By Lloyd Willis
Brings ecocriticism into dialog with serious American reviews ways to literary canon formation.
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Additional resources for Environmental Evasion: The Literary, Critical, and Cultural Politics of "Nature's Nation"
3 Much of Emerson’s broad redeﬁnition of nature appears in Nature’s introduction in four fundamental assertions that Emerson presents with his characteristic swiftness and self-conﬁdence. ” There is nothing inﬂammatory in these four assertions; there is certainly nothing malicious. They simply seem like Emerson’s typical philosophical discourse. The problem, though, is that Emerson mixes the philosophical with the common in such a way that a very physical problem—the state of the natural world in North America—comes to be disregarded because of the philosophical frame that he has applied to it.
In 1968, in American Poets: From the Puritans to the Present, Hyatt Waggoner reasserted Emerson’s centrality by arguing that “without understanding Emerson we cannot possibly begin to understand the later development of our poetry. No other poet, unless it be Whitman, has been so important as Emerson to later poets, including the greatest of them” (91). Emerson’s centrality to American literature and culture has been so ﬁrmly entrenched for so long that during the early 1980s questions about the terms of his centrality—not the centrality itself—cast the Emerson industry into a sustained attempt to maintain the positive legacy that Emerson had generally enjoyed, virtually uninterrupted, throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Lawrence opens his 1933 Studies in Classic American Literature with a discussion of Benjamin Franklin and continues on to Crèvecoeur, whose yeoman agrarianism anticipates Jeffersonian democracy, and arrives at Cooper with no more historical or political context than this. ” From there, Smith opens his book with a discussion of Jefferson and follows the familiar democratic trajectory that culminates in a chapter on democracy’s bard, Walt Whitman, before ever engaging Cooper. Even Leo Marx’s 1964 Machine in the Garden, which one might reasonably expect to engage Cooper, opens with a discussion of Hawthorne, proceeds into a discussion of Shakespeare, and then entirely overshoots Cooper and his historical moment as it moves from discussions of Robert Beverly and Jefferson to Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Twain, Henry James, and F.