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In The Nature Of Things

Language, Politics, and the Environment

Jane Bennett

Publication Year: 1993

Informed by recent developments in literary criticism and social theory, In the Nature of Things addresses the presumption that nature exists independent of culture and, in particular, of language. The theoretical approaches of the contributors represent both modernist and postmodernist positions, including feminist theory, critical theory, Marxism, science fiction, theology, and botany. They demonstrate how the concept of nature is invoked and constituted in a wide range of cultural projects—from the Bible to science fiction movies, from hunting to green consumerism. Ultimately, it weeks to link the work of theorists concerned with nature and the environment to nontheorists who share similar concerns. Contributors include R. McGreggor Cawley, Romand Coles, William E. Connolly, Jan E. Dizard, Valerie Hartouni, Cheri Lucas Jennings, Bruce H. Jennings, Timothy W. Luke, Shane Phelan, John Rodman, Michael J. Shapiro, and Wade Sikorski.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: TV Dinners and the Organic Brunch

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pp. vii-xvi

There has grown up in the United States in the late twentieth century a profuse and polyglot discourse about "nature." Profuse because the category "nature" encompasses so much—the geological, biological, and meteorological "environment"; animals and plants; human bodies; and the inherent character or moral essence we seek to discern in all of the above. ...

Part I: The Call of the Wild

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1. The Great Wild Hope: Nature, Environmentalism, and the Open Secret

William Chaloupka, R. McGreggor Cawley

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pp. 3-23

In 1985, a dormant volcano erupted in Colombia, South America, leaving more than 20,000 people dead. An earthquake rocked China in 1976, killing 250,000 people; another hit Armenia in 1988, killing 45,000 people; yet another shook Iran in 1990, killing 29,000 people. ...

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2. Building Wilderness

Wade Sikorski

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pp. 24-43

This quotation from Heidegger tells how dwelling lets the wildness of things be, how it leaves to the sun and the moon their journey, the stars their courses, the seasons their differences, and the gods their absence. Leaving things alone, dwelling does not impose any truth on the thing that is not its own, but lets the wilderness of Being be. ...

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3. Intimate Distance: The Dislocation of Nature in Modernity

Shane Phelan

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pp. 44-62

Contemporary political theory has moved increasingly to adopt the methods of literary analysis in an effort to understand both canonical texts and current sociopolitical events. This analysis focuses less on the meaning of terms than on the role they play; it involves a "shift from historical definition to the problematics of reading."1 ...

Part II: Animal and Artifice

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4. "Manning" the Frontiers: The Politics of (Human) Nature in Blade Runner

Michael J. Shapiro

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pp. 65-84

Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner, like the Philip Dick novel on which it is based, places heavy pressure on the long-held assumptions that moral sentiments are uniquely human and that they provide an unambiguous boundary between humans and other creatures.1 One of the most thoroughgoing inquiries into the "moral sentiment" was Adam Smith's eighteenth-century treatment of morals ...

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5. Brave New World in the Discourses of Reproductive and Genetic Technologies

Valerie Hartouni

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pp. 85-110

"The final and most searching revolution . . . the really revolutionary revolution, is to be achieved not in the external world, but in the souls and flesh of human beings"—so wrote Aldous Huxley in a foreword to his novel Brave New World1 This foreword Huxley attached to his work some fifteen years after its initial publication in 1931. ...

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6. Going Wild: The Contested Terrain of Nature

Jan E. Dizard

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pp. 111-136

When Thoreau left Concord to seek meaning on the shores of Walden Pond, he wanted respite from the contrivances of civilization. He sought nature, which he assumed was separate from Concord and its artifice. But it is clear that Thoreau discovered something other than "pure nature." ...

Part III: Environmentalist Talk

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7. Restoring Nature: Natives and Exotics

John Rodman

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pp. 139-153

The October 1988 issue of Fremontia, journal of the California Native Plant Society, carried three succinct articles on coastal dune restoration projects occurring in the 1980s, in addition to several notes and one letter on the control of various exotic (alien, nonnative) species of plants. ...

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8. Green Consumerism: Ecology and the Ruse of Recycling

Timothy W. Luke

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pp. 154-172

The production, distribution, and consumption of material wealth are the effects of innumerable technical decisions made by product designers, industrial engineers, corporate managers, public administrators, and marketing executives. And, in exchange for a constantly increasing level of material comfort and economic security, ...

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9. Green Fields/Brown Skin: Posting as a Sign of Recognition

Cheri Lucas Jennings, Bruce H. Jennings

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pp. 173-194

While the relationship between pesticides and consumer health has been widely discussed, this discourse has neglected some of the most basic issues of agrarian practice. Consumer organizations continue to press for stronger residue testing programs and greater basic toxicology research but ignore an international policy that creates farm zones ...

Part IV: The Order(ing) of Nature

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10. Voices from the Whirlwind

William E. Connolly

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pp. 197-225

What is the character of things "below" or "prior to" culture? We will never answer this question as posed, for every attempt to do so draws upon the resources of culture. And yet, the attempt to pose such a question is unlikely to disappear either, for every interpretation projects presumptions about the primordial character of things into its presentation of actuality and possibility, identity and difference, good and evil. ...

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11. Ecotones and Environmental Ethics: Adorno and Lopez

Romand Coles

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pp. 226-249

Hegel, in one of his many perceptive moments, described the modern age as the site of a continual struggle between faith and enlightenment.1 Put simply, the enlightenment attempts to posit the self as the ground of truth and being, while faith seeks truth and being in terms of a larger absolute Being in which it is submerged, by an act of pure faith in the beyond. ...

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12. Primate Visions and Alter-Tales

Jane Bennett

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pp. 250-266

In Primate Visions Donna Haraway offers a reading of primatology—its texts and textbooks, its National Geographic documentaries, its graduate programs—as a contemporary cultural tale about the natural and the human. She exposes the imprimatur of the myth of Eden on the scientific study of apes. This reading, like any other, proceeds by way of a set of political affirmations, moral priorities, and hopes for the future. ...


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pp. 267-270


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pp. 271-275

E-ISBN-13: 9780816685332
E-ISBN-10: 0816685339
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816623082

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 1993

Edition: First edition

OCLC Number: 232159879
MUSE Marc Record: Download for In The Nature Of Things

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Subject Headings

  • Human ecology -- Philosophy.
  • Philosophy of nature.
  • Environmental ethics.
  • Environmental protection -- Moral and ethical aspects.
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