UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Has ecocriticism gone off the deep end? Rethinking ecological formalism and social ecology Green, John


Ecocriticism, with its dual interests in the study of nature and the protection of the environment, seems as though it should be a discipline that flourishes in a liberal academy that is comfortable with theory. It is not. This project looks at the dominant ideology that structures much ecocritical writing, deep ecology, and it suggests that the seemingly radical environmental politics that it proposes are really articulations of traditional anti-theoretical conservatism. In the first chapter, I look at The Ecocriticism Reader (1996), as a watershed publication in the rise of the new discipline, a publication that, at its foundation, deploys deep ecology as a given, even attempting to bring it in line with theory. The following chapter employs varying techniques to show how deep ecology functions on ideological grounds that are flawed, criticism levied from philosophy and science; central to that chapter is a parallel that I draw between deep ecology as a type of ecological formalism and the literary formalism of the New Critics and the Russian Formalists. The final chapter suggests a new direction that ecocriticism can take after the dismissal of deep ecology; social ecology, unlike deep ecology, is not anathema to theory, and by rehabilitating culture from its position on the bottom of deep ecology’s hierarchy, social ecology can offer new ways to think about the discipline.

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