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  • Voicing the World: Nature Writing as a Critique of the Scientific Method
  • Rebecca Raglon (bio)
Rebecca Raglon

Rebecca Raglon is assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.


1. John Burroughs, “Science and Literature,” The Writings of John Burroughs 7 (Boston, 1886), 271.

2. Philip Marshall Hicks, The Development of the Natural History Essay in American Literature, (Philadelphia, 1924) 6.

3. Edward Hoagland, introductory remarks in all volumes of the Penguin Nature Library (New York, 1987).

4. David Raines Wallace, The Untamed Garden and Other Personal Essays (Columbus, 1986), 112; John Murray, “Prologue to Environmental Disaster,” The Bloomsbury Review 7 (4), 12; Thomas J. Lyon, ed., This Incomperable Lande (Boston, 1989), 23.

5. William Martin Smallwood, Natural History and the American Mind (New York, 1941, 1967), 4. For a discussion which compares the scientific development of John and William Bartram see Wayne Franklin’s Discoverers, Explorers, Settlers (Chicago, 1979), 46–67. For John Wesley Powell, see Wallace Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (New York, 1954).

6. Edward Lurie, Nature and the American Mind: Louis Agassiz and the Culture of Science (New York, 1974), 29–30.

7. For a more detailed account of Agassiz, his career and his influence on American culture, see Edward Lurie, Louis Agassiz (Chicago, 1960).

8. Smallwood, 338.

9. Accounts of this controversy are contained in Clara Barrus’s John Burroughs (New York, 1920), 330–331; in Peter J. Schmitt’s Back to Nature: The Arcadian Myth in Urban America (New York, 1969), 45–55; in Paul Brooks’s Speaking for Nature (San Francisco, 1980), 201–218 and in Hans Huth, Nature and the American (Berkeley, 1957), 180. Lisa Mighetto’s “Science, Sentiment, and Anxiety. American Nature Writing at the Turn of the Century,” Pacific Historical Review 54 (1985), 33–50, makes the interesting point that Seton’s type of animal story was in fact a way of critiquing Darwinism. See also Burroughs, “Real and Sham Natural History,” The Atlantic Monthly 91 (1903), 301.

10. Robert McIntosh, The Background of Ecology (Cambridge, 1985), 4–6.

11. William Murdock and Joseph Connell, “All About Ecology” in Ian Barbour, ed., Western Man and Environmental Ethics (Reading, 1973), 161.

12. Marston Bates is one writer who has attempted to defend natural history as a legitimate branch of science against claims that natural history is nothing more than a “popular and superficial” study of plants and animals. Bates is generous in his assessment that the discipline’s methods, attitudes and goals “are the same as those of any other science,” but he is in a minority in holding this opinion. Marston Bates, The Nature of Natural History (New York, 1954), 3–7.

13. Barry Lopez, Of Wolves and Men (New York, 1978), 284.

14. Diana Kappel-Smith, Wintering (New York, 1984), 176.

15. Sue Hubbel, A Country Year (New York, 1984), 36; Kappel-Smith, 202.

16. McIntosh, 179; Joyce Carol Oates, “Against Nature” in Daniel Halpern, ed., On Nature (San Francisco, 1987), 236.

17. For a discussion of Thoreau’s study of botany, see Ray Angelo, “Thoreau as Botanist,” The Thoreau Quarterly 15 (1983), 15–31; Henry David Thoreau, Journal 12, Bradford Torry, ed., (Boston, 1906).

18. E. Barton Worthington, The Ecological Century (Oxford, 1983), 194–195.

19. Edward Wilson, Biophilia (Cambridge, 1984), 18–19.

20. Hubell, 34.

21. Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature (San Francisco, 1980), 290–291.

22. McIntosh, 17; he points out, for example, that “when the Journal of Animal Ecology was founded in 1932, nearly seventy percent of the articles published in it used quantitative methods; by 1970 this increased to one hundred percent” (166).

23. Lopez, Arctic Dreams (New York, 1986), 172.

24. Edward Abbey, The Journey Home (New York, 1978), xiii.

25. Lopez, 74.

26. Neil Evernden, The Natural Alien (Toronto, 1985), 17.

27. Evernden, 23.

28. I wish to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Graduate School of Queen’s University for support during my research for this essay.



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