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Coming into Contact

Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice

Edited by Annie Merrill Ingram, Ian Marshall, Daniel J. Philippon, and Adam W. Sweeting

Publication Year: 2007

A snapshot of ecocriticism in action, Coming into Contact collects sixteen previously unpublished essays that explore some of the most promising new directions in the study of literature and the environment. They look to previously unexamined or underexamined aspects of literature's relationship to the environment, including swamps, internment camps, Asian American environments, the urbanized Northeast, and lynching sites. The authors relate environmental discourse to practice, including the teaching of green design in composition classes, the restoration of damaged landscapes, the persuasive strategies of environmental activists, the practice of urban architecture, and the impact of human technologies on nature.

The essays also put ecocriticism into greater contact with the natural sciences, including elements of evolutionary biology, biological taxonomy, and geology. Engaging both ecocritical theory and practice, these authors more closely align ecocriticism with the physical environment, with the wide range of texts and cultural practices that concern it, and with the growing scholarly conversation that surrounds this concern.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

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pp. ix-x

First and foremost, we would like to thank the authors of the essays in this collection for their patience and good humor as we have brought this volume to fruition. All of our contributors have been a pleasure to work with, and they have inspired us with their creativity, intelligence, insight, and passion...

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Introduction: Thinking of Our Life in Nature

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pp. 1-14

One of the many paradoxes confronting students of literature and the environment is the fact that “environments” are both places and processes. On the one hand, deserts, mountains, prairies, watersheds, and other familiar environments are clearly places; they “take place” in particular locations and inspire legions of devoted citizens...

Part 1. Who Are We? Where Are We? Exploring the Boundaries of Ecocriticism

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Of Swamp Dragons: Mud, Megalopolis, and a Future for Ecocriticism

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pp. 17-38

In her classic Purity and Danger, anthropologist Mary Douglas defines ritual pollution as “matter out of place” and concludes that such pollution can be a door to whole cosmologies: “Where there is dirt, there is a system” (44). Accordingly, she distinguishes between “dirt-affirming” and “dirt-rejecting” cultures based...

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Challenging the Confines: Haiku from the Prison Camps

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pp. 39-57

On a small scrap of paper lying on a plywood table in a cramped room that was once a horse stable, in a form restricted to seventeen syllables— as unyielding as the barbed wire fence that traps the cold night—with a pen that is almost out of ink...

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Beyond Walden Pond: Asian American Literature and the Limits of Ecocriticism

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pp. 58-75

In the late Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali’s long poem “In Search of Evanescence” he writes: “India always exists / off the turnpikes / of America” (41). The poem is a multilayered personal narrative that recounts the author’s travels in America...

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To Name Is to Claim, or Remembering Place: Native American Writers Reclaim the Northeast

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pp. 76-92

Relying on the assumption (left unspoken) that the cliff dwellers in what is now southwestern Colorado abandoned their city because of a longterm drought, Wallace Stegner writes in the introduction...

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Lynching Sites: Where Trauma and Pastoral Collide

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pp. 93-108

I stumbled upon a column in the Kansas City Star a while ago about a restaurateur, Myra Harper, who decided to name her new place Strange Fruit Restaurant and Smoothie Bar after the signature song of her favorite singer, Billie Holiday...

Part 2. The Solid Earth! The Actual World! Environmental Discourse and Practice

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Composition and the Rhetoric of Eco-Effective Design

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pp. 111-127

It is not every day that judging a book by its cover turns out to be the best form of literacy criticism, but that is what William McDonough and Michael Braungart would have us do with their book...

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A Mosaic of Landscapes: Ecological Restoration and the Work of Leopold, Coetzee, and Silko

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pp. 128-140

Although the goal of most ecological restoration projects is to return the landscape to its condition prior to European contact, less attention has been paid to the ecological implications of cultural restoration movements that involve restoring the rights and sovereignty...

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Apocalyptic or Precautionary? Revisioning Texts in Environmental Literature

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pp. 141-153

Environmental apocalypticism—writing that employs apocalyptic tropes to persuade readers to heed warnings in the face of imminent environmental peril—has been celebrated and criticized since the publication of Rachel...

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Facing the True Costs of Living: Arundhati Roy and Ishimure Michiko on Dams and Writing

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pp. 154-167

A popular saying has it that today we know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. To refine this a little we might say that today we know the price tags of many things, but not the full costs we pay for them, and therefore we do not know their real values...

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Romanticism and the City: Toward a Green Architecture

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pp. 168-184

Thirty years ago Raymond Williams pointed to the perceived duality between urban and rural environments as a key aspect of romantic ideology. Surprisingly, while much has been made of the romantic escape to nature, little attention has been paid to the distinctive anti-urbanism in romanticism...

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Annie Dillard and the Book of Job: Notes toward a Postnatural Ecocriticism

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pp. 185-196

In the Book of Job, delivering his climactic speech out of the whirlwind, God humbles Job with a series of acute reminders of the limitations of mere humanity while extolling his own status as the divine creator and sustainer of nature...

Part 3. Contact! Contact! Interdisciplinary Connections

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Seeking Common Ground: Integrating the Sciences and the Humanities

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pp. 199-208

My situation reminds me of Emerson’s opening words at his first London lecture, in 1848.1 Emerson had been attending scientific lectures in London and Paris, “and, in listening to Richard Owen’s masterly enumeration of the parts and laws of the human body...

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Mindless Fools and Leaves That Run: Subjectivity, Politics, and Myth in Scientific Nomenclature

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pp. 209-220

Off the shores of eastern Hawaii at a place called Laupahoehoe, brown birds swoop and wheel just out of reach of the waves, turning and spinning in the summer sun. These birds are called brown noddies...

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Reading after Darwin: A Prospectus

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pp. 221-233

This prospectus is part of a larger project I have modestly named “Evolutionary Theory: Ecological Theory: Literary Theory.” After reading Gould’s The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, I wondered...

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Of Spiders, Ants, and Carnivorous Plants: Domesticity and Darwin in Mary Treat’s Home Studies in Nature

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pp. 234-249

Mary Treat (1830–93), the prolific naturalist of the New Jersey pine barrens, saw the world around her small Vineland home as a rich field of inquiry for scientific investigation. “To the lover, especially of birds, insects, and plants,” she writes in the preface...

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The Great, Shaggy Barbaric Earth: Geological Writings of John Burroughs

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pp. 250-260

Throughout his career John Burroughs insisted that nature, and ultimately the earth, should be the basis for all observations, all interpretations, and for beauty itself. 1 As far as Burroughs was concerned, observations could be embellished, as an artist might emphasize certain aspects of a view to enhance its beauty...


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pp. 261-264


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pp. 265-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780820336688
E-ISBN-10: 0820336688
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820328850
Print-ISBN-10: 0820328855

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Nature in literature.
  • Ecocriticism.
  • Human ecology in literature.
  • Environmental protection in literature.
  • Environmental literature -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • American literature -- History and criticism.
  • Ecology in literature.
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