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Strange Natures

Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination

Nicole Seymour

Publication Year: 2013

In Strange Natures , Nicole Seymour investigates the ways in which contemporary queer fictions offer insight on environmental issues through their performance of a specifically queer understanding of nature, the nonhuman, and environmental degradation. By drawing upon queer theory and ecocriticism, Seymour examines how contemporary queer fictions extend their critique of "natural" categories of gender and sexuality to the nonhuman natural world, thus constructing a queer environmentalism. Seymour's thoughtful analyses of works such as Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues , Todd Haynes's Safe , and Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain illustrate how homophobia, classism, racism, sexism, and xenophobia inform dominant views of the environment and help to justify its exploitation. Calling for a queer environmental ethics, she delineates the discourses that have worked to prevent such an ethics and argues for a concept of queerness that is attuned to environmentalism's urgent futurity, and an environmentalism that is attuned to queer sensibilities.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

While in graduate school several years ago, I took the L from Chicago’s Midway Airport to a conference downtown. At the time, I was immersed in both queer theory and ecocriticism and had just begun to think about their intersection—or, rather, what I saw as a lack thereof. ...

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful for the two readers who offered enthusiastic, helpful comments on my initial manuscript; this book is no doubt better for their input. I am also grateful to Larin McLaughlin, the University of Illinois Press’s senior acquisitions editor, for her guidance. ...

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1. Introduction: Locating Queer Ecologies

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pp. 1-34

Strange Natures identifies a tradition of queer environmentalism in contemporary fictions: I find that novels and films generally categorized as queer—including Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues (1993), Todd Haynes’s Safe (1995), Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005), and Shelley Jackson’s Half Life (2006)—explicitly link the queer to the natural world through an empathetic, ethical imagination. ...

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2. Post-Transsexual Pastoral: Environmental Ethics in the Contemporary Transgender Novel

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pp. 35-70

These memories inform the penultimate chapter of the novel, in which Feinberg’s autobiographical protagonist Jess Goldberg, a female-born “he-she,” accompanies hir1 male-born, female-identified sweetheart Ruth home to Vine Valley after the two meet in New York. Feinberg’s commentary on this episode is notable from a queer ecological standpoint on two counts. ...

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3. "It's Just Not Turning Up": AIDS, Cinematic Vision, and Environmental Justice in Todd Haynes's Safe

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pp. 71-104

Released in 1995, writer-director Todd Haynes’s Safe quickly became associated with the 1990s boom in American independent film and, more specifically, with what B. Ruby Rich dubbed the “New Queer Cinema”: the “wave of queer films that gained critical acclaim on the festival circuit in the early 1990s” (Aaron 3). ...

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4. "Ranch Stiffs" and "Beach Cowboys" in the Shrinking Public Sphere: Sexual Domestication in Brokeback Mountain and Surf Party

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pp. 105-146

Director Ang Lee’s 2002 film Brokeback Mountain offers a rather unglamorous conclusion to its lovers’ initial dalliances. Having parted ways with Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) after meeting him on a seasonal sheepherding gig in rural Wyoming, Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) darts into an alleyway and begins to vomit. ...

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5. Attack of the Queer Atomic Mutants: The Ironic Environmentalism of Shelley Jackson's Half Life

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pp. 147-179

Since the 1940s, Western cultural producers have imagined myriad new organisms that U.S. nuclear technology might produce, from giant ants (1954’s Them!), to shrinking humans (1957’s The Incredible Shrinking Man), to creatures that steal human brains and spinal cords (1958’s The Fiend without a Face).1 ...

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Conclusion: The Futures of Queer Ecology

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pp. 180-186

In rereading contemporary queer novels and films as environmentalist polemics, I have argued that queer literature is environmental literature for how it grapples with the natural. As I have shown, the queer ecological fictions in my archive cannot take “the natural” at face value, because of how it has frequently been used against the queer, ...


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pp. 187-198


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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-220

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About the Author, Production Note

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pp. 232-233

Nicole Seymour is an assistant professor of English at University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094873
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037627

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013