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Anne's Eco-Reading Notes, Summer 2015

Anne Dalke's picture

August 8, 2015
Paul Outka, Race and Nature: From Transcendentalism to the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
Although both people of color and whites are deeply engaged in environmental struggles, the nature each group is concerned with remains markedly different. One environment is inhabited, toxic; the other is uninhabited, wild, pure, untouched except by the gaze of the privileged visit. American wilderness is all its empty(ied) glory (1) remains a largely white preserve, while urban, polluted landscapes have long been identified with people of color….”wilderness”…marks a dehistoricized space in which the erasure of the histories of human habitation, ecological alteration, and native genocide that preceded its “wild” valorization is, literally, naturalized. As Stuart Hall notes, “the hope of every ideology is to naturalize itself out of History into Nature, and thus to become invisible, to operate unconsciously”….The absence of people of color from a nature defined by the absence of people…is certainly at the root of the larger, racially tinged, antiurbanism that afflicts mainstream environmentalism to this day….This legacy—in which whites viewed black people as part of the natural world, and then proceeded to treat them with the same mixture of contempt, false reverence, and real exploitation that also marks American environmental history—inevitably makes the possibility of an uncomplicated union with the natural world less readily available to African Americans than it has been to whites who, by and large, have not suffered from such a history (2).

Looking down, there may be bones and ashes; breathing in, a sickly sweet smell; listening, the sound of dogs; looking out, strange fruit. When we can see this, as well as the mountain, we may be seeing something that looks more like the American landscape in all its contradictory nature, rather than a mystical and romanticized construction write sublimely large. This book attempts…an examination of how natural experience became racialized in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America (4).
to form and maintain two landscapes and two races—one endlessly exploitable, traumatized, and enslaved, and one unspoiled, sublime, “outside” of race, culture, and history, eternally free—out of a single place and a single species necessitates a wide-ranging and ever-renewed ideological police action. This book works against that action (9),
Two primary theoretical modes—sublimity and trauma—govern this transition from ambiguity to naturalized definition, each marking one end of a continuum of possible resolutions…I insist on both their linkage and difference….both sublimity and trauma are discourses of unrepresentability, naming intensely meaningful experiences that in some way exceed the subjects’ descriptive power…they are also quite different for the racially (un)marked subjects who experience them (14).
the sublime an experience of potent uncertainty, a moment in which the identities of self and world become energetically interpenetrative (15).
the failure to produce the sublime is…a mark of the subject’s bondage and degradation (19).
Cathy Caruth offers a straightforward definition of Post-Traumatic Stress disorder….marked by the repeated eruption of traumatic stress later…This delayed reaction often takes the form of a repetition compulsion, a quite literal re-experiencing of the initial trauma….Such moments of recollection are generally absolutely literal…This literality makes their re-experiencing itself traumatic, reinscribing the original unbearable moment in a kind of agonized feedback loop. PTSD can be particularly severe when the originating event erupts unexpectedly, catching its subject unawares. The result is frequently hypervigilance …the “readiness to feel anxiety”…. repetition marked by a pathological anxiety produced as a sort of ex-post-facto readiness for the originary event. Traumatic experience is literally unbearable when it actually occurs, impossible to assimilate into the structure of the mutually constituting representations of identity and world that define subjectivity  (21).
“the inability fuly to witness the event as it occurs, or the ability to witness the event fully only at the cost of witnessing oneself…The force of this experience would appear to arise…in the collapse of its understanding”…analogues in the sublime’s definitional experience of potent ambiguity….Like sublimity, trauma names a textual break or a limit in the ability of a subject to understand…a break….however, it is important not simply to fold them into each other….Where the natural sublime enshrines a representational disjunction, a moment when the material Otherness of the world pierces its linguistic representation, trauma retains an absolute materiality…Trauma’s materiality repeatedly disrupts… (22).
The sublime is, famously, the experience of something we are frightened of seen from a position of relative safety…a secondary effect of voyeurism of the traumatic, a view of suffering from a position just outside its emotional event horizon…the border between sublimity and trauma might be defined as the border between the possibility of emotionally experiencing the traumatic events from a position (just, and often precariously ) external to it, and the point when the distinction between an interior, feeling, observing self and the external world has utterly collapsed (23).
sublimity ultimately defines a limit to that instability behind which the self shelters, trauma an unmanageable excess that consumes the self….sublimity may in fact be a sign of, or repression of, trauma….This stereotypical experience of Romantic sublimity, of a powerful unmarked subjectivity “naturally” outside of history, culture and race, serves as an important idealized version of white racial experience generally…one essential move of white supremacy involves such a suspension of context…to signify that which is transhistorical (24).
By contrast…trauma violently limits those possibilities, collapses the distinction between the subject and nature, makes human subjects into natural objects, which then are available for exploitation (25).
Chpter 7: White Flight
in the famous conclusion to Twain’s novel, the “Territory” of the American West performs what becomes its iconic role, offering a fantasy domain…substitute for the constraints of …”sivilization”….In the place of the all-too-real cruelty, criminality, and racism of the Mississippi river towns...the Territory offers a mythic escape…where social entrenchment is magically lifted, and a fresh start is possible outside of the entrapments of history, politics, racism, economics, and the like…at the end of a novel so basically concerned with the impossibility of escaping such entrapments, however,…such a promise of escape begs many of the same questions it purports to foreclose (151).
the narrative authority…shifts from…realism to…derivative Romanticism….part of a larger pattern in which whiteness recoiled form an engagement with various forms of naturalized black trauma….As Frederick Jackson Turner asserted…”the true point of view in the history of this nation…is the Great West….when American history comes to be rightly viewed it will be seen that the slavery question is an incident” (152).
the entanglement between sublimity and trauma…persisted at the end of the century….”wildness” marked a psychic as well as geographic spaces far enough from slavery to make the wild’s promise of freedom seem fully sublime in its intensity….the West provided a place where whiteness could imagine its formation outside of the long terrible history of the black/white racial binary…nature was used to evoke and supplant trauma  (153).
The white fantasy of the West…marks…the creation of a natural space where the racial trauma that had organized the national geography…could be left behind, and whiteness could…become natural rather than historical. The natural sublime was essential to this contradictory process (154).
Chapter 8: Migrations
“…the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me” (Richard Wright)
a careful embrace of the beauty of the rural Southern landscape emerged in the literature of the Harlem Renaissance as Northern black writers looked back from a relatively safe distance….the connection with the land...remained dangerous and painful, making nature a locus of vulnerability (172).
Despite the temptation to read the end of the novel as celebrating Janie’s hard-fought freedom and independence, such readings overlook the fact that Tea Cake bites Janie before he dies…Tea Cake’s bite put Janie at significant risk for rabies, an infection that often would not manifest itself for weeks, months, or years, an incubation period that could extend well after the novel’s end…Hurson means to leave open the very real possibility that…Janie...will herself go mae and die, that her voice and independence will be swept away and that she will herself incarnate the seemly endless violence and animalized trauma that indelibly marks the history of African-American natural experience. That such an ending would feel horrible, forced, unnatural, brutal-- as pointless and familiar as Tea Cake’s –might well be Hurston’s point . Certainly it is a fine argument for moving to the city (200).

Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
along with finitude, what we share with…other living selves—whether bacterial, floral, fungal, or animal—is the fact that how we represent the world around us is in some way or another constitutive of our being (6).
What differentiates life…is that life-forms represent the world…and these representations are intrinsic to their being…we all live with and through signs (9).
This way of understanding semiosis can help us move…toward a monistic [approach], in which how humans represent jaguars and how jaguars represent human can be understood as of a single, open-ended story (9).
Everyday entangled with that second life of sleep and its dreams….dreams spill into wakefulness and wakefulness into dreams in a way that entangles both….Dreams too are part of the empirical, and they are a kind of real. They grow out of and work on the world, and learning to be attuned to their special logics and their fragile forms of efficacy helps reveal something about the world beyond the human (13).
signs are not exclusively human affairs. All living beings sign. We humans are therefore at home with the multitude of semiotic life. In the process it makes what’s what we’ve taken to be the human condition—namely, the paradoxical, and “provincialized,” fact that our nature is to live immersed in the “unnatural” worlds we construct—appear a little strange (42).
Pierce insisted that “generals are real.” That is, habits, regularities, patterns, relationality, future possibilities, and purposes…have an eventual efficacy, and they can originate and manifest themselves in worlds outside of human minds….The world is characterized by “the tendency of all things to take habits”…the general tendency in the universe toward an increase in entropy…the less common tendency toward increases in regularity, exhibited in self-organizing processes…and life, with its ability to…create an increasing array of novel kinds of regularities, amplifies this tendency toward habit taking. This tendency is what makes the world potentially predictable and what makes life as a semiotic process, which is ultimately inferential, possible. For it is only because the world has some semblance of regularity that it can be represented. Signs are habits about habits….all signs are intrinsically triadic, in that they all represent something to a someone (59).
growth requires learning something about the habits around us, and yet this often involves a disruption of our habituated expectations of what the world is like….[in] what Haraway calls “a sense of the world’s independent sense of humor’…in such moments of “shock”…the habits of the world make themselves manifest…we don’t usually notice the habits we in-habit. It is only when the world’s habits clash with our expectations that the world in its otherness, and its existent actuality as something other than what we currently are, is revealed. The challenge that follows this disruption is to grow…to create a new habit that will encompass this foreign habits, and in the process, to remake ourselves…anew, as one with the world around us (63).
mean-ings…emerge in a world of living thoughts beyond the human…the forests...are animate…these forests house other emergent loci of mean-ings, ones that do not necessarily revolve around, or originate from, humans …forests think…we humans are not the only selves in this world…not the only kinds of we (72).
How is it that indifference, confusion, and forgetting are so central to the lives of thoughts and the selves that come to house them? The strange and productive power of confusion in the living thought challenges some of our basic assumptions about the roles that difference and otherness…and identity…play in social theory. This can help us rethink relationality (73).
if selves are thoughts and the logic through which they interact is semiotic, then relation is representation (83)
How thoughts grow by association with other thoughts is not categorically different from how selves related to one another. Selves are signs. Lives are thoughts. Semiosis is alive. And the world is thereby animate (99).
thoughts and lives grow by capturing differences in the world….but difference, for the living thought, is not everything….Relating is based neither on intrinsic difference nor on intrinsic similarity…a process prior…depends on a form of confusion…(or forgetting, or indifference) (100).
Form…is not imposed from above; it falls out…an outcome of a kind of interpretive effort….verbal play…can create unexpected associations. This kind of exploratory freedom is I think what Claude Lévi-Strauss was getting at when he wrote of savage thought…as “mind in its untamed state as distinct from (176) mind cultivated or domesticated for the purpose of yielding a return.” It is also something, I believe that Sigmund Freud grasped in his recognition of how the unconscious partakes of the kind of self-organizing logic to which Levi-Strauss is alluding. Such a logic is well exemplified in Freud’s writing on dreams. It is also visible in his treatment of slips of the tongue, malapropisms, and forgotten names. These emerge in the course of everyday conversation when for some reason the intended word is repressed and they sometimes, as Freud noted with wonder, circulate contagiously from one person to another. English translations of his work call these “mistaken” utterances parapraxes, from parapraxis, the defective performance of certain purposive acts….when thought’s “purpose of yielding a return” is removed what is left is that which is ancillary to or beyond what is practical: the fragile but effortless iconic propagation of self-organizing thought, which resonates with and thereby explores its environment….Freud’s insight, gesturing quite literally to an “ecology of mind,” was to develop ways to become aware of these iconic associative chains of thought…and then…to learn something about the inner forests these thoughts explore as they resonate through the psyche. Freud, of course, wanted to tame this kind of thinking….But…there is another way….we might see these associations as thoughts in the world—exemplars of a kind of worldly thinking, undomesticated…by a particular human mind and her particular ends  (177).
the semiotics of dreaming…involves these spontaneous, self-organizing apperception and propagation of iconic associations in ways that can dissolve some of the boundaries we usually recognize between inside and outsides…when the conscious, purposive daytime work of discerning difference is relaxed, when we no longer ask thought for a “return,” we are left with self-similar iterations—the effortless manner in which likeness propagates through us (185).
Dreaming may well be…a sort of thought run wild—a human form of thinking that goes well beyond the human…a sort of “pensée sauvage”; a form of thinking unfettered from its own intentions and therefore susceptible to the play of forms in which it has become immersed…one that gets caught up and amplified in the multispecies, memory-laden wilderness of an Amazon forest (188).

August 4, 2014
Margret Grebowicz, The National Park to Come (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015).
border crossing @ Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park, was reopened after four years of closure, but traffic is unidirectional
America’s national parks demarcate regions specifically designed to read as politically innocent/create particular social margins
“how is the contemporary idea of national, in continuous tension with migration and indigenousness, reproduced in what counts as nature today?...not empirical questions, but ones of political imagination” (5)
contradictions implicit in institution of national parks, from their inception
“spaces rigorously domesticated, landscaped, and tamed” (6)
“cartographic  states of exception” (7)
Olmsted’s vision: spaces set aside for common citizens, esp. working class--
But who, exactly, gets to be here….? keeping undocumented Mexican migrants out (9)
“the ethics of restoration have become discursively and materially intertwined with the politics of homeland security” (10)
“’Homeland’ here refers to a threatened space that requires surveillance and protection” (10-11)
Death Valley is the only case in which the U.S. government has returned park land to its indigenous inhabitants (11)
the depoliticization of wilderness…remains pervasive today
the wilderness affect…includes…our participation in wilderness-as-spectacle
a book about the foreigner and the future (15)
Chapter 1
our contemporary fantasies of nature as wild, authentic, and original result from the struggle over political concepts…home, democracy, otherness, belonging, future (18)
whatever is vernacular is what is most difficult to view from a critical distance (19)
the park idea and commercial development…function together (20)
The park idea is the creation of the nature reserve for the sake of …human wellness…Wilderness is the park idea taken to its logical conclusion, explicitly informed by the latter’s anthrophobia and humanism (20).
conversations about parks….rely on claims that are “anti-urban, antitechnological, antipeople, antihistory”….the park idea…promises to restore us to our unmediated, unalienated selves (21)
the wilderness idea…is grounded in a conception of the natural world that is simply empirically false…the wild/domestic binary is inconsistent with…evolution by natural selection…”wild” and ‘domestic”…are cultural projections…only interpretations of spaces and beings (23)
the more critical responses…is the claim that wilderness policy creates wild spaces. The home…must first be instituted in order to then take on the effect of transcendent, universal home (23)
wilderness and democracy have the same late-eighteenth-century ideological origins at the intersection of social equality and individual liberty. But…nature…allows us to imagine that democracy is…some original human state….The parks become spaces in which the natural human experience is solitary and atomistic  (25)
“the actual process of national par creation was often anti-democratic—with deeply troubling race and class consequences” (28-29)
the national parks are political states of exception twice over: first, as fantasy spaces offering pleasure and escape form the real, and second, as places where the political and natural collapse into each other…as if they belonged to the realm of natural, not civil, law (29).
Chapter 2
the universal home of humanty...which the park idea...wishes to hold in reserve for all visitors comes at the price of violent instituting acts that displace inhabitants (37).
the entire state of Alaska is a sort of manic wilderness xperiment (38).
the national park idea depends  in large part on leaving reality behind and entering a sheltered space (38).
The valuing of wilderness is thus also the simple reverse of the devaluing of domesticated life: the routines and pressures of our tame, emasculated lives demand wilderness, its risk and sublimity, its power and virility (41).
In order to become the kind of place in which I can receive guests, the home must be rightfully mine....It is only in my house that I can act as a host to another. Thus, as philosopher Jacques Derrida shows, an original violence is built in to the very possibility of hospitality. "The perversion and pervertibility of this law (which is also a law of hospitality) is that one can become virtualy xenophobic in order to protect or claim to protecct one's own hospitality, the own home that makes possible one's own hospitality," a logic that depends on..the collusion between hospitality and this way, the anthrophobia at the heart of the idea of unpeopled wilderness becomes the xenophobia at the heart of the idea of home (43)....excluding the figure of the true foreigner (44).
Chapter 3
"solastalgia" is a form of pining for a lost environment, a version of homesickness that is...the experience of home as already gone...a new type of sadness or mood disorder, unprecedented in human history (47).
"affective attachment"...poses uniquely difficult obstacles for imagining change (57).
According to Baudrillard..."Only Puritans could have invented and developed this ecologicl and biological morality based on preservation--and therefore on discrimination-which is profoundly racial in nature. Everything becomes an overprotected nature reserve" (62).
The presentation of the future environmental cataclysm as the great equalizer, the disaster from which no one will be safe, is actually quite misleading....Poverty makes for a very different experience (62).
A real foreign presence is one that actually challenges the culture of preservation and protection (63).
Not only do we not know the future will be continuous with the past, but furthermore, this is not something we could know. “The future can only be anticipated in the form of an absolute danger,” writes Derrida, simply because anything is possible and what arrives is by definition impossible. The impossible is the only thing that can arrive. As long as something is possible, is in a sense already here, now, with us. The impossible…is the very possibility of the future as something distinct from the present. The impossible irrupts…as an interruption of horizontality (65).
what makes democracy such a unique and compelling form of government is precisely its openness to what is not within its existing definition….because it is not anything in particular, Derrida describes it as perpetually in a state of “to come”….nothing more than its own differential movement towards its future articulation. The futurity built into the democratic process means that this process can never in principle exclude…the real foreigner, the one who disagrees with us in fundamental ways…the one who threatens democracy (65).
while hospitality both demands foreignness (the true foreigner is the only one to whom I can extend hospitality) and excludes it (the home is the space which excludes intrusion), democracy is in principle open to everything (66).
the reserves of the future…cannot be colonized by…compulsory optimism…nature after optimism (66).

Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human (Berkeley: University of California, 2013).

Paul Outka, Race and Nature: From Transcendentalism to the Harlme Renaissance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).

July 14, 2015
Thomas King, The Back of the Turtle: A Novel (HarperCollins, 2014)
I read this because, during the first keynote of the ASLE 2015 conference, Stephanie Lemanager called it her "favorite clifi," and said that Thomas King had shown us that "not all cultural memory brings us the same present tense." It kept me reading--I stayed up late, woke up early, compelled by the narrative, but ended it siding more with Dana Phillips (channeling Frank Kermode and J. Hillis Miller) on
the “shortcomings of narration," how we are "beguiled by an illusion” of an ending, the result of a "polite, cynical contract between storytellers and readers." "Storytelling can be maladaptive," he said, winning hearts and minds, but in stories of climate change there is no ensured ending. In contrast to Oreskes and Conway's speculative fiction, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, Thomas King leaves us hopeful...
which I think we should not be.

July 3, 2015

the collapse of western civilization arrived in y'day's mail (parse that sentence!)
it's a TINY book, 2/3-format, the story itself only 50 pp. long,  plus a 10 pp. interview w/ the authors and a pretty great 10 pp. "lexicon of archaic words" (i.e. "environment: The archaic concept which, separating humans from the rest of the world, identified the nonhuman component as something which carried particular aesthetic, recreational, or biological value (see environmental protection). Sometimes the 'natural' environment was distinguished from the 'built' environment, contributing to the difficulty that twentieth-century humans had in recognizing and admitting the pervasive and global extent of their impact..."

i like this text and think it would be well worth a week of our time. there are striking maps predicting sea level rising.
problem is it costs $9.16; would be easy to xerox the whole-- but of course that violates all copyright restrictions...

also (while i'm here) want to report on sarah j. ray's book, "the ecological other: environmental exclusion in american culture," which i picked up @ canaday last week. this is harder going, and/but there's an awful lot here: how the seemingly progressive politics of wilderness preservation and the repressive policies of national purity were part of the same impulse (those who founded the wilderness movement were also strident about racial purity); how the "wilderness plot" (going out into the wilderness to prove/purify yourself) was part of that (and now! think cheryl strayed!); how all of this circles around keeping certain bodies out--raced, classed, immigrant and disabled. she's got a section on eli clare which challenges environmentalism's investment in various forms of oppression, and esp. the way env'l discourses treat the disabled body (his "exemplary text...offers an inclusive corporeal ecology"). haven't read it yet, but makes me think that maybe his mountain chapter would form a great counterpoint to "wild"....?

July 2, 2015
while we were [at the ASLE conference] in idaho, i mentioned the poet ann fisher-wirth's saying something, during a concurrent session, about the germ of her current poetry project, "Mississippi." i had a few moments this afternoon to go back and look @ my notes, which say that ann had been "thinking a lot about South Carolina and William Faulkner," and now understood that her current project came from his great novel, Light in August. calling this a "season of deaths," of "ineradicable racial bigotry" culminating in the shootings in charleston, she said that she sees faulkner's story of joe christmas--which is about a man "completely defined by race, in the race-mad South"--as our "greatest treatment of racism." in a scene set close to her house, she said, joe christmas in lynched, by ppl w/ the same motives as dylann roof.

in a prior passage, joe christmas is emerging from the house: "It is just dawn, daylight: that gray and lonely suspension filled with the peaceful and tentative  waking of birds. The air, inbreathed, is like spring water. He breathes deep and slow, feeling with each breath himself diffuse in the neutral grayness, becoming one with loneliness and quiet that has never known fury or despair. ‘That was all I wanted,’ he thinks in a quiet and slow amazement. ‘That was all, for thirty years. That didn’t seem to be a whole lot to ask in thirty years.’"

ann then read another "tiny unforgettable moment" from the novel, in which insects accompany humans in the lush faulknerian environment, embedding his human actors in the "thick materiality of the non-human world."  joe christmas is here crossing the yard, en route to committing murder: "In the grass about his feet the crickets, which had ceased as he moved, keeping a little island of silence about him like thin yellow shadow of their small voices, began again, ceasing again when he moved with that tiny and alert suddenness .... He walked without sound, moving in his tiny island of abruptly ceased insects."

it was this detail, ann said--humans seeing one another as enemies, while the insects are so silently attentive and responsive to their movements--that she now sees as leading to her current project with the Delta photographer, Maude Schuyler Clay: 30 poems that came into being as she "listened" to Maude's photographs, which "enabled the spirit of place to speak through her," "honoring voice in all its Mississippi variety." this includes the "hatch-out of the 17-year cicadas" in the woods behind her house; w/ the burgeoning economy in Mississippi, she said, has come the loss of such sounds; "as we wake, as we sleep, this music reminds us that we are embedded in this thick materiality..."

what strikes me, writing this up, is the way that ann hears the "spirit of place" in the voices of the crickets and the people that, in her portrayal, seem equivalent...

i'm supervising nkechi ampah's summer fellowship @ the pensby center, and when we talked y'day, i told her this story (along w/ rach's critique of the questionable ethics of ann's "speaking for" others, of her "making up characters"). this led nkechi to muse about learning to "stop seeing ourselves as subjects," as "available to being understood by others" in ways we ourselves may not have intended. she related this to her own experience of writing on Serendip: "all our stuff is analyzable, but once we've posted it, we don't get a say; it belongs to everyone; it's inherently selfish to focus on what you wanted to convey, to try and control what others's all just thoughtful gossip, anyway..."

wonder what rachel (who of course has also been publishing her thoughts on serendip!) thinks of this idea?

July 6, 2015

Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century, Ed Stephanie LeMenager, Teresa Shewry, and Ken Hiltner (Routledge, 2011):
Lawrence Buell, Forward: "If we humans are all cyborgs now and if everything on earth subsists within an unstable 'mesh' (Chapter 1) of natureculture, then the very idea of an 'endangered species' is an epistemological mistake if not also a potentialy culpable distraction from environmental macro-concerns that might matter more...the path to environmetnal criticism's future would seem to lie not in allying itself with any sort of environmental restorationist ethico-politics but rather through recognition of humanity posthuman conidtions, whatever its risks, whatever the as-yet-unforeseen, mutagenic transformations of natureculture, be they happenstance or engineered (xiv).
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, whose opening "Fable for Tomorrow" invokes the pastoral-nostalgic memory of an idyllic middle-American town as ecoethical norm to counter the health hazards of chemical pesticides, seems a less pertinent text for today's filiation s of  'toxic discourse' than Indra Sinha's novel Animal's People (2007). Based on the worst pesticide disaster in history, a horrific 1984 Union Carbide factory explosion in Bhopal... (xv).
Questions of place-attachment and place-(re)construction have been central to eco-criticism since the movement's inception, but the high valuation it initially set on local or bioregional allegiances has been seriously roiled by its recent engagement with postcolonial and "ecocosmopolitan" models of thinking, most influentially Ursula Heise's Sense of Place and Sense of Planet (2009) (xvi).

LeMenager, Shewry Hiltner, Introduction: Charles Darwin's entangled bank, the leading metaphor of Timothy Morton's chapter "The Mesh"...offers perhpas the clearest articulation to date of Morton's larger project of ecocritique, putting deconstruction in the service of ecology--the dark ecology that Morton suggests may open a more genuine relationship among humans nad nonhumans by emphasizing the desire and lack which structures human beings in relation to other life....Morton offers an ingenious Interdependence Theorem by which natural selection can be seen as an arbitrary system of negative difference, without telos or spatiotemporal edge, a mesh/snare in which humans must come to the humilitating realization that we have no idea where we are and, at best, await the (unexpected) arrival of other life among and within us (5).
Jennifer C. James offers a breathtaking overview of African American environmental thought, in which she challenges assumptions that legacies of trauma and injustice interrupt African American pleasure in, or understanding of, nonhuman nautre....James constructs a green African American imaginary populated with nonhuman beings who share, with black Americans, a history of colonization and violence. James's theory of African American ecomelancholia [is] an unresolved process of grieving that enables black environmetnal stewardship...(9).

Timothy Morton, "The Mesh": The trouble is that when you take an evolutionary view of Earth, an astonishing reversal takes place. Suddenly, things that you think of as real--this cat over here, my cat, whose fur I can stroke--become the abstraction, an approximation of flowing, metamorphic processes, proesses that are in some sense far more real than the entity I am stroking....The discovery of evolution is nothing less than a Corpernican revolution, in which what we take to be immediate and real turns out to be an abstraction of a deeper reality. There is indeed something humiliating about this reversal of immediacy into abstraction....our immediate experience is a workable approximation that makes sense only on a very limited island of meaningfulness....we are able to contextualize our immediate perception within a wider framework. What disappears is the commonsensical idea that what appears to be immediate is also real ...We cannot see, touch, or smell evolution. It evades our perception....There is thus no place outside of evolution from which to view it has no outside....(19-21).
Ecocriticism is highly suspicious..of deconstruction and "theory," precisely because thinking in these ways might put skids under the immediacy that is so much a part of environmentalist rhetoric. I propose that in order to accomodate...all that Darwinism entails...ecologicla criticism...must embrace nonessentialism.... a nonessentialist view provides a platform for recognizing each life-form as...a temporary manifestation of an indivisible whole (28-29).

The ISLE Reader: Ecocriticism, 1993-2003, Ed. Michael Branch and Scott Slovic (University of Georgia, 2003).
Andrew Furman, "No Trees Please, We're Jewish": Jewish American fiction writers in this century have, by and large, created a literature that either ignores, misrepresents, or, at its most extreme, vilifies the natural world....It should be of little surprise, of course....Jewish Americans in this century, to put it simply, know cities (49).