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Fallen Forests

Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women's Environmental Writing, 1781-1924

Karen L. Kilcup

Publication Year: 2013

In 1844, Lydia Sigourney asserted, "Man's warfare on the trees is terrible." Like Sigourney many American women of her day engaged with such issues as sustainability, resource wars, globalization, voluntary simplicity, Christian ecology, and environmental justice. Illuminating the foundations for contemporary women's environmental writing, Fallen Forests shows how their nineteenth-century predecessors marshaled powerful affective, ethical, and spiritual resources to chastise, educate, and motivate readers to engage in positive social change.

Fallen Forests contributes to scholarship in American women's writing, ecofeminism, ecocriticism, and feminist rhetoric, expanding the literary, historical, and theoretical grounds for some of today's most pressing environmental debates. Karen L. Kilcup rejects prior critical emphases on sentimentalism to show how women writers have drawn on their literary emotional intelligence to raise readers' consciousness about social and environmental issues. She also critiques ecocriticism's idealizing tendency, which has elided women's complicity in agendas that depart from today's environmental orthodoxies.

Unlike previous ecocritical works, Fallen Forests includes marginalized texts by African American, Native American, Mexican American, working-class, and non-Protestant women. Kilcup also enlarges ecocriticism's genre foundations, showing how Cherokee oratory, travel writing, slave narrative, diary, polemic, sketches, novels, poetry, and exposé intervene in important environmental debates.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes

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pp. 2-9

Contents

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pp. ix-x

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xvi

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Grounding the Texts: An Introduction

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pp. 1-20

When winter breaks, we harvest sap for maple syrup; in the spring, set strawberries and onions. Come fall, we fill his battered Chevy station wagon so full with squash and pumpkins that I have to lie spread-eagled across the tailgate as we creep across the street to where we’ll heap our treasure for sorting in the back yard: golden butternuts, crenellated acorns...

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1. “We planted, tended, and harvested our corn”: Native Mothers, Resource Wars, and Conversion Narratives

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pp. 21-74

With its spacious meadows and clear water, the New World was a place worth fighting over. Seeking peaceful interactions between Cherokees and Euramericans, the pointed and affecting letter by the unnamed “Katteuha,” or Beloved Woman, to Benjamin Franklin reveals the material and gendered ground on which interethnic resource conflicts were...

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2. “Such Progress in Civilization”: Forest Life and Mushroom Growth, East, West, and South

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pp. 75-132

in scenes in my native land, Lydia Sigourney observes, “The wild elephant, when death approaches, moves slowly to seek the shadow of lofty trees, and there resigns his breath. Intelligent man, like the most sagacious of animals, might surely spare a few, as a shelter for his weary head, and a patrimony for an unborn race.”1 Like many of her contemporaries, she...

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3. Golden Hands: Weaving America

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pp. 133-200

Describing incursions that “low whites” made into blacks’ homes after Nat Turner’s insurrection, Harriet Jacobs recounts the physical tortures that the African American community endured. Her grandmother received a visit from one such “pack of hungry wolves,” who “snatched at every thing within their reach.” Mob members were particularly incensed by letters...

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4. Gilt-Edged or “Beautifully Unadorned”: Fashioning Feelings

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pp. 201-266

Merchants of voluntary simplicity and simple living barrage us today, as books, magazines, and Internet sites promote a return to “earlier values.” My own history as the daughter of a Depression-era mother who, more than fifty years later, could relate (with dismay and shame, but also with pride) having to make her own clothes from others’ old garments, resonated...

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5. Domestic and National Moralities: Justice in the West

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pp. 267-328

in late 1888 and early 1889, the writer and artist Mary Hallock Foote published “Pictures of the Far West” in the elite eastern monthly Century Magazine, offering snapshots of the “new” country and illuminating its “wild” character. Quoted above, the first of three sketches, “Looking for Camp,” establishes nature’s self-sufficiency; the land provides bounty...

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After Words: Toward Common Ground

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pp. 329-348

Published in the May 1861 Atlantic Monthly, Harriet Prescott Spofford’s erotic fantasy, which depicts a seamstress contemplating the pomegranate bloom on her windowsill, needs little interpretation. Even in the mid-nineteenth century, a few American women found ways to explore— ...

Notes

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pp. 349-428

Bibliography

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pp. 429-486

Index

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pp. 487-504


E-ISBN-13: 9780820345710
E-ISBN-10: 0820345717
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820332864
Print-ISBN-10: 0820332860

Page Count: 512
Illustrations: 25 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Environmental protection in literature.
  • Nature conservation in literature.
  • Ecology in literature.
  • Nature in literature.
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