Ecocriticism in Literary Studies

  What is ecocriticism? Simply put, it is a critical trend of thought that studies the relationship between literature, language and the material environment. This is nothing new. Literary criticism has always been concerned with how to express and reproduce nature and the environment in literary works. We are familiar with the name of the project, but for a long time, this kind of research has been in a state of wandering. It has neither a unified name, nor a very limited scale and influence. Since the 1970s and 1980s, the situation has changed fundamentally: in 1978, the American scholar William Luckett used the term “ecocriticism” for the first time; in 1989, the American Western Literary Society proposed to replace it with “ecocriticism” In 1991, the widely influential American Modern Language Society took ecocriticism as the annual meeting topic; in 1992, the special meeting of the American Western Literary Society announced the establishment of the Society for Literary and Environmental Studies (ASLE), headquartered in The Department of English, University of Nevada, Reno; in 1993, ASLE founded the journal Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment (ISLE); in 1995, ASLE held its first annual meeting with more than 300 delegates. After a series of dizzying developments, ecocriticism became a prominent subject in American academia in the early 1990s. ASLE, as its organization, has spared no effort in promoting the concept of eco-criticism, promoting diversification and internationalization, and has achieved remarkable results. Today, ASLE has more than 1,000 members from all over the world, and has established chapters in Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, and South Korea, forming a large-scale global eco-criticism trend.
  Ecocriticism was born out of American Western literary studies and natural literature studies. At the beginning of its emergence, the influence of these two fields was clearly visible. It is manifested as follows: it mainly focuses on how humans observe and experience uninhabited places in nature, and the research texts focus on natural literature. This literary style describes the author’s experience and feelings from the civilized world into the natural world in a realistic way, integrating scientific observation, personal experience, emotional response and psychological changes, focusing on the intrinsic value and spiritual meaning of nature, mainly in prose and Stylistic presentation of the diary. The representative works include the American writer Thoreau’s “Walden”. The early eco-criticism also studied the classic American and English literary works of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the romantic poetry of the British poet Wordsworth and the American writer Melville’s “Moby Dick”, but without exception, about nature. Content plays a large part in these works. The narrow scope of the text is beneficial for ecocritics to gather strength and achieve breakthrough results in the short term, but in the long run, there are many drawbacks. Beginning in the mid-1990s, ecocritics began to consciously make up for the initial flaws. They expanded the concept of nature to include wilderness, spectacular scenery, rural and man-made beauty, and expanded their focus to all the natural and urban environments in the world that are destroyed or threatened, even in unnatural sociocultural In the environment, ecocriticism can still unearth the meaning and value that culture endows with nature and environment. In this way, ecocriticism has the ability to interpret all texts. As Scott Slovic, the current editor-in-chief of ISLE, said: “As long as the object of study is environmental literature texts, no matter what method of criticism is used, it is ecological criticism. At the same time, there is no text anywhere that completely resists eco-criticism and is completely insulated from green criticism.” So far, eco-criticism has brought three major impacts to literary research: 1. Turning the focus of literary research to the relationship between man and nature , turning to nature, environment and ecology, posing a huge challenge to the traditional concept of “literature is human studies”; 2. Pushing natural literature, which has been neglected and marginalized for a long time, to the center of literary research, and promoting its contribution to ecological civilization The value of construction; 3. Following feminism, multiculturalism and post-colonialism, a new wave of reinterpretation of classic writers’ works and redefinition of literary classics has been triggered.
  While expanding the scope of text research and enriching interpretation methods, ecocritics are also strengthening the theoretical construction and methodological research of ecocriticism. Harvard professor Lawrence Beer believes that we should start from six aspects: First, consider the possibility of taking some natural science disciplines (such as ecology and evolutionary biology) and social science disciplines (such as geography and social ecology) as literary research models 2. Textual, theoretical, and historical analysis of human experience based on the place of existence; 3. Seeing literary studies as a place for environmental ethics research, for example, as a place to criticize anthropocentrism; and referential theories, used to study the representation of the material environment in literary texts; 5. Cross the boundaries of disciplines, get involved in the public domain such as the media, government agencies, business units and environmental protection organizations, and study all environmental discourses including original literature. Rhetoric (such as its ideological reliance on gender, race, and politics); 6. Explore the relationship between (environmental) literature and life and teaching practice. Of course, in many cases, they do not act independently, but communicate with each other and work together. It is not difficult to see that ecocriticism (especially its theoretical discussion) is obviously interdisciplinary. However, it must be pointed out that ecocriticism has not yet reached theoretical maturity, and has not yet produced representative theoretical works with great influence. As a critical theory, it is still in the process of evolution and development.
  What is certain is that no matter how ecocriticism evolves in the future, it will remain the same, that is, to reflect on human culture and build an ecological civilization in which man and nature develop in harmony. Human society has developed from an era of farming civilization that limited use of nature to an era of industrial civilization that attempts to control nature. Today, the earth has been pushed into an unprecedented ecological crisis. Facing the increasingly serious global ecological crisis, we should reflect on human culture and rebuild ecological civilization. has become a priority. It is against this background that ecocriticism is produced, and it is the manifestation of the urgent need of human beings to prevent and alleviate environmental disasters in the ideological and cultural fields. Scholars engaged in eco-criticism have a strong sense of responsibility for human beings and the earth, and have a high sense of mission to save the earth’s ecology and human destiny. They have initiated the “greening movement” in literature research to analyze literature and language from an ecological perspective. The purpose is to To examine, reflect and criticize human culture through literature, and explore how human thought, culture and social development model affect human attitudes and behaviors towards nature, with a view to cultivating human environmental protection awareness, ecological awareness and ecological wisdom, and promoting the ecological balance of the earth, sustainable development of human society. Specifically, one of the important tasks of ecocriticism is to subvert and dismantle the binary opposition between culture and nature and the anthropocentrism that Western traditional culture believes in. The record of the opposition between man and nature can be traced back to the “Genesis” in the Christian “Bible”, and the philosophical thought that advocates that man can conquer and control nature originated from ancient Greek and Roman culture. Both of these two major sources of Western culture believe that man is the master and owner of nature, that nature has only instrumental value, that man is the measure of all things and the arbiter of all values, and that there is no ethical and moral relationship between man and other creatures. Eco-criticists point out that these ideas are the initiators of the current world ecological crisis. To systematically sort out and criticize these ideas in all texts, including literary texts, is an important way for eco-criticism to fulfill its mission of cultural criticism. Thus, ecocriticism and other forms of cultural criticism—feminist criticism, ethnic studies, homosexuality studies, etc.—are similar: they both speak for the marginalized other in Western culture, but the latter three Focusing on the excluded and oppressed groups in human society such as women, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals, ecocriticism focuses on nature in the non-human world. This kinship has given rise to critical forms such as ecofeminism, ecological justice, and ecological multiculturalism. However, ecocriticism is not satisfied with its own functions of cultural reflection and subversion. It seeks to “establish” while “breaking”, and to become a constructive human science, that is, to inherit the previous life. On the basis of the achievements of ecological thinking, it will solve the major ideological problems that the predecessors have not solved, and then establish a new ecological philosophy system. This system must re-establish the relationship between man and nature and the basic ethical norms for man to treat nature, and must resolve the contradictions between development and survival, technological progress and ecological disasters, or as Louis Westling, a professor at the University of Oregon, said, It must be “non-binary, empirically based, emphasizing the interconnectedness of things, and must be able to define and guide the consciousness and actions of people in the complex, interdependent family of earth creatures.”
  It needs to be emphasized that ecocriticism is rooted in a deep sense of real concern and a sense of urgency. It has never been a word game in an ivory tower. For critics, writers and ordinary people, it strongly advocates an activism dedicated to the environmental movement. and practical spirit, this tradition has a long history. As early as 1962, American natural literature writer and biologist Rachel Carson borrowed the book “Silent Spring” to call on the American people to be vigilant about the ecological consequences caused by the abuse of pesticides and chemicals, revealing that American environmental protection The prelude to the movement. In 1980, another American natural literature writer, Edward Abbey, founded Earth First, an organization aimed at promoting the environmental movement to the world. Eco-critics also spare no effort to spread the concept of eco-criticism, in order to drive the whole society to firmly establish ecological awareness and environmental responsibility, and the university forum is their important stronghold. Professor Patrick Murphy of Indiana University of Pennsylvania once put forward this request to his colleagues: “Of course everyone does not have to be an ecocritic, but all departments in which members of the Modern Language Society teach should offer courses in ecocriticism, even in Just do it to meet the interests and needs of undergraduates and graduate students.” Today, in addition to the University of Nevada, Reno, the home base of American ecocriticism, Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Brown University and other prestigious schools, as well as the University of Virginia and the University of Arizona Ordinary colleges and universities such as the University of Georgia, the University of Oregon, the University of Utah, and the University of Wisconsin have become important bases for eco-criticism. Both first-year undergraduate freshmen and graduate students can choose ecological literature courses, and the number of master’s and doctoral dissertations in related fields is increasing year by year. Many ecological critics also advocate going out of the study and into the society and the wilderness. They are often university professors, environmental activists and social activists. For example, Slovic, the current editor-in-chief of ISLE, the former chairman of ASLE, and the professor of “literature and environment” in the English Department of the University of Nevada, Reno, often travels around the world to visit and give lectures, and he opposes globalization, contempt for ecology and the suffering of the people at the bottom. of multinational companies.
  There is a popular metaphor in the eco-critic circle: the earth is like a falling plane. Although the enjoyment of first class and economy class is not the same, if you continue to fly downward, everyone will end up the same. The global ecological crisis has determined that all countries in the world must work together to tide over the difficulties.

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