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Writing for an Endangered World


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Lawrence Buell is Powell M. Cabot Research Professor of American Literature at Harvard University.


Buell (American literature, Harvard) is godfather to the academic field of ecocriticism, which argues that acts of the imagination are crucial tools in the battle over America's remaining, revived, or paved-over green spaces. Expanding on his Environmental Imagination (Harvard Univ., 1995), his new book examines how a vast array of U.S. texts including works by Melville, Faulkner, and Gwendolyn Brooks as well as contemporary best sellers written from the perspectives of endangered species reveal a sense of place in disparate ways. In occasionally dense prose, Buell dredges up the environmental unconscious in literature and uncovers hidden metaphoric assumptions underlying the often log-jammed debate between people who hunger for fuel and condos and those who seek to save the proverbial spotted owl. Buell, a historicist rather than formalist critic, raises rather than resolves some urgent concerns underlying environmental activism (for instance, whether animals have rights that are independent of how humans perceive animals). But his revisionist literary history successfully shifts our focus to the imagination's role in today's acute environmental battles, and he shows that green is an important color in the multihued American canon. Recommended for academic and research libraries only. Ulrich Baer, New York Univ. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Author of the widely influential The Environmental Imagination, Buell is a major figure in contemporary ecocriticism. Here, in broadening the scope of his earlier book, Buell blurs the usual distinction between natural and built environments. Exploring how a variety of texts imagine urban, rural, ocean, and desert places, he convincingly argues that literary imagination is powerfully shaped by--and shapes--a single, complex environment that is both found and constructed...Buell's book is important: it points ecocriticism in profoundly new and welcome directions. -- W. Conlogue Choice 20011101

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