Literature, Writing, and the Natural World
Editor: James Guignard and T. P. Murphy
Date Of Publication: Nov 2009
The English Association of Pennsylvania State Universities held its annual meeting in 2006 at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. The conference theme was “Literature, Writing, and the Natural World.” This collection grows out of the conference and indicates the desire to understand all aspects of our relationship with the natural world, the function of literature in clarifying that relationship (in ways science and politics cannot), and the role of the literature teacher-scholar wanting to respond to pressures of environmental change.
In these times, interpretation is a vital task, not only for the way it educates us about our attitudes toward nature, but because it develops the crucial skills of looking closely, engaging, reflecting, and responding. One could argue that, as a culture, Americans are behind the curve in understanding the ways we depend upon a healthy relationship with nature, and one way (among many) depends upon examining it through texts and textual representation. When the writers here dig into The Main Woods, Jayber Crow, the poetry of Pablo Guevara, or the movie Crash, they are contributing to our understanding of the ways in which we view nature and how that view plays a role in the way we relate to nature.
These days, many disciplines engage global warming and other environmental issues routinely, and the literature classroom should be no different. Just as we read a book and address fundamental themes such as “What does it mean to love?” or “How do we develop identity?” we should also be asking “What is my responsibility when I decide what resources to use?” If we understand literature as equipment for living in a warming world, we may be able to help students make some sense out of their world and some decisions about how to act.
James Guignard is Assistant Professor of English and Director of Composition at Mansfield University, where he teaches composition, advanced and professional writing, composition theory, and environmental literature. He has published essays in Liberal Education, as well as A Journal for the Literature of Place, Virginia English Bulletin, and an essay on Rachel Carson and pedagogy forthcoming in Ragazine.cc. Currently, he is researching the rhetoric of the natural gas industry in northcentral Pennsylvania.
T. P. Murphy is Associate Professor of English at Mansfield University in the mountains of northcentral Pennsylvania, where he teaches nature writing, early British literature and composition. He writes nature essays, one of which he read on “Living on Earth,” the NPR environmental news program. Two of his articles on Nessmuk, the nineteenth-century northern Pennsylvania nature writer, have been included in books on American nature writing, and he writes a monthly column reviewing books about nature for Mountain Home, a regional magazine. He is currently working on a collection of essays about the sugar maples around his house.
“The authors represented in this collection examine a variety of texts in an effort to better understand human relationships to nature and the environment...By demonstrating the connections among reading and interpreting literature and living ethically in the environments we inhabit, Literature, Writing, and the Natural World brings its audience closer to imagining healthier ways of relating to each other and to the natural world—and changing such imaginings into reality.”
- Melissa A Goldthwaite, Associate Professor of English, St. Joseph’s University
“The editors James Guignard and T. P. Murphy have assembled and shaped a collection of ecocritical explorations that is sophisticated, up-to-date, and venturesome...The consistent excellence of this collection, along with the illuminating manner in which its editors have both introduced and organized it, will certainly make the publication of Literature, Writing, and the Natural World an important event in the burgeoning realm of literary scholarship.”
- John Elder, Stewart Professor of English and Environmental Studies, Middlebury College
“This collection “offers new approaches to the topic...suggesting new avenues of research to an expanding field of literary studies in a manner accessible to scholars of various levels of experience and expertise....[Literature, Writing, and the Natural World]...would likely be of interest to a wider range of readers interested in American studies, cultural geography, and the environment—this being especially the case because it is often written in an accessible and engaging manner that entertains as it informs.”
- Patrick Barron, Assistant Professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston
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Sample pdf (including Table of Contents)