In the 1990s, the emerging field of
ecocriticism--nature-sensitive literary studies--began to establish
and define itself. Arguing that the field has matured to the point
where it requires a thorough critique and new theoretical
underpinnings, Patrick D. Murphy suggests a variety of ways
ecocriticism can become more inclusive in its objects of study and
more sophisticated in its methodologies.
According to Murphy, ecocriticism in the United States has been
too narrowly associated with the study of nonfiction. To broaden
the field's purview, he proposes a new taxonomy that draws an
important distinction between nature writing--a nonfiction essay
form descended from Henry David Thoreau--nature literature, which
includes fiction and poetry, and environmental literature, which is
inspired by and concerned with a threatened natural world. He also
urges ecocritics to expand their study to international literature,
and he proceeds to survey nature-oriented prose from Central
America, the Caribbean, southern Africa, Spain, and Japan.
On a theoretical level, Murphy addresses the relationship of
ecofeminism to postmodernism and provides interpretations of
contemporary American multicultural and women's literature,
including works by Gary Snyder, Simon Ortiz, Jane Brox, Pat Mora,
Lori Anderson, Nora Naranjo-Morse, Sallie Tisdale, and Terry
Tempest Williams. Applying his theories of ecocritical analysis to
underappreciated or unknown literature, especially fiction and
poetry by American women writers of color, Murphy introduces his
fellow critics to authors ripe for ecocritical analysis.
Murphy's wide-ranging book will no doubt serve as a watershed in
the development of ecocriticism.
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