Top Ten Classics of Ecocriticism

The Machine in the Garden, Leo Marx (1967)

For over four decades, Leo Marx’s work has focused on the relationship between technology and culture in 19th- and 20th-century America. His research helped to define–and continues to give depth to–the area of American studies concerned with the links between scientific and technological advances, and the way society and culture both determine these links. The Machine in the Garden fully examines the difference between the “pastoral” and “progressive” ideals which characterized early 19th-century American culture, and which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental and nuclear debates of contemporary society. (from Amazon)

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Topophilia, Yi-Fu Tuan (1974)

What are the links between environment and world view? Topophilia, the affective bond between people and place, is the primary theme of this book that examines environmental perceptions and values at different levels: the species, the group, and the individual. Yi-Fu Tuan holds culture and environment and topophilia and environment as distinct in order to show how they mutually contribute to the formation of values. Topophilia examines the search for environment in the city, suburb, countryside, and wilderness from a dialectical perspective, distinguishes different types of environmental experience, and describes their character. (from Amazon)

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The City and the Country, Raymond Williams (1975)

Raymond Williams’ foundational study considers how the city and the country, two ideological poles of British life, have shifted throughout the different stages of the country’s history. He tracks the parallel development of industrial capitalism and a culture that increasingly idealizes rural spaces and ways of life, arguing that this reification of the British landscape masks the increased material exploitation of the country by the city.

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The Death of Nature, Carolyn Merchant (1980)

Merchant’s germinal work in ecofeminism examines the Scientific Revolution to show how the mechanistic world view of modern science has sanctioned the exploitation of nature, unrestrained commercial expansion, and a new socioeconomic order that subordinates women.

“[Merchant] continually forges strong links between the events of centuries long past ant the dilemmas faced by 20th-century industrialized societies.” –— Environmental Review (from Amazon)

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The End of Nature, Bill McKibbon (1989)

This impassioned plea for radical and life-renewing change is today still considered a groundbreaking work in environmental studies. McKibben’s argument that the survival of the globe is dependent on a fundamental, philosophical shift in the way we relate to nature is more relevant than ever. McKibben writes of our earth’s environmental cataclysm, addressing such core issues as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer. More than simply a handbook for survival or a doomsday catalog of scientific prediction, this classic, soulful lament on Nature is required reading for nature enthusiasts, activists, and concerned citizens alike. (from Amazon)

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Romantic Ecology, Jonathan Bate (1991)

In identifying Wordsworth’s interest in nature as a vital, ecological interest, and linking it with the ecological debate in political history, Bate’s study attempts to define the politics of poetry. Wordsworth is shown as a wisdom figure and the guide to a pastoral consciousness we cannot afford to neglect. The author displays the fundamentals in Wordsworth’s poetry of place, including that peculiar emphasis on locality inherited by, amongst others, Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas and Seamus Heaney. (from Amazon)

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The Idea of Wilderness, Max Oelschlaeger (1993)

How has the concept of wild nature changed over the milennia? And what have been the environmental consequences? In a work of intellectual history, the author presents an examination of humankind’s relationship with the natural world through the ages – from early teomism through Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian supernaturalism to the rise of materialism and modernism. (from Amazon)

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The Environmental Imagination, Lawrence Buell (1995)

With the environmental crisis comes a crisis of the imagination, a need to find new ways to understand nature and humanity’s relation to it. This is the challenge Lawrence Buell takes up in The Environmental Imagination, the most ambitious study to date of how literature represents the natural environment. With Thoreau’s Walden as a touchstone, Buell gives us a far-reaching account of environmental perception, the place of nature in the history of western thought, and the consequences for literary scholarship of attempting to imagine a more “ecocentric” way of being. In doing so, he provides a major new understanding of Thoreau’s achievement and, at the same time, a profound rethinking of our literary and cultural reflections on nature. (from Amazon)

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The Ecocriticism Reader, ed. Cheryl Glotfelty and Harold Fromm

The Ecocriticism Reader is the first collection of its kind, an anthology of classic and cutting-edge writings in the rapidly emerging field of literary ecology. Exploring the relationship between literature and the physical environment, literary ecology is the study of the ways that writing both reflects and influences our interactions with the natural world. An introduction to the field as well as a source book, The Ecocriticism Reader defines ecological literary discourse and sketches its development over the past quarter-century. (from Amazon)

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Pastoral, Terry Gifford (1999)

Pastoral is a succinct and up-to-date introductory text to the history, major writers and critical issues of this genre. Terry Gifford clarifies the different uses of pastoral covering the history of the genre, the pastoral impulse of retreat and return, and post-pastoral texts with a look at writers who have discovered ways of reconnecting us with our natural environment. (from Amazon)

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