Fallen Forests
Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women's Environmental Writing, 1781-1924

Karen L. Kilcup

How women writers made powerful emotional, ethical, and spiritual appeals for environmental awareness and transformation

Reviews

"Kilcup's career as a noted scholar of American women's writings is on full display in this book. Analyzing the works of nineteenth-century women writers from diverse racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds, Kilcup illuminates these writers' complex, often conflicting interactions with the natural world."
—Tina Gianquitto, author of "Good Observers of Nature": American Women and the Scientific Study of the Natural World, 1820-1885

"Beautifully written, meticulously researched, and brilliantly argued, Fallen Forests is a major contribution to ecocriticism and to the study of nineteenthcentury American women writers more broadly. Kilcup's impressive expertise animates this engaging, original analysis of how canonical and noncanonical American women writers' acts of environmental representation were profoundly shaped by class, as well as by gender and race. A remarkably dexterous and insightful work of ecocritical scholarship."
—Michael P. Branch, editor of Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden


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Description

In 1844, Lydia Sigourney asserted, "Man's warfare on the trees is terrible." Like Sigourney many American women of her day engaged with such issues as sustainability, resource wars, globalization, voluntary simplicity, Christian ecology, and environmental justice. Illuminating the foundations for contemporary women's environmental writing, Fallen Forests shows how their nineteenth-century predecessors marshaled powerful affective, ethical, and spiritual resources to chastise, educate, and motivate readers to engage in positive social change.

Fallen Forests contributes to scholarship in American women's writing, ecofeminism, ecocriticism, and feminist rhetoric, expanding the literary, historical, and theoretical grounds for some of today's most pressing environmental debates. Karen L. Kilcup rejects prior critical emphases on sentimentalism to show how women writers have drawn on their literary emotional intelligence to raise readers' consciousness about social and environmental issues. She also critiques ecocriticism's idealizing tendency, which has elided women's complicity in agendas that depart from today's environmental orthodoxies.

Unlike previous ecocritical works, Fallen Forests includes marginalized texts by African American, Native American, Mexican American, working-class, and non-Protestant women. Kilcup also enlarges ecocriticism's genre foundations, showing how Cherokee oratory, travel writing, slave narrative, diary, polemic, sketches, novels, poetry, and exposé intervene in important environmental debates.

Page count: 512 pp.
25 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9

 

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Karen L. Kilcup is a professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her many books include Teaching Nineteenth-Century American Poetry and Soft Canons: American Women Writers and Masculine Tradition.