature has always struggled with questions of value comparable to those being asked by ecosophy" and "has always been extremely concerned with . . . a sense of place" (42-43); and finally, 3) there is the tradition of nature writing per se, that has been instrumental in (conditioning) our construction of "nature" (43). But Branch's ecosophy goes beyond all this by stressing a poststructural "interconnectedness" that he equates with intertextuality: indeed, both perform a "deep questioning of standards of objective certitude," especially that of anthropocentrism (44, 46); and both emphasize that human "interpretations" aren't "objectively correct" (45). Furthermore, poststructuralism's "decentering" of the "human subject" is, according to Branch, akin to "ecosophy's wish to replace anthropocentrism with an affirmation of the value of ecocentric wholes" (46).

         But therein lies the problem, as Branch's "system" and "whole" (46) self-deflates from the "holes" with which deconstruction would pierce it. He can blithely contend that "Ecosophers locate values in natural wholes"; and he can assert that ecosophy "is integrative" and "holistic," not "reductive" (49)--a continuation, at last, I would contend, of the grand Romantic organic metaphor of "Absolute Spirit." But finally, what "values," from a poststructural perspective, can allow Branch to speak of "the spiritual consequences of nature and the moral consequences of its violation" (49)?

         And so Branch admits that ecocriticism "must openly confront . . . both the positive and the negative implications of its remarkable[!] relationship to poststructuralist literary theory," and that this latter's "infinite deferral of meaning is strongly at odds with an ethos of environmental concern." In point of fact, ecocriticism is "more interested in environmentalism's goal of freedom from decimation than in deconstructionism's goal of freedom from meaning" (49-50). Stronger yet: "few ecocritics would concede that nature ultimately has no determinate meaning, or that the natural system can adequately be described as simply the interminable 'freeplay' of its 'signifiers.' On the contrary, normative concepts such as intrinsic value and the rights of natural objects demonstrate that contemporary ecosophy retains a genuine concern for specific loci of meaning and value" (50). Earnest, even powerful--and yet "normative" and "intrinsic" are dangerous (even incredible) words that still smack of Deep Ecology's propensity for intuitive (and ultimately, arationally imposed) truths.

         Like Bate, Branch would ultimately avoid the critique of poststructuralism by asking, "What about that nature 'out there'? How are we to know when our tireless manipulation of the signifier 'nature' constitutes a morally unacceptable endangerment of our home planet and the diversity of species it contains?" Branch concedes that "ecocriticism must be more willing to learn from its connections to poststructuralist theory, but there is also a danger in any uncritical appropriation of the notion that the natural world is 'just a text,'" for finally, poststructuralism's "'subversive' suggestion that the world is somehow made of words may also be seen as simply the latest avatar of anthropocentrism--as an attempt to use the ubiquity of language to keep humans at the center of our cosmological paradigm" (50).{26} To escape this paradigm, "we must recognize that the natural world exists to purposes other than our own" (51), in part by "exploring the merits of the American nature writing tradition" (47),{27} and "to question the very assumptions which have resulted in its critical neglect" (48). And in a shift of "critical focus from social relations to natural relations," Branch's version of ecocriticism also "values highly the literary 'sense of place,' not as setting but as an essential expression of bonding with or alienation from a specific natural context" (48).

         Branch's attacks on homocentrism, especially, remain legitimate: "anthropocentrism has caused unjust domination and exploitation of other members of the ecosystemic community"; and therefore the need for "resistance to the ethical Ptolemaism of a human-centered theory of value" (46)--though, again, one might wonder what "value," as a human-centered notion, is not--uh, "human-centered." Noteworthy, too, is his quotation of Robinson Jeffers on "'Inhumanism,'" as a "'shifting of emphasis from man to not-man; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence'" (49).{28} This is just the "post-human" direction I would take; but Branch's use of poststructural critique--despite his subsequent rejection thereof--still places him in a "intertextually" human sphere that disallows any such transcendence.

         Can anything be done, then, if one accepts the dilemma of postmodernist skepticism? Arren E. Gare's Postmodernism and the Environmental Crisis (1995) is an ambitious attempt to deal with the "environmental crisis" by directly confronting this century's main schools of cultural critique, which, by and large, have created an intellectual climate of political ineffectuality and intellectual nihilism. Perceiving a dialectical movement from 1) "mainstream" Western philosophy (e.g., Plato and Descartes), through 2) "Hegelian" theories of progress and the Absolute (culminating in Marx), to 3) poststructuralism, Gare laments the result, a linguistic/social constructivism (or "linguistic idealism" [109]) that is ultimately politically disabling: against the postmodern hegemony of global capitalism that they have diagnosed so well, "poststructuralists . . . are totally inadequate as guides for political action" (2). The author would thus propose a new synthesis and transcendence of all three of the streams mentioned above as the only serviceable means of saving the planet. But the result is a rather odd call for a new "metaphysics" and "cosmology," another self-admitted grand récit, based on the New Physics and the "process" philosophies of Bergson and Whitehead.

         Gare's study begins with an analysis of the postmodern world, in the wake of the death of the modernist meta-narrative of rationalism and progress. For Gare, a consciousness of the ecological crisis itself is a major cause of this "end of history," and yet, ironically, the resulting decentered, narrative-dead state of human society prevents us from doing anything about this crisis. Gare proceeds to trace the intellectual history of poststructuralism, from Vico, Nietzsche, and Heidegger to Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, and Deleuze.{29} In sum, these later theorists' deconstruction of the anti-nature Cartesian worldview is praiseworthy, but their conception of epistemology as a solipsistic world-as-text leaves them helpless. What can be done in the realm of the Real if (paraphrasing Nietzsche) "[w]e simply find in nature what we project onto it" (50)?{30} Gare then contrasts poststructuralism with Marxism, preferring a "radicalized" version of the latter that would still be a "comprehensive system of thought," with its roots firmly in Hegelian rationalism, and with more than a sprinkling of Habermas's "communicative reason" (100, 103). (For Gare, these are relatively good things.) But at last, Gare proclaims a pox on both these houses, as "ineffectual . . . sideshows" (104)--and turns to "real" science and political praxis.

         Gare dares to offer a new scientific "metaphysics"--a hodgepodge, really, of Bergson and Whitehead, "modern process philosophers" (119), relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and "postmodern biology" (including ecology and ethology) (128). Neither mechanistic or organic, this science finds the cosmos, the biosphere, humankind, and human individuals to all be aspects of "emergent process" (132). Given his great awareness of Derrida and Lyotard, Gare tries hard to present his new scientific "cosmology" as a grand narrative, yes, but not a monologic one. In a slick move rather out of the blue, Gare invokes Bakhtin and calls for a "polyphonic grand narrative" founded on "an alternative cosmology" (140-41).{31} In another twist, Gare dubs nationalism (in the form of Benedict Anderson's "imaginary community") as the best ideology by which to put his ideas into effect. Local, "bio-regional" activism and narratives are fine (including the "contextualized language of traditional cultures such as Native Americans"), but a new global "narrative" is also required (93, 140)--one that represents the new deity of "emergent process," apparently. His "new world order" would be a "multi-levelled nationalism" and "multi-dimensional narrative" that includes nation-states, "sub-nationalisms," and multi-national (especially third-world) alliances (153, 143, 150); on each level, a sense of community through "narrative" would allow the best chance for environmental activism. Finally (or so it seems), Gare gets to his ecological point: such "nationalism" he defines as the "commitment by a regional community, through the stories by which it defines itself, to justice within the region," including justice towards the "local environment,"the "diversity of its fauna and flora," and the "integrity" of its "eco-systems" (152).

         Perhaps I'm too much a victim of my own my own "wooly-minded relativism" and "nihilistic decadence," as Gare dubs it (163), but I still can't comprehend where these narratives are going to come from, or how one is to "create and maintain an image of and a sense of belonging to a just community" (163)--without assuming and replicating some previous regime of power. Indeed, one must immediately question how a "new worldview" supported and explicated by this notion from Hegel and that snippet from Bergson could ever "provide the foundation for a cultural movement" (139) that had any popular appeal--that is, how a global/grand "narrative" like "emergent process" could ever excite the masses to exchange their postmodernist symbolic consumption and complicity in global capitalism for new communal narratives of "justice." Gare claims, then, a new grand narrative without clarifying how it's possible, given all the poststructuralist objections that Gare himself has recited so well. Thus Gare critiques, via poststructuralism, many "mainstream" ecologists for "positing some absolute," be it the "truths" of intuition or some feminine Gaia (92); and yet he himself has set up "emergent process" as the new transcendental signifier, it would appear--as often as he denies having done so.

         I would now step back for a moment and look at a work that puts many of the utterances above in perspective--and explains why, for instance, Gare grasps so vehemently at the "New Physics." Worster's Nature's Economy (1977) presents the history of modern ecology as a story of multiple (and often contradictory) ideological threads that are largely culturally determined. Thus he perceives two discordant views of nature in the eighteenth century, the "arcadian" (or pastoral or Edenic)--epitomized in Gilbert White--and an "imperialist" view that would both categorize and dominate nature--evidenced in the work of Linnaeus and other scientists of the day. White's faith in an organically ecological Providence--given the increasingly dark and urban backdrop of the Industrial Revolution--thus created an eventual cult worship of his vision of Selborne and served as a seminal "mystical" thread that culminated in Thoreau's "Romantic ecology," and continued in the writings of John Burroughs and W.H. Hudson--and flourishes to this day, in the inchoate scribblings of Tom Gannon, among others. In contrast, the Linnaean classification system, static, hierarchal, and anthropocentric, both originated in and served as prop for the Christian belief that nature was a great chain of being designed for humankind's use, and that animals were but lower links in the chain, or small cogs in the great Deist machine. In this way, the "imperialist" view would be co-opted by 19th-century European colonialism, for this approach to nature was itself "a means to the vigorous conquest of the living world" (51; cf. M.L. Pratt). Worster's two main antagonists in the nineteenth century are no surprise, then: Thoreau and Darwin. Thoreau's was a more thoroughly spiritualized and organicized (and ethical) version of White's rural arcadianism. Darwin's evolutionary theory--itself in part a product of Romantic organicist thought--issued from a personal and cultural vision of nature with fangs and talons; his (dys-)"arcadia" was one of "[e]xtinction, conflict, depravity, terror" (124). (Culturally speaking, the civilized English "garden" was thus an enclave against an America, Asia, and Africa of fearsome savagery, both "animal" and human.) At last, while Darwin made great positive contributions to a modern ecological science that emphasizes species diversity and ecosystems in flux, his "survival of the fittest" mentality was grounded in a milieu of economic contentiousness and military conflict.

         But further intimations of arcadia, of a "biocentric conscience" (179), were still faintly heard at century's end, in W.H. Hudson, among others. And these environmental voices were even louder in the U.S., towards which Worster shifts his focus to extend his history-of-ecological-ideas study through the twentieth century.{32} Spurred by the untoward consequences of the Dust Bowl, American environmentalists such as Frederick Clements initiated a new era of "bio-ecology" (214), with an emphasis on native habitat preservation; Aldo Leopold's thought evolved from a paternalistic attitude towards game management to a "Land Ethic" that went beyond purely economic and utilitarian concerns; and the "New Ecology" borrowed the concepts of "energy 'fields' and systems'" from physics (302) to give the old Romantic organicism more viability. (However, Worster pans this approach as still too ideologically dependent on [bio-]economics; and so Leopold's more laudably ethical, "communal" vision "must find another source of intellectual support . . . whether in some other scientific model or beyond science" [315].) Alternate roads might be that of Whitehead's neo-Romantic philosophy or the vitalist emergent evolutionism of Lloyd Morgan. Either way, Worster perceives a recent "resurgence of philosophical idealism" (323) and moralism in our constructs of ecology and nature. He also has some hope that science and "mysticism" can yet merge into an "ecological ethic of interdependence" (338); indeed, events since 1945 have made the search for such a synthesis all the imperative.

         Worster's calls to action in his final chapters are, however, necessarily muted, given his (usual) acceptance of cultural determinism. His biographical portraits of White, Darwin, et al., are fascinating reading, and yet one gets the impression that such protagonists are mere morality-play-allegorical-figures in a great socio-cosmic war between the forces of arcadianism and imperialism, mechanism and vitalism, reason and feeling. Worster acknowledges himself that his "historicist view" might well "paralyze our moral sensibilities." To counter this, he immediately goes out on an ethical limb in claiming that "we have had more than enough of imperialism" (346)--but a devil's advocate might contend that he is simply --and "mechanistically"--adopting one of the several dominant (or at least academically fashionable) views of his own current cultural milieu. But a greater quibble, finally: by 1977, the voices for an "ecological ethic of interdependence" were much more various and vocal than his "up-to-date"(?) mentions of Rachel Carson and Joseph Krutch would lead us to believe. His is twentieth-century chapters, centering almost exclusively upon scientists per se, would thus have benefitted greatly from the inclusion of "a few [more] intuitionists, mystics, and transcendentalists" (337). It seems, in sum, that Worster himself cannot conceive of a "communal" vision "beyond science."

         A scientist/naturalist who really does go "beyond science," Paul Shepard offers, in such works as The Others: How Animals Made Us Human (1996), an eccentrically welcome reading of cultural anthropology that returns other species to their rightful focus. Our "categories of the self and society were shaped by the traits of animals observed, the dangerous, competitive, beautiful, tasty, scrounging Others" (24), he claims; indeed, "A whole fauna is in us still, tacitly" (119). Shepard might best be labelled a primitivist/evolutionist--in the sense that he believes that humankind's primate and hunter-gatherer heritage has determined much of our psychology and culture, and in his privileging of "instincts" (or archetypes, in the Jungian sense) acquired in those earlier periods of our evolution as still crucial to our species and in need of "exercise" even today. The animal "Others" have played a pervasive role in this evolution, not only as fellow "counterplayers" in the ancient "game" of hunter and hunted (82), but in the development of our very language and cognition, and our music, dance, and ritual. For starters, it has always been a very visceral (that is, gastronomical) interspecial relationship: "Our species . . . emerged in watching the Others, participating in their world by eating and being eaten by them" (11). But animals have also fashioned our mental development, and the child today still learns to name and classify primarily through animals, those "prototypes of categories" (48); such animal categorization, indeed, was "the beginning of language itself" (54). (A bold claim, no doubt, supported by the centrality of children's "animal" games in their development of signs and metaphor.{33}) Even our very self-identity is really a multiplicity, a "diverse zoology of the self" made up, apparently, of the various species encountered in our evolution, who still return in dreams as the "dispersed elements of the unknown self" (80, 75){34}--a very literal, "zoological" take on Jungian archetypes, as it were. Animals in fairy tales and myths reflect a similar vital function, such characters serving as "surrogates in the collective unconscious of humanity" (90).

         Human constructs of sociality also evolved from our primate observations of other species' interactions; later, animals then became co-opted metaphors for rationalizing human social hierarchies (in a reading similar to Ritvo's). Furthermore, humankind's psycho-social rites of passage find their mirror in the physical metamorphoses of animals (yes, Shepard refers us to Kafka here); the hibernating bear and the tadpole/frog, for example, are at last "bearers of our souls across boundaries and borders" (126). The bear, by the way, "is the most significant animal in the history of metaphysics in the northern hemisphere" (167)--to which N. Scott Momaday would certainly concur--and Shepard's tracing of this "archetypal figure" through Pooh Bear and Smokey the Bear is truly revelatory. Also significant, but more deplorable, in Shepard's general "hunter-gatherer" view of things, are the ubiquitous figures of the cow and dog: domesticated animals of the later agricultural (or "pastoral") period of humankind's evolution are a devolution of sorts, and the modern practice of keeping pets is sheer slavery (267), the pets themselves "ecological wrecks" (250). The domestication of horses, moreover, was the greatest (d)evolutionary tragedy, allowing for aeons of rapid human conquest and imperialism. In the historical period--and in contrast to humankind's early polytheistic embracing of the "many"--Christianity and monotheism in general have also done us a disservice in casting animals out of theology: the Christian myths of Eden and the Ark (and its modern counterpart, the zoo{35}) are really acts of estrangement from our natural and animal natures--to the detriment, obviously, of the animal Other, and our own psychic health: "The loss of numen or spirit in animals is the great modern defeat" (328).

         Finally, Shepard accepts (grudgingly) the animal-rights concerns of Thomas Regan and others{36} for the plight of domesticated animals raised for food. But the public's misguided concern for wild animals is based on a false privileging of the "individual" animal--whose lamentable death is really our own individual fear of death (?!)--and an ignorant disregard for the ecosystem: in sum, it's "bad ecology" (313). "Wild animals," Shepard concludes, "don't have rights" (308), since "rights," as a term, is a human social and legal construct, after all.{37} And besides--here Shepard grabs for the obvious rebuttal--"what about the predator's right to a meal?" (309). (Shepard also notes that Regan and his ilk inevitably end by extending greater rights to "dogs" than "locusts," as species more similar to, or having greater value to, humans [310], in contrast to Deep Ecology's "radical" species egalitarianism.) Death is natural to the eco-cycle of life, and--well, Shepard apparently wants to eat a steak now and then: vegetarianism is really a "state of beatific mastication" that humankind has evolved beyond "six million years ago," in becoming omnivores (315).

         Thus does Shepard propose a rather speculative view of evolutionary science against what might be called the more "humane" animal-rights "mainstream." At its worst, the book does read at times as if it had been written by a triumvirate of Robert Bly, Joseph Campbell, and some eccentric anthropologist-biologist, all three half-dressed in bear furs, dancing around a fire, bloody spears in their--slightly unsteady, book-weary--hands.{38} But one may yet accept a great deal of Shepard's specifics without his yearning for the Pleistocene and his worship of the hunt. At its best, The Others provides a fascinating theory (and welcome emphasis) on the roles of the animal "Others" in the cultural artifacts of humankind, a new door through which to read the often seemingly trite and stock animal metaphors that pervade our literature, and life. Combined with Gerald Vizenor's distinction between animal "metaphors" and "similes" (see below), Shepard's theories may offer a viable means of "transcending the species."

         Before concluding with Vizenor's attempt at "transcendence," one must now treat perhaps the most notable spokesperson of Western/academic ecocriticism, Lawrence Buell--already encountered often in my footnotes, a tribute to his wide-ranging scholarship and acumen. The Environmental Imagination (1995) is, in the eyes of some, the "big," most important statement of ecocriticism to date.{39} (Perhaps, in part, because it sounds the most long-windedly pompous: ecocritics usually sound more humble.) Buell's main task is to examine texts that allow one "to imagine a more 'ecocentric' way of being" (1), an ethical commitment that leads to an acknowledged privileging of "environmentally oriented" texts (7), that is, the prose non-fiction nature writing that has been one of the emphases of my reading lists and annotations. To "arrive at a more ecocentric state of thinking than western culture now maintains," he would perform a three-step agenda, 1) first analyzing the "pathology" of current Western literature and culture's relationship to the environment (similar to Glotfelty's first stage); then 2) taking "stock of the resources within" this very tradition (thus his copious treatment of Thoreau{40}); and 3) considering "alternative models, be they antique, exotic, or utopian": these last include Eastern philosophy, feminist neopaganism, and "Native American culture" (21-22). But this scholar's main route is the second, "Anglo" route, through Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and Barry Lopez--whose works can still serve as "agent[s] of change" (40). Indeed, Buell admits of a still rather white-canonical conservativism: "a more radical critic," he admits, would be more likely to "consider the prospect of a complete, ground-up reconstruction of western values," via Taoism, Native American thought, et al. (21-22), but he doubts that any of the latter could "become paradigmatic," most likely serving instead as constituents of a "new eclecticism" (22).

         Buell's analysis of the Western "pathology" is also a call to re-educate scholars and "readers," whose educational backgrounds have been fashioned by the current critical emphasis on "representation," indicative of a "disjunction between text and world" (and "fiction and nonfiction"), ultimately symptomatic of the "cloistral, urbanized" milieu of academia (5).{41} Given this untoward split between word and world, Buell asks, "Must literature always lead us away from the physical world, never back to it?" (11). In response to what he perceives to be an academic marginalization of nature writing,{42} and as the literary "genre" least guilty of ignoring the physical world, Buell champions a "literary naturism" (e.g., 11, 431), that "imaginative" nature writing (epitomized in Walden) that he distinguishes from more straightforward naturalist/natural-history writing. Such writings' "extrospective character" (80; see also 169) allows for "an affirmation of environment over self, over appropriative homocentric desire" (104), and has the "capacity . . . to model ecocentric thinking" (144).{43}

         In his new non-fiction aesthetics, Buell tries to avoid a simple relapse to realism as a mirror upon the world through his notion of "dual accountability," an acknowledgement of both "real matter" and of "discursive mentation" (the "Imagination") (92). In this way, both a viable ecocritical vision and the exemplary works of such a vision involve a "symbiosis of object-responsiveness and imaginative shaping" (99). Transcending the either-or of "objective world" replication and "linguistic" textualism (13), such a dual lens, Buell insists, "is far more productive than" a Foucaultian constructivism (113-114), and best serves a "counterculture . . . in resistance to the intractable homocentrism in terms of which one's psychological and social worlds are always to some degree[?!] mapped" (114). Like Cheryll Glotfelty, then, Buell would stand with "one foot in literature and the other on land."

         But to prop up such a "counterculture" notion, Buell resorts to critical theory once more--in this case, to Bakhtinian polyphony. Versus a monologic view of mimetic nature writing, he stresses "American naturism's ideological multivalence" (36; see also 99), and deems such works in general to be capable of even greater "polyphonic" discursiveness than Bakhtin's own favorite genre, the novel (397).{44} Thus the writings of Thoreau, Dillard, and Barry Lopez partake of an often "variegated" and diverse rhetoric, sometimes "fragmenting into multigeneric collage"--for instance, in Walden's "stylistic breaks" and "discursive chunks" (397). "Dillard's prose," especially, "is a rushy kaleidoscope of perceptual and intertextual fragments" (237), an "imagining" of "multiple centers" (238), and a (multi-) "perspectivalism" (239). As if to deconstruct the unity and continuity of "Self" that Western literature would posit in general, Dillard's work is a "shattering of narrative line and consciousness" (241), in which, at times, the "speaker becomes a choric figure . . . a model for the reader of praiseful witness to the miraculous" (241), a "cosmic" speaker that ultimately transcends and subverts traditional fiction's emphasis upon character integrity and linearity of plot.

         Buell further undermines the traditional Western Self through a lengthy treatment of "relinquishment," as central to an "ecocentric literary vision" that would "express itself both as a critique of the centrality and even the legitimacy of human assertion" (143). This involves, first, the relinquishment of Western Civilization's materialism, as in the "voluntary simplicity" of Thoreau and Leopold (145). (Thus, in Thoreau's "experience of place," "Ecocentrism replaces egocentrism" [155].) But more crucially, there is the relinquishment of Self, or "individual autonomy itself" (144). This second is more radical, for one thing, because it "implies the dissolution of plot and calls into question the authority of the superintending consciousness"; it is a relinquishment or abandonment--as we saw in Dillard above--of "literature's most basic foci" of plot, character, and "narrative consciousness" (144-145). Buell spends a good deal of time examining various modernist Anglo-American poets who have attempted a similar "relinquishment" (most notably, Ammons, Roethke, and Snyder), but such a tack has been more successful in "environmental nonfiction," of course (168; see also 199). Yet even here, self-relinquishment has inevitably been only momentary, a "suspension" rather than "eradication" of egohood (178). No one has yet approached Buell's own ideal--so brilliantly expressed--of "imagining human selves as unstable constellations of matter occupying one among innumerable niches in an interactive biota" (167).{45}

         To touch upon some of Buell's other major ideas more briefly, one must note his division of the "naturist" genre into main sub-genres, or organizational schema: the "seasonal chronicle," the "excursion," and the "inventory" (421). Via a seasonal expository pattern, especially, the reader can be "teased into ecological consciousness" (221).{46} Descriptions of landscape or "place," too--including excursions around and inventories thereof--allow the naturist to perform a "readjustment of the familiar" (262), or a defamiliarization: at last, a "Seeing things new, seeing new things, [and] expanding the notion of community so that it becomes situated within the ecological community" (266). But here Buell's love for stilted latinate coinages gets the best of him--e.g., "exurban place" (258), "topophilia" (279), and (Thoreau's) "lococentrism" (209)--just the sort of academic disjunction from the "real" that Buell has earlier railed against? But he can still criticize other literary scholars' "tendency to relegate landscape items to the status of symbols or reflectors," lamenting, for instance, the ill treatment that Thoreau's pond has received through "the insistence with which literary critics have wanted to interpret the pond as a symbol of something rather than as a meditation about and arising from a particular body of water" (277).

         Yet here again Buell retreats to a careful postmodernist circumspection. "Place," especially, is always a construct, and the idealization, common among ecoscholars, of "the sense of place" runs "almost as great a risk of cultural narcissism as when we accept the myth of place-free, objective inquiry" (253). Indeed, the representation of "place" has often been a failure: "it can be said of all genres that place is something authors find easier to name and praise than to present" (255). (Apparently, this isn't the case with his new-canon favorites.) The articulation of "place" is "arduous," especially "for modern Westerners," since it includes the hybridized task of "superimposing imported traditions and jerry-building new ones" (257, 260). Environmental writing, at its best, then, can only "practice a conceptual restorationism in reorienting the partially denatured reader not to a primordial nature . . . but to an artifactual version of environment designed to evoke place-sense" (267; emphasis added). "Place" itself, for Buell, is thus a cultural and conceptual artifact, above all: if this is still a notion true to his "dual accountability," the ideational/"imaginative" aspect has come so much to the fore that the "real nature," material backdrop is obfuscated in a constructivist dialectic. And Buell is no doubt right, on a certain level. But where is that firm, single "foot on the land" now?

         One may turn again to the "Imagination" of the book's title, and re-read it in a way that the more "naïve" ecocritic might consider rather sinister. To summarize some of my previous criticisms, Buell's emphasis on this "Imagination" is nearly as carefully constructivist as the poststructuralist and New Historicist theory that he takes such pains to distance himself from. His title means, indeed, that "Nature" is, once again, a construct.{47} If the various "naturist" literary devices of defamiliarization, etc., have been successful in imparting a "new-fashioned delight in the materiality of natural things" and in creating a new "environmental bonding" (98), it is through their role in discourse, their depending "heavily on metaphor, myth, and even fantasy to put readers in touch with place" (266). And so such writings play the game of the dominant discourse (as part of discursivity itself), and yet somehow (polyphonically) "tease" one out of that discourse whose very "nature" it still seems to be to separate "human" and "animal," "man" and "nature."

         Moving to the present social concerns with environmental catastrophe, Buell sees the environmental aesthetics he has championed as instrumental in any future solutions or amelioration (3). But it seems to boil down to another "imaginative" metaphor, that of "apocalypse," the "single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal" (285). (And, naturally, "the role of the imagination is central to the project" [285].) Silko's Almanac and Carson's Silent Spring get lots of play here--indeed, "Carson invented doomsday by environmental genocide" (295)--but our always careful scholar can only conceive of such "totalizing" concepts such as "biotic community and ecosystem" not as the truths of faith that Deep Ecology and Michael Branch would have them, but rather as "imaginative" propaganda, as it were, "readily adaptable to apocalyptic ends" (302).{48} One must scare the populace into environmental action with such a rhetorical "dystopianism" (whether the scare tactics are true or not, it would seem). Buell's "imaginative" scare tactics include the presentation of "the vision of a tampered-with nature recoiling against humankind in a kind of[?] return of the repressed" (308). But Buell's qualification, "kind of," is not encouraging, nor is his example of such tactics: "Carson goes so far as to suggest[?!] that life without birds and trees is not worth living" (304). Carson's position here is presented as an extremism hard to fathom without the supplement of Buell's notion of "imaginative" discourse, with the implication that Buell himself might happily go on living without such "scenic" accessories.{49}

         Buell does a laudable job, however, in his various treatments of ecofeminism, praising the "gynocentric paradigm" over an "androcentric" one (25, 23), and countering the general "misapprehension that women have avoided the field of environmental writing" (26) with concerted studies of such long-neglected American women writers as Susan Cooper,{50} Celia Thaxter, and Mary Austin. Our Thoreauvian scholar will even admit that these three authors "managed to cultivate a nonegoistic, ecocentric sensibility toward which Thoreau had to grope his way laboriously" (177). (There is a strong hint of essentialism here, however, as if such writers were more innately, more "naturally," attuned to "nature.") Buell also refers approvingly to the recent of work of Carolyn Merchant, Kolodny, and Susan Griffin, though he has mixed feelings about the contemporary "reemergence of feminist neopaganism": nonetheless, "All of these" ecofeminist/neopagan manifestations "are more or less ecocentric" (216). Reflective of his institutional conservativism, however, he is not sure "how far feminist neopaganism and more conservative forms of revisionist ecotheology will be taken and whether they will join forces" (217).

         Nor is he comfortable with any blithe retreat to Native American "nature primitivism," emphasizing again the cultural hybridity of the work of Ortiz, Silko, et al. (e.g., 19-20, 63-64, 288). Silko's Ceremony comes off fairly well, as Buell isn't "surprised to find indigenes making pastoral serve their own counterhegemonic ends," in the best polyphonic fashion, of course (63). Buell's most positive comments in this regard come across, however, as lip service: "Indigenous cultures have maintained a less dualistic spirit of partnership with the nonhuman" (21); and "one of the marks of traditional Native American culture . . . has been its understanding of the human-nature relation as a continuum or a monism rather than as a binary schism" (211).{51} But isn't Buell's own "dual accountability" just such a "binary schism," however much it attempts to transcend the traditional "outside/inside" dualism of Western thought?

         I've saved Buell's most important--for my purposes--"myth" of the environmental imaginary for last, what he calls "Nature's Personhood," the "ascription of something like[?!] human subjectiveness to the nonhuman world" (143). To harken back to this essay's initial epigraph of Nietzsche's gnat's-point-of-view, Buell likewise asks, "What happens when we reread Euro-American literature with biota rather than homo sapiens as our central concern?" (22). If Gary Snyder and Barry Lopez{52} represent, in some ways, a re-affirmation of a "Mother Nature"--including animal "nature"--whose "personification still tugs at the Western sensibility" (214-15), this move has, of course, its high-canonical antecedents. Moby Dick, for one, may be the best 19th-century American example of "making a nonhuman creature a plausible major character" (4); and Thoreau's pond itself is an "evocation of a nonhuman entity as a major presence, superior to any human being in the text ," an "extraordinary event in the premodern American literary canon, matched only by Melville's white whale" (209).

         But Buell echoes my own suspicions that something went awry between Romanticism's esteem for Nature and the late-twentieth-century revival of that good "Mother": the "kinship between human and nonhuman" had "withered" in the latter 19th-century, and "modernism announced its death" (180). (As for the "Anglo-American lyric from Victorian to modern," there seems to be an "increasing separation of mind from nature" [199].) And so, besides Melville and Thoreau, Buell must go back to British Romanticism as the most laudable "naturist" forebears, touching upon Thompson's Seasons, Coleridge's "Rime," and William Blake: here again, Buell beats me to the punch in highlighting "The Fly" in Blake's corpus: "At times [and especially in this poem,] Blake goes so far as to imagine a complete interchangeability between animal and human" (185).

         Buell also tackles the problem of anthropomorphism in these poets, noting, in their defense, their real concern for such over-personification, evident in Wordsworth's "Preface" and in Ruskin's very conception of the "pathetic fallacy" (188). Besides, 19th-century naturalists per se were frequently guilty of blatant anthropomorphism themselves, leading at last to the rage for animal fiction at the turn of the century (195-96). But this literary fad was not entirely a bad thing, to Buell, for "the practice of representing reality from the animal's perspective tended" to reduce the gap between human and non-human (196).{53}

         But the best contemporary "naturist" works go much further, doing their best to take the "human" out of the equation, in their (sometime) "refusal to imagine nature existing for human benefit or yielding a moral for human consumption" (205).{54} The apparently eternal "myth of kinship" between human and non-human has experienced a revival, then, in part through the science of "ecology" (200), and in part through the genre of writing for which Buell has proselytized throughout his book. Such a feeling of trans-species interconnection may even serve some archetypal need. The return of "Mother Nature" via James Lovelock's "Gaia" (200-201) and the "upsurgence" of neopaganist feminism, etc., are "contemporary signs that the idea of an earth-humanity continuum of more than a material sort may be unsuppressible, that people cannot do without the idea of a 'living earth,' and that humanity is perhaps better off accepting it" (218). To those who would call all this unscientific superstition--well, Buell's own use of the term "myth" throughout gets him (slightly) off the hook here--and besides, "the notion of myth-free scientific discourse is itself a myth" (201).{55}

         Indeed, in the face of scientific and poststructuralist scorn for such notions, "the myth of human-nonhuman kinship has thrived, not withered, in the face of epistemological doubt about where humans stand in relation to the world" (203). True or not, such faith and "imagination" are the best means for arriving at an environmental consciousness and activism: "Nothing dramatizes biotic egalitarianism so poignantly as the myth of the personhood of nonhuman beings" (304). But then Buell slips back into a homocentric attitude when he claims that such a consciousness will at last help humans treat each other better (though the sentence itself is wonderful in its rhetoric): "Who is more likely to treat other people like machines, a person who has trained herself to feel that plants and animals are fellow beings or a person who looks at them as convenient resources?" (217; emphasis added). Buell concludes in sum, then, that the pathetic fallacy, myth or no, may be a pretty good thing from the standpoint of ethics and praxis, whatever its philosophical limitations as myth and "imaginative" construction: "to ban the pathetic fallacy--were such a thing possible--would be worse than to permit its unavoidable excesses" (218).

         Finally, Buell's "animal" discussions touch specifically on birds at one point. As part of his argument that "Literature functions as science's less systematic but more versatile component" (94), he asserts that the writer (and reader) of "naturist" writings should be well-versed enough in natural science to know a hawk from a--to misquote Shakespeare--an owl: "if environmental nonfiction shows itself ignorant of the known facts of nature, it does so at its peril." Such a background is even a great aid in reading fiction and poetry, too, according to Buell--for example, a knowledge of the habits and song of the hermit thrush is important in an understanding of Whitman's "lilacs" poem. To the question, then, "'must we study Roger Torrey[sic] Peterson's bird books in order to study literature?,'" Buell replies, yes, "that would be a very good thing indeed"--though he acknowledges that he doesn't "believe that the poet's or essayist's highest calling has ever been to teach ornithology" (97)!

         Intriguing and seminal as much of the Environmental Imagination is, Buell's relative canonical conservativism relies perhaps too much on a notion of polyphony that grants Western "naturist" texts greater disruptive power than they actually possess--or ignores the intrinsic polyphony of all "texts," ostensibly pro-nature or not. Secondly, his privileging of "Imagination" seems a too great concession to his ideological opposition: this reader, at least, comes away from Buell's text unconvinced that "nature," "place"--and especially other species--have at all been redeemed from their textual/constructivist underpinnings that Buell so frequently acknowledges{56}: thus recent ecological and animal-rights movements are at last, for better or worse, revivals of a "myth," revisions of an ideology that either flows from some history-of-ideas evolution or issues from some archetypal, very human, need. Either way, Buell's move to the Real or "extrospective" seems half-hearted, yet one more example of the theoretical move to embrace the natural/animal Other that falls upon the thorns of its complicity within the dominant critical methodology. And so one reads, for instance, the backhanded-compliment-of-a-claim that "pastoralism is sure to remain a luminous ideal and to retain the capacity to assume oppositional forms for some time to come" (51) with less than unbridled enthusiasm. And the following call to action returns praxis to the thoroughly discursive realm, however "mind-haunting":

. . . the question is whether it [environmental apocalypticism] will rise to the occasion. As ecocatastrophe becomes an increasingly greater possibility, so will the occasions for environmental apocalyptic expression and the likelihood that it will suffuse essay, fiction, film, sculpture, painting, theater, and dance in unprecendentedly powerful, mind-haunting ways. Can our imaginations of apocalypse actually forestall it, as our fears of nuclear holocaust so far have? (308)
(No doubt, my complaints regarding the "merely discursive" must seem painfully ironic and ludicrous to the reader of this--uh, discourse. I'm still finding my way. . . .)

         Problematic, too, is Buell's main binary of "extro-" versus "intro-"--his "dual accountability"--which seems stuck in, and yet obfuscates, the traditional Western dialogue of subject-object dualism: in other words, "both 'subjective' and 'objective' modes of knowing" (278) are "subjective," as epistemologically filtered "knowings," after all, and Buell never really frees himself from this dilemma.

         But the sheer, dazzling comprehensiveness of Buell's argument for his "naturist genre" theory cannot be taken lightly. Above all, his supporting correlatives of self-"relinquishment" and "nature's personhood" are welcome weapons against the Western Self of egoism and homocentrism that has repressed for centuries the vital relationships between humankind and "nature," between homo sapiens and the other species inhabiting the planet. But Buell's nature, au fond, is posited as a construct in quotation marks, ultimately a failure to relinquish his consciousness of (and frequent obeisance to) the intellectual goings-on in Paris and at Yale--milieus as "cloistral" and "urbanized" (to recall epithets from Buell's own critique of academia) as one can--uh--imagine.

         Finally, then, I turn to a Midwestern "theorist" of Native American blood, as one last attempt to flee the "nest" with something more than the "downward . . . wings" of poststructuralist skepticism.{57} Vizenor's essay on animal tropes in literature ("Literary Animals," 1998) makes several precious distinctions that may provide a viable way out of a blanket condemnation of all such tropes as merely anthropomorphic constructs, and therefore necessarily co-opting and "othering." But like most of Vizenor's nonfiction prose, the essay is a tough read for those accustomed to sequential argumentation. Rather than a "straight line" of transitionally linked paragraphs, "Literary Animals" is rather like a series of circles that return again and again to such refrains as "animal (or "creature") presence," "native survivance," and "natural reason"--the meaning of each becoming clearer with each "return." (Indeed, the essay is very like the "disjointed," polyphonic naturist writings that Buell loves.) Most crucially, the ideals of "natural reason and "native survivance" in native literatures are interminably juxtaposed with the literature and worldview of Western "dominance"--the former mode a "union of nature and language" (121), the latter, a monotheistic, speciesist, causality-based bad "translation" of such a union, resulting in a "separation" of "human reason" and animal nature (125, 134).{58} Hence the latter mode's literary animals are usually anthropomorphic "simulations, the mere poses of nature" (131).

         But there is a "warranted" literary anthropomorphism, too, via those native metaphors that "create a sense of creature presence" (125). Sure, all "nature is a trope," Vizenor acknowledges, but language itself can create "one of the real environments" for the kind of "authored animals" that he has in mind (126, 133). Some literary animals, for instance, are inordinately "memorable . . . with their own manners, consciousness, and points of view" (127).{59} While these can even be found in the literature of "dominance"--e.g., Jack London's Buck (127-8)--Vizenor associates them more naturally with Native American literature. Yes, the stereotypical connection of animals and Native Americans is another "nostalgic" mis-translation, Vizenor realizes; but underlying it, nonetheless, is "the insinuation of a creature presence," through which "nativism, animism, and naturalism" are privileged "over theories of evolution and modernism" (131-132). Both native authors and their animal creations are thus "creatures" and "resistance[s] in the literature of survivance" (132, 136, 141), a "native sense of presence" that is especially evident in the novels of Momaday, Silko, and Louise Erdrich (139). Momaday's bear, in particular, becomes a "presence and transcendence at the same time" (136): at last, this author turns into "a bear in his own stories" (137).

         Finally, Vizenor presents his own versions of "metaphor" and "simile"{60} as another way of contrasting native and dominant modes of animal representation. Native "metaphoric" animals "are traces of . . . survivance" (133), as we have seen, and even contain "traces of animal consciousness" (135). Such tropes are "closer to nature and animal consciousness than a literal simile," and create that union of animal nature and human language in which the "authors are animals, the readers are animals, [and] the animals are [often] humans" (142; see also 127). In contrast, (Western) "simile animals" are straightforward anthropomorphic projections, merely "caricatures in literature" (133), symptomatic of "speciesism and comparable to manifest manners and the monotheistic separation of animals and humans" (136).{61} (If this sounds like Paul Shepard, it's not surprising, since Vizenor also quotes him frequently elsewhere in the essay.) Thus the native/animal metaphor is a joining, a trans-special crossing; the simile, on the other hand, is a "disseverance" of humankind from its natural (and native) "horizon" (142).

         The obvious problem with Vizenor's reading is how to ascertain the truly "metaphorical" and the mere "simile" literary animal, without appealing to some new "canon" of Native American authors who are truly able to become bears (or Great Stone Snakes) in their narratives and poetry. Vizenor at least intimates that Western authors could succeed at the former, and the native "succumb" to the latter. One might then extend Vizenor's apparati to Anglo-American literature and ask--is Robinson Jeffers' "Hurt Hawk" a more successful union of language and nature than Tennyson's "The Eagle"? Do D.H. Lawrence's "Snake" and Eberhart's "Groundhog" somehow interject a "trace" of "animal consciousness" that transcends the homocentric concerns of their authors?{62} (I would especially like to apply Vizenor's ideas to the British Romantics closest to my heart: Blake, Wordsworth, and Percy Shelley.) By allowing such questions, Vizenor's "post-Indian" ruminations might thereby prove seminal in a new theory of representation of the "post-human," of trans-species intersubjectivity.

         Despite the many connections I've made between the various texts under review, any aspiration towards a full integration of these works has long fallen by the wayside. As indicated in my "Introduction," cacophony is the rule of the day. One might play with labels, and dub several of the various authors in question as "Paleo-Hunters" (Leopold, Shepard [above all], Meeker, and many Deep Ecologists); some--following Worster's terminology--are earnest "Pastoral-Arcadians" (e.g., a good deal of recent environmentalism issuing from Gilbert White and Thoreau); those who most vehemently proclaim a species egalitarianism, I might call "Radical-Egals" (e.g., Naess, Devall & Sessions, Snyder); there is also a "school" of (utilitarian, for the most part) animal-rights philosophers--none of whom made the "final cut" for this review essay--who might be dubbed "Utili-Vegans" (i.e., Singer and Regan); last but hardly least, and most problematic and provocative--those whom I would diagnose as victims of "Careful Constructivitis"--and here, again, I plead mea culpa--those suffering (so to speak) from the current intellectual deconstructivism of the age, who must place all matters of "nature" under the heady banners of relativist textual-"linguisticism," psychologism, and social constructivism--who try to wallow their way, like tadpoles, out of--or rather don't, and relish?--their own intellectual-miasmal mud. (And right now the power of my own tadpole-tail feels quite feeble, indeed.)

         Philosophically, my own "eco-"stance would yet embrace the notions of biospheric "relatedness," the importance of a "situatedness" in one's (specifically local) environment, and the "denial" or "transcendence" of the Western deification of the human Self or individual. This last rejection, to repeat one of my refrains, is an extension of the critically reputable, poststructural decentering of the entire Western "agenda"; and yet, as conceptualized by Deep Ecology, Lawrence Buell, and Native American "thought," it is also a "decentering" of the entire philosophical weltanschauung that has resulted in the poststructural dilemma that we in the humanities currently face. But I also think that Buell sees the "Native American" approach per se--in spite of his politically correct lip-service--as a retreat and dead-end; and he considers recent "New Age" impulses to recuperate that view, and--say--the Wiccan view, and the most authentic and feeling-based "deep ecological" views--as mere symptoms of the "imaginative" that is his subject than as viable contributions to a truly new synthesis (however syncretic) of the "archaic" and the "Romantic" and the "native" and the "woman"--and the "animal." My own take on the contemporary cultural climate is that such a grassroots synthesis is indeed taking place. A new, greater concern for the plight, the very lives, of the dolphin, whale, wolf, et al., is certainly evident in the collective consciousness. (And culturally speaking, I'm tempted to read the equally popular fascination with extraterrestrial contact and computer intelligence as symptomatic of the same general movement to a trans-special Other.) While one might easily deconstruct or psychoanalyze the motivation for the infatuation of the "masses" for such books as Your Dog and His Dreams (sic), one can't deny--following Buell himself--the renaissance of such interspecies concerns in the Zeitgeist. (But, yes, the Nietzschean-postmodernist in me can't help but keep asking: "And this is all a symptom of--what?")

         And yet there also comes a time when one must buck the tide of the current insular linguisticism of the humanities{63} academia, and to state one's belief that the "imaginative" ability to conceive oneself as a wolf or a bear or a crow is an important thing--and an "imaginative" act that may be necessary for the salvation of the planet. (I could plead Spivak's "strategic essentialism" here--that is, in this crucial "political" case, I will ignore my Nietzschean doubts of transcending the species for the profit of political praxis--but that doesn't seem to go far enough.) But I would still (dangerously, and no doubt naïvely) invoke my Lakota ancestry, in order to 1) position myself outside the dominant Western intellectual hegemony; and 2) to claim a(n admittedly essentialist) visceral, "blood," intuitive "knowledge" that I know that I am indeed related to the crow, and the badger, and the prairie rattlesnake--and the piss-ant, for that matter--in a close and crucial manner. As an independent tack, I would argue that my self-proclaimed identity as a "Neo-Romantic" is no small thing (apart from my "crazy" Indian and Irish backgrounds): for three years now I have read and "suffered" and--I think--understood Monsieurs Foucault and Derrida and their followers. In Jungian terms, they are "thinking" types of analytical preciosity; in Ornstein's brain-physiology terms, they are left-brain types (who write about a "Literature" that is often as right-brained--or Kristevan-semiotic--as language itself can be). In Jungian terms, I am an "intuitive" type; in Ornstein's terms, I'm "right-brained," that is, holistic, intuitive, "feeling." But then, an immediate qualification: Jung's and Ornstein's dichotomies are relative continuums: obviously, my reading in the last three years has exercised my left-brain, "thinking," analytical side to such an extent that I intermittently side with those who would "murder to dissect"--to the point of near self-loathing.

         In terms of my "eco-"subject-matter, I willingly embrace the genre reprivileging of Meeker, Bate, Glotfelty, and Buell, and (going further than some of these scholars) would rate Pearson's "quaint" coffee-table-esque Birds of America as important in a "cultural studies" sense as the poems of Wordsworth or Hopkins. My general dissertation "subject" will be the "avian in literature"; but my standing within "ecocriticism," in doing so, is already a problematic one. As intimated in several places above, "ecocriticism" has usually connoted a discussion of "landscape," of "environment," of "place" (often the author's); much like the chiasm between environmentalists per se and animal-rights spokespeople, there seems to be some implicit assumption that the "eco-"{64} in ecocriticism concerns an environment as "land" and "landscape," usually including an erasure of the fauna (and to a lesser extent, the flora) of such a "land." As an "ecocritic" who would concentrate upon the "animal" and "avian" of our biosphere, I am tempted to rebel already--if the school of ecocriticism itself were not in its salad days--and posit some new school of "zoocriticism" (ZOH-oh-criticism)--as response and reaction to a current ecocriticism that would "flourish" upon solely the flowers, weeds, and soil of its critical terrain.

         Finally, besides species "egalitarianism," I will emphasize the concept of "interspeciality"--or "trans-species intersubjectivity"--as the underlying raison-d'être of my entire treatment of 19th-century British and 20th-century American "naturist" writing. The difference between Vizenor's "simile" and "metaphor" will be seminal to my discussions of, say, Wordsworth's cuckoo, Keats' nightingale, and even Roger Tory Peterson's "American Robin." And Paul Shepard's "animal others" that are, I think, vital parts of my genetic heritage will be the "underdogs" (oh, what a metaphor) that I will champion. I'm even toying with a Neo-Shepardian, Neo-Jungian notion that perhaps we all have "totem animals" within that must be acknowledged--and that poets (especially) actualize in their discourse.

         Right now the crows are speaking outside my window, and I feel an "absence," a "gap," because I am unable to answer them. I can only hope that my dissertation will serve as a (poor and tentative) response to this other species, and language, that I hear--an acknowledgement of, a beckoning to, a vision--or rather, "hearing"--of the "post-human."

         And I think I can still "hear" such voices in the Romantics, despite the many--including my own--diatribes against such a reading/hearing in this essay. Indeed, what drew me to these writers originally as an undergraduate, I'm sure now, was the (however problematic) link between the Lakota worldview and the various gestures of "mystical" empathy evident in Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, et al. Currently perusing Symons' tribute to and defense of a movement that was perhaps the dying gasp of Romanticism, I came across, just now, Symons' praise of Huysmans for showing

. . . how inert matter, the art of stones, the growth of plants, the unconscious life of beasts, may be brought under the same law of the soul, may obtain, through symbol, a spiritual existence. . . . What is Symbolism if not an establishing of the links which hold the world together, the affirmation of an eternal, minute, intricate, almost invisible life, which runs through the whole universe? (Symbolist Movement 145){65}
What is ecocriticism or "ecological consciousness," I would ask, but the reverse translation of the above, a "showing" how the (idealized and homocentric) "laws" of the human "soul" are actually those of stones, and of plants, and of the "unconscious life" of that "beast" of a crow speaking outside my window?

 



NOTES

1  Lawrence Buell apparently paraphrases Nietzsche, though without credit, as follows: "Both [Whitman and Janovy] affirm that the caddis fly is just as real as we are, has just as much right as you and I to be taken as the center of the universe around which everything else shall revolve" (107). Buell's trans-species intersubjectivity (as I call it) is, in part, a re-education of the reader (and critic), by raising "the question of the validity of the self as the primary focalizing device for both reader and writer: to make one wonder . . . whether the self is as interesting an object of study as we supposed, whether the world would become more interesting if we could see it from the perspective of a wolf, a sparrow, a river, a stone" (179).

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2  Indeed, as Bloom has put it, "Wordsworth, whose art depends upon persuading the reader that relationship with external selves and landscapes is still possible, is an immense master at estranging other selves and every landscape from himself" (126).

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3  Thus, for Nietzsche, the concept of species involves "giving a false reality to a fiction," a part of the human "compulsion" to "arrange" reality "for ourselves" (The Will to Power §521; see also 684, and Buell 156-157, where the latter questions "species" not via Nietzsche but through "evolutionary biology."). But elsewhere in the same work, Nietzsche refers to species as if they were reality, and no doubt so will I. At last, homo sapiens might best be conceived through Spivak's strategic essentialism or Benedict Anderson's "imaginary community," as a useful political construct.

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4  Buell uses both "ecocentrism" and "ecocentricity" (e.g., 144)--but the latter must be regarded as a less happy coinage, since it might readily tempt less sympathetic readers to omit the "o"!

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5  Indeed, Harold Bloom deems the self of the "Romantic vision," from Wordsworth to Freud, as perhaps as more troubled by the Cartesian split of self and other than their pre-Cartesian "precursors" (38).

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6  As Lawrence Buell notes, such a disembodied "'objective self'" of Western philosophy, ironically, "does not have anything to do with the world of objects" (279).

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7  For example, Buell discusses nature as "the sign under which women and nonwhites have been grouped in the process of themselves being exploited even while being relished as spontaneous" and "exotic" (21); furthermore, one of the "vatic sublimities of earlier [19th-century] nature representation" is the "conflation of indigenes with the environment" (79). At last, "orthodox versions of American literary naturism . . . have been based on texts by Anglo-American males," whose "representations of nature contain misogynist and racist elements" (16).

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8  I've recently learned that the term "ecocriticism" was suggested by Rueckert's editor, Professor Ed Folsom. Earlier, in 1972, Joseph Meeker had posited a "literary ecology," defined as "the study of biological themes and relationships that appear in literary works" (7): "biological," however, seems too limiting a term.

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9  As for what that praxis is, Buell quotes Timothy O'Riordan approvingly: "Ecocriticism preaches the virtues of reverence, humility, responsibility, and care; it argues for low impact technology (but it is not antitechnological); it decries bigness and impersonality in all forms (but especially in the city); and demands a code of behavior that seeks permanence and stability based upon ecological principles of diversity and homeostasis" (425).

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10  Devall and Sessions's contrast of its "perennial philosophy" with the dominant hegemonic view is similar, as we will see, to Worster's seminal distinction between the "arcadian" and "imperialist" approaches to nature; and Deep Ecology is fraught with many of both the positives and negatives that the "arcadian" worldview entails.

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11  In the interests of eco-equality, the authors also call to task the Animal Rights movement, as a "Moral Extensionism" that is not egalitarian enough [55], that still maintains a hierarchy: i.e., animals are "better" than plants?"; "higher" animals deserve more "rights"? Still, one wonders about the political wisdom of attacking such a potential political ally.

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12  My own youthful--however lower-class--experiences were just so--an "escape," really, into a nature free of the hierarchies that had, I felt, imprisoned me; but could I assume that every "food-stamp" person such as I had recourse to such a "pleasure"?: NO.

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13  Thus even a recent ecocritic as carefully constructivist as Buell can still embrace Deep Ecology's egalitarianism with (muted) approval: for instance, "Leopold's definition of community suggests" that "interrelatedness implies also equality of members" (303).

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14  Here Meeker's affinity with that champion of "hunter-gatherers," Paul Shepard--a "friend" whom he quotes often--is evident: for both authors, humankind's agricultural stage was an evolutionary period to be lamented, and Meeker finds it sad that "No pastoral poet ever gets nostalgic thinking about Paleolithic hunters" (57)!

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15  In contrast, pastoral is more "prescriptive" than "descriptive" (70).

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16  Given Meeker's theme of "play," I searched hard for a reference to Schiller, but failed.

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17  For instance, his list of the "playful" attributes of Dante's Paradise is really an exercise in superlatives: "perfect(ly)" "genuine(ly)," "exactly," "unimpededly," "powerful," "great," "complete," "fully," "really," and "best" (101-102).

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18  The essays referred to are as follows: Cheryll Glotfelty: "Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis" (xv-xxxvii); Lynn White, Jr.: "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis" (3-14); William Howarth: "Some Principles of Ecocriticism" (69-91); William Rueckert: "Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism" (105-123); SueEllen Campbell: "The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet" (124-136); David Mazel: "American Literary Environmentalism as Domestic Orientalism" (137-146); Joseph W. Meeker: "The Comic Mode" (153-169); Annette Kolodny: "Unearthing Herstory: An Introduction" (170-181); Paula Gunn Allen: "The Sacred Hoop: A Contemporary Perspective" (241-263); and Thomas J. Lyon: "A Taxonomy of Nature Writing" (276-281).

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19  In a related vein, Lawrence Buell claims that "modern environmentalists . . . are contemporary new world pastoralists" (55), and also notes Western naturalist writing's complicity in colonial imperialism: at last, the "American idealization of nature and wilderness . . . has come to seem increasingly suspect" (35, 62-63).

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20  Specific essays referred to are as follows: Richard Kerridge: "Introduction" (1-9); Dominic Head: "The (Im)possibility of Ecocriticism" (27-39); Jonathan Bate: "Poetry and Biodiversity" (53-70); Gretchen Legler: "Body Politics in American Nature Writing . . ." (71-87); John Lucas: "Crabbe's Disorderly Nature" (110-123); M. Jimmie Killingsworth and Jacqueline S. Palmer: "Ecopolitics and the Literature of the Borderland . . ." (196-207); and Karla Armbruster: "Creating the World We Must Save . . ." (276-281).

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21  Buell will perform a similar move: "The contrary evidence [of an "objective" naturalist realism] is as simple as breathing subzero air"; certainly (and unfortunately), "in the discursive world such evidence can be repressed"--but still "the repressed [of the natural environment] overtakes us at every turn" (111, 90).

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22  As for other English "green" forebears, Bate quotes Gilbert White early on, "from where it is a short step to those key Romantic texts, Coleridge's notebooks and the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth" (38).

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23  "All who walk in the [English] National parks are legatees of Wordsworth" (49).

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24  Buell deems this general attitude (referring to Burroughs, specifically) as "the discourse of nature-as-elite-androcentric-preserve" (39)!

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25  The term was first used by Arne Naess, as the philosophy of Deep Ecology (99); but Branch doesn't even give Naess in a footnote.

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26  In a similar attack on poststructuralism, Buell laments a "philosophical antireferentialism" that "underrepresents the claims of the environment on humanity by banishing it from the realms of discourse except as something absent," and concludes that "not mimesis [i.e., naturalist realism] but antireferentialism [i.e., the poststructural denial of referentiality] looks like the police" (102).

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27  Like Buell, Branch would see Walden and Barry Lopez, for instance, "as trenchant artistic precursors to environmental awareness, and as cultural monuments to ecosophical wisdom" (49).

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28  Thus for Buell, too, the "Emersonian dream of nature," in Jeffers, has been "purged of its theistic residue," assuming the "status of an ecological ethic" (162).

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29  While Gare praises the abundantly fertile "rhizome" or "metaphor of grass" notion of Deleuze and Guatarri, as an antidote to Western "arborescent" systemizations (70-71), it remains a mostly unseeded plot of ground in the author's later call for localization.

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30  Similarly--and scarier yet--"For poststructuralists, [even] the notion of a 'global environmental crisis' can be deconstructed" (99).

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31  What this new myth is, besides the scientific potpourri recounted above is rather vague; apparently it's a very Bergsonian one, in which "[e]ach individual process or sub-process within the universe is like a melody singing itself within a symphony" (142).

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32  I had decided upon a similar shift in my own dissertation, from 19th-century British to 20th-century American texts, before encountering Worster. I swear.

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33  Such early play is a "precursor to poetry and metaphor" (88). Later, in adulthood, even our slang language about sexuality is all "animal"--e.g., "cock," "cunt" (i.e., cony or rabbit), "pussy," and "ass" (66).

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34  "[A]nimals are guides, gatekeepers, couriers, and exemplars, as they are epiphanies of aspects of ourselves" (329).
         I'm even more convinced by Shepard's argument as I read De Quincey's Confessions right now, the opium nightmares of whom include haunting tropical birds, snakes, and--the perfidious crocodile--as if De Quincey's "reptilian brain" were reacting against his "crime" of addiction--and (in Jungian terms) of ego inflation (243-45).

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35  "As the planet becomes more destitute, the triple doorways of triage will open first to the rich; secondly, partly, to the poor; but the third class, the non-humans, already drowning, will not be saved by our toy arks, the zoos" (234).

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36  E.g.: Singer, Peter. Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals. New York: Random House, 1975; Regan, Tom. The Case for Animal Rights. Berkeley: U of California P, 1983.

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37  "Human political rights are meaningless as interspecial relationships" (320).

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38  Even today humans "are space-needing, wild-country, Pleistocene beings, trapped in overdense numbers in devastated, simplified ecosystems" (317). Shepard's various complaints about human over-population (the "hideous overabundance of humans" [319]), our need for the "wild," and his emphasis on the ecological "big picture" place him pretty firmly in the Deep Ecology camp.

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39  See, for instance, William Howarth (Glotfelty and Fromm 87).

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40  And so Thoreau had "an almost neopagan sense of the neighborliness of nature that only the Wordsworths among recent major writers had approached" (211).

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41  Buell continues: "Writing and reading are acts usually performed indoors, unachievable without long shifts of attention away from the natural environment" (84); moreover, poststructuralism, especially, is "characteristic" of a "metropolitan-based" critical theory (36); and so, at last, "To investigate literature's capacity for articulating the nonhuman environment is not one of the things that modern professional readers of literature have been trained to do" (84, 36, 10; see also 85).

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42  Granted, "There are many courses in 'The Nature Poets' in American colleges, but nature is usually left out of them" (Joseph Wood Krutch; qtd. in Buell 9). Critical theory is to blame, in particular, for "marginalizing literature's referential dimension," in its purported goal "to render merely epiphenomenal the responsiveness of literature to the natural world" (86). In sum, Buell wonders "whether the discrediting of realism" undertaken by modernism and postmodernism "has gone too far" (87).

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43  The "Good," "environmentally oriented work" has the following features: 1) in them, the "nonhuman environment" is a veritable "presence," not just a "framing device" of setting; 2) "human interest" is not the "only legitimate interest"; 3) there is an "ethical orientation" regarding "human accountability to the environment"; 4) there exists a notion of "environment as process," not stasis. Naturally, most literary texts qualify "marginally . . . but few qualify unequivocally" (7-8).

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44  Buell's polyphonic reading thus allows him to counter common deconstructive (e.g., Hartman) and New Historicist takes on naturist Romanticism: "The conception of represented nature as an ideological screen becomes unfruitful if it is used to portray the green world as nothing more than projective fantasy or social allegory" (36; emphasis added).

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45  Harold Bloom seems to come to a similar conclusion in The Anxiety of Influence: "We need to stop thinking of any poet as an autonomous ego" (91); but his "attack" on the ego privileges the quite human (and Freudian) "family romance" of literary influence.

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46  Thompson (The Seasons), Leopold, Dillard, and Celia Thaxter are master "teases" in this regard. (Buell, in fact, uses "tease" a good deal in this discussion; elsewhere, "seasonal representations tease us toward awareness of ourselves as environmental beings" [251; emphasis mine]. One hopes to understand "tease" in such contexts as something more than a rhetorical trick!)

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47  American "nature," especially, is an historical evolution of ideologies, incorporating 1) the "image of old world desire," then 2) the "image of American cultural nationalism," and then 3) that of "American exceptionalism": indeed, "American tastes" for nature writing "always in some measure were culturally produced" (17), and the American idea of nature itself has always partaken in an "artificiality" largely due to the "importance of the pastoral, frontier, and wilderness themes to the American imagination" (5, 6, 15, 17).

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48  But, of course, "even hard-headed professionals" like Leopold and Carson "may begin to see these totalizing concepts "in strangely decentered ways," resulting in polyphonic, defamiliarizing presentations thereof (302).

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49  Likewise, through the "myth" of "kinship" between human and non-human, "the extinction of a large nonhuman population begins to feel[?!] like a holocaust" (304). With no disrespect towards the Holocaust victims of World War II, I would contend that Buell's "feel" is a homocentric hedging and retreat from his own claims to a "biotic egalitarianism": to the thinking of some, the extinction of an entire (other) species is even more "tragic" than a human-specific "holocaust."

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50  James Fenimore Cooper's daughter, for instance, possesses "a Dorothy Wordsworth-like keenness of environmental perception" (47).

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51  As for Thoreau's relationship to the Native American viewpoint, he "never fully entered it" (212).

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52  Lopez, especially, "tries to imagine nonhuman perception--how an island looks to a loon or land terrain to a fox"; and regarding Arctic Dreams, Buell contends, "No work of settler literature ever dramatized more conscientiously the aboriginal principle that 'the animals one encounters are part of one's community, and one has obligations to them'" (271).

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53  On the other hand, such blatantly anthropomorphic works were a "kind of a hybrid that Burroughs found uncomfortable: 'a psychological romance constructed on a framework of natural science'" (196); furthermore, most such stories gave their animal characters human attributes that tended towards the positive, redeeming (and comforting) side, thereby "projecting their [authors' and species'] ethical standards onto the animal kingdom" (197-198).

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54  Not that homocentrism isn't the dominant mode even today, when we still care about other species "only for reasons of species self-interest (keeping our environment safe)" (21).

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55  As a neo-Romantic (and sometime neo-Jungian) myself, I have little problem reading "myth" in the (largely) positive light that Buell no doubt intends it; but his (over-)use of the term as a refrain of sorts begins to grate on the mind's ear, with the strong suggestion that Buell is doing a continual dance of distancing here--a mincing circumspection of a new "Harvard School," as it were, that would almost make the Yale School proud.

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56  For instance, "the sense of place is necessarily always a social product and not simply what is 'there'" (77; see also 84, 267); and only one steeped in postmodern theory could write that finding this sense of place "ought to be considered a utopian project . . . an incompletion . . . always in the process of finding" (260).

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57  I refer to Stevens' great coda to "Sunday Morning," "Downward in darkness, on extended wings" (70): Stevens' intent here, I think, is to contrast this flight of a real, "casual flock of pigeons" to such false iconographies as the Holy Spirit as "dove." But one could also read the line metaphorically--in a manner that Buell (and I in my better mind) would rightly protest!--as also a nice summation of the philosophical-spiritual "direction" of the twentieth century, from modernism to postmodernism, into a truly self-imposed descent into a "spiritual darkness" of arbitrary signs, and deconstruction, and erasure.

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58  The tropes of native literature are also usually "translated . . . with minimal comprehension of native intentions and meaning" in the pedagogy and criticism of the dominant Western view (134)--like animal alterity itself, I might add. Vizenor also scorns the dominant-imperialist penchant for "learned critiques of anthropomorphism" (143), as another mode of (mis-)translation--although Vizenor's essay is quite the "learned critique" itself.

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59  Vizenor calls such animals "heroic and ironic" (i.e., ironic as "human" characters and narrators); they are also "distinct creations of mutant omniscience" (128); and at last, they're the "eternal animal, the contrarious animal other of animism and the ultramundane" (131).
         But Vizenor perhaps puts too much stock in individualized, full-charactered literary animals as necessarily positive; one could easily imagine such a "round" animal character remaining completely anthropocentric--in an allegory, for instance.

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60  In other words, Vizenor's distinction isn't based entirely on the formal/grammatical difference between the two, since he reads some of Erdrich's "as/like" (formal) similes as more akin to native "metaphor" than to the anthropocentric "similes" of dominance and othering.

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61  "Manifest manners" is Vizenor's term (and book title) for the dominant Western imperialist worldview. As for monotheism, he scorns its impact as much as Shepard does: "Monotheistic creation is a separation of animals and humans in nature and literature" (142).

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62  Buell, as we have seen, argues similarly against a blanket condemnation of Western nature writing as imperialist. Sure, regarding the "quest for environmental literacy" in Wordsworth, Snyder, et al., "one could deconstruct this interest" easily enough (108): "Nevertheless, we would be obtuse in lumping all environmental representations together as fabricated impositions" (77).

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63  Of course, the term "humanities" must go, eventually, as symptomatic of the worldview I'm arguing against!

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64  The "eco-" in "ecology" and "ecocriticism" is of homocentric origin, anyway: "eco" = "house" or "household," and the assumption of some sort of human, domestic economy, etymologically speaking, underlies the whole project.

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65  One must note that this angle is pretty uncharacteristic, however, of Symons' general conceptions of a movement that would be most "natural," by denying, as it were, external nature in favor of the "soul," the "mysterious," and the "Absolute": the job of the symboliste poet, after all, isn't "to catalogue the trees of the forest" (8)--rather, it is apparently to obfuscate those trees within the dense fog of Symons' aestheticized brand of "Mysticism."

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WORKS CITED

Review Texts--
Bate, Jonathan.  Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition.
      London: Routledge, 1991.
Branch, Michael.  "Ecocriticism: The Nature of Nature in Literary Theory and
      Practice."  Weber Studies: An Interdisciplinary Humanities Journal 11.1
      (1994): 41-55.
Buell, Lawrence.  The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and
      the Formation of American Culture.  Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.
Devall, Bill and Sessions, George.  Deep Ecology: Living As If Nature Mattered.
      Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith, 1985.
Gare, Arran E.  Postmodernism and the Environmental Crisis.  London:
      Routledge, 1995.
Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm, eds.  The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks
      in Literary Ecology  Athens: U of Georgia P, 1996.
Kerridge, Richard, and Neil Sammells, eds.  Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism
      and Literature.  London: Zed Books, 1998.
Meeker, Joseph W.  The Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic.
      3rd Ed.  Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1997.
Shepard, Paul.  The Others: How Animals Made Us Human.  Washington, D.C.:
      Island, 1996.
Vizenor, Gerald.  "Literary Animals."  Fugitive Poses: Native American Scenes of
      Absence and Presence.  Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1998.  119-143.
Worster, David.  Nature's Economy: The Roots of Ecology.  San Francisco:
      Sierra Club, 1977.

Other References--
Bloom, Harold.  The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry.  New York:
      Oxford UP, 1973.
De Quincey, Thomas.  Confessions of an English Opium Eater [1821].
      Ware: Wordsworth, 1994.
Kroeber, Karl.  Ecological Literary Criticism: Romantic Imagining and the
      Biology of Mind.  New York: Columbia UP, 1994.
Naess, Arne.  "The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement. A
      Summary."  Inquiry 16 (1973): 95-100.
Nietzsche, Friedrich.  "On Truth and Falsity in Their Extramoral Sense" [1873].
      Trans. Maximilian A. Mügge.  Philosophical Writings.  Ed. Reinhold Grimm
      and Caroline Molina y Vedia.  New York: Continuum, 1995.  87-99.
---.  The Will to Power [1888].  Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale.
      Ed. Walter Kaufmann.  New York: Random House, 1968.
Ritvo, Harriet.  The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the
      Victorian Age.  Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1987.
Stevens, Wallace.  The Collected Poems.  New York: Vintage, 1990.
Symons, Arthur.  The Symbolist Movement in Literature [1899].  London:
      Constable, 1911.
Wordsworth, William.  The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth.  Ed. Ernest de
      Selincourt and Helen Darbishire.  5 vols.  Oxford: Clarendon, 1940-54.

 



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