Converging Stories
Race, Ecology, and Environmental Justice in American Literature

Jeffrey Myers

Racism and environmental destruction as convergent literary themes

Reviews

"The focus in Myers's work on the nineteenth century is an important one indeed for ecocriticism and makes a sorely needed contribution to the field, especially as it recovers the notion of 'ecocentricity' as a stance that requires environmentalists to view social justice as inseparable from their traditional concerns. Converging Stories is flawlessly written, and therefore a pleasure to read."
—Joni Adamson, author of American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism: The Middle Place

"This brief monograph packs a provocative interpretation of a body of important works frequently read in isolation, and in so doing, opens the whole of American nature writing to fruitful reconsideration."
Virginia Magazine


Description
In American literature, our discourse on the themes of race and ecology is too narrowly focused on the twentieth century and does not adequately take into account how these themes are interrelated, argues Jeffrey Myers. His new study broadens the field by looking at writings from the nineteenth century. This was an era, Myers reminds us, of renewed violence and oppression against people of color and of unprecedented environmental destruction on a continental scale. Myers focuses particularly on works that engage the notion that white racism and alienation from nature sprang from a common source.

Myers first discusses the paradox of Thomas Jefferson’s agrarian vision, by which ideas espoused in his Notes on the State of Virginia can support either environmental destruction or conservation, a democratic or a racist society. Next, by looking race-critically at Thoreau’s Walden and The Maine Woods, then ecocritically at Charles Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman and Zitkala-Sa’s Old Indian Legends and American Indian Stories, Myers traces the development of a new resistance to racial and ecological hegemony. He concludes by discussing how the antiracist, egalitarian ecocentricity in these earlier writers can be seen in contemporary writer Eddy L. Harris’s Mississippi Solo. Myers’s discussion encompasses other authors as well, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, and Willa Cather.

By looking at works by Native Americans, African Americans, European Americans, and others, and by considering forms of literature beyond the traditional nature essay, Myers expands our conceptions of environmental writing and environmental justice.

Page count: 200 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9

 



Hardcover
List price: $46.95
978-0-8203-2744-0
08/29/2005

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Jeffrey Myers is an assistant professor of English at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York.