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  • Out of the Shadow: Ecopsychology, Story, and Encounters with the Land
  • Mark C. Long
Out of the Shadow: Ecopsychology, Story, and Encounters with the Land. By Rinda West. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007. 247 pages, $65.00/$24.50.

At the core of this critical study is the shadow, that archetypal fiction that Jungian psychologists draw upon to name the rejected and repressed potentials of our conscious life. For Jung and his followers, the shadow is a product of ego as well as culture that is projected onto the world. Out of the Shadow elaborates the projection of shadow onto nature and native people, and the necessity of struggling with the legacies of this colonial process through individuation and meaningful integration into community life. For West, the deeply ingrained and debilitating archetype of the shadow requires an ambitious project of ecological, psychological, and cultural restoration.

The first reason you should read Out of the Shadow is for its explication of " the colonial shadow" haunting the narratives of Joseph Conrad and Francis Parkman—read here as frontier stories that render visible the history of Western culture engaged in justification of conquest—and for its exploration of the ethical claims of wilderness protection, bioregionalism and natural area restoration in late twentieth-century literary narrative: [End Page 205] in Margaret Atwood's Surfacing (1972), Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony (1977), Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping (1980), N. Scott Momaday's The Ancient Child (1989), Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams (1990), and the Anishinaabe novels of Louise Erdrich.

The second reason you should read this book is for its awareness that nostalgic appeals to traditional or native ways of knowing the natural world are not especially useful in this restorative project. Out of the Shadow reveals this awareness in its juxtaposition of Heart of Darkness (1902) and The Oregon Trail (1849) with Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1958) and James Welch's Fools Crow (1986). West contends that we cannot simply reject so-called Western knowledge of nature to establish a more meaningful sense of self and world without a more arduous practice of individuation—or "maturity," to use Vine Deloria Jr.'s term. In addition to Jung and Deloria Jr., West's project draws on Tzvetan Todorov, Gerald Vizenor, and Louis Owens to reinvest Aldo Leopold's land ethic with a generative, indeed democratic, environmentalist practice.

A third reason you should read this book is for its testimony to the potential of novels to open readers to "the stillness, the opportunity for reflection and critical thinking, and the imaginative space to rethink the world" (28). As West explains, "when environmentalists focus primarily on the damage humans have done to the planet, the result is guilt" (21). But can stories that invite us to reframe our experience in nature really undermine our sense of entitlement earned at the expense of others? West argues that indeed the novel offers a more generative psychological space for the practice of environmentalism. Out of the Shadow offers a sustained meditation on the psychological work of individuation and maturation as well as a restorative ethic with roots in the experience of reading. Her definition of ecological identity requires more than retreats into nature: it demands an embrace of knowledge beyond the self through engaged community practice. [End Page 206]

Mark C. Long
Keene State College, New Hampshire
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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 205-206
Launched on MUSE
2010-08-13
Open Access
No
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