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Despite all the due attention that has gone to modernity, technology , consumerism and ‘making it new’ in modernist studies, the category of ‘nature’ has a persistent, if little recognised, presence in the works of many modernists. As unlikely as this might seem, this includes James Joyce. From a discursive standpoint, ‘nature’, like ‘gender’, is a cultural construction, and various eras, cultures and individuals bring different qualities to natural entities, and make more or less strict divisions between nature and culture. Recently the antimodern strands of modernism have accrued increasing attention, and many of the same questions raised by post-colonial theory, racial studies, feminist studies, queer theory, trauma studies and even aesthetics can be applied to the re-insertion of the natural world into modernist studies.1 Though known for its arcades and cityscapes, modernism also has its beachfronts, and it churns down rivers through much of the world: in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the riparian landscape of the Thames in Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, the Amazonian waterway of Woolf’s The Voyage Out, Langston Hughes’ ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’, and all Joyce’s major works, culminating in the catalogue of the world’s rivers and the pervasive presence of Anna Liffey in Finnegans Wake. Modernists noted the capacity of rivers to connect through time and global distance and they detected the growing threat of human pollution to their beauty and viability. Ecofeminist analysis draws attention to ways that gender and sexuality have been related to concepts of the ‘natural world’, including power dynamics that seek to control both woman and nature and impose heterosexual norms in conceptualising it. Ecofeminism has begun to make its presence known in modernist studies. It is probably most evident in studies of the ways various modernist writers have represented nonhuman animals.2 Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence are far more immediate subjects for this Joyce, Ecofeminism and the River as Woman BONNIE KIME SCOTT 59 angle of inquiry than Joyce. Ecofeminist approaches have been in existence since the 1970s and their variety allows for considerable selection of methodology. Approaches closely allied to cultural feminism include mythic models of the earth mother, inspiring the Gaia principle that sees the whole earth as a living being. Psychological theories of female cultural development, such as the work of Carol Gilligan, emphasise relational values and this contributes to ‘ethic of care’ ecofeminism. Greta Gaard was in the vanguard of ecofeminists who queered heterosexual models for nature. Environmental justice movements have been recognised as an important alliance for ecofeminism, as seen in Rachel Stein’s 2004 collection, New Perspectives in Environmental Justice, though they are distinct in origin. Led at the grassroots by women of colour, this work emphasises local analysis and action, recognising that the poor – consequently women and children – bear an inordinate share of environmental degradation. Though creative work related to the injustices of class and race was classified more in the realist than the modernist tradition, left-leaning writers of the 1930s, such as Meridel LeSueur and Muriel Rukeyser, brought this vision to early twentieth-century literature.3 Their projects had something in common with Joyce’s representations of the urban poor in Dubliners. Still other ecofeminisms orient toward posthumanities and the post-human, seeking to break down the species barrier and hierarchy inspired by androcentrism, read as, not just human, but male-centred.4 Such work explores ways of becoming animal and strives toward new concepts of democracy that are environmentally sustainable and broadly egalitarian.5 A proponent of the posthuman , starting with her work defining the cyborg, Donna Haraway offers a blended concept of ‘natureculture’ in defiance of the western binaries and the tendency to position the human more in cultural than natural terms. This move encourages us to see various rural and urban environments, and even the suburbs, in a new light. It is also sensitive to the mixture of natural and cultural elements that comes in when nature serves national iconic purposes , as it long has done in Ireland.6 Admittedly, Joyce has numerous counts against him as a writer of nature. First of all, he is so obviously an urban writer that it seems unpromising to go to him for a sense of nature, of which he had only limited experience. His large family was too fragile economically to afford the extended childhood vacations in the countryside enjoyed 60 ECO-JOYCE by other modernists such as T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats and Virginia Woolf. Nor have...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781782050735
Related ISBN
9781782050728
MARC Record
OCLC
882713144
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-04
Language
English
Open Access
No
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