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BOOK REVIEWS 2 1 5 with bigger views and, most importantly, a better understanding of how to live, still loving wild places, while forgiving ourselves our humanity. The Qreen B reast of the New World: Landscape, Qender, and American Fiction. By Louise H. Westling. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. 211 pages, $29.95. Reviewed by M arja Mogk University of California, Berkeley In her 1985 study of southern women writers, Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens, Louise H. Westling writes that “at deep levels of significa­ tion human culture is an unbroken continuum from our earliest thinking ancestors to the present,” which, she concludes, leads Western writers to reflexively conceive of the earth as feminine, just as the Sumerians did before us. “N o matter how unconscious individual women may be of these associations,” Westling argues, “their attitudes towards their sex are natu­ rally related to their feelings about the landscape.” The Green Breast evolves directly from this claim, enlarging the scope of inquiry to include men, namely Emerson, Thoreau, Hemingway, and Faulkner. Further referencing Max Oelschlager’s The Idea of Wilderness (1991) and Robert Harrison’s Forests: The Shadow of Civilization (1992), the book begins with an affirma­ tion of the deep psychohistorical embeddedness of our notions of nature and their correlation with the feminine. Westling maintains that a gendered divide between male and female representations of nature still holds: men tend to envision escapist, eroti­ cized landscapes, while women tend to weave domestic values into self­ identified landscapes. The problem is that gendering the landscape either positively or negatively seems to lead to a pretty poor score on the environ­ mentalist scale. Westling sees the patriarchal paradigms of The Epic of Gilgamesh writ large in Faulkner, for example, while Cather’s pastoralism reflects Virgil’s gendered imperialism. Both men’s and women’s texts disrupt these destructive patterns in subtle ways, but subtle disruption just isn’t enough anymore. Clearly, Westling reminds us, we are on a route to deforest the whole world, just as the Sumerians deforested their realm. She joins other ecocritics in calling for new neuter, nonanthropomorphic metaphors and narra­ tives before we run out of trees; we can no longer afford the gender-nature binaries so prevalent in American literature. Westling turns to Louise Erdrich’s work as an encouraging example, but her thoughts are not without reserva­ tion: even Erdrich’s characters are not radically successful at alternative imaginings, and environmentalism is always already in dialogue with impe­ rialist nostalgia. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
p. 215
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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