Ecocriticism and Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism: American Literature: Romantics And Realists - Essay

James Russell Lowell (essay date 1865)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lowell, James Russell. “James Russell Lowell on Henry David Thoreau.” In A Century of Early Ecocriticism, edited by David Mazel, pp. 26‐32. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in The North American Review in 1865, Lowell presents a generally negative appraisal of Henry David Thoreau's character, powers of observation, abilities as a naturalist, and romantic view of nature.]

Among the pistillate plants kindled to fruitage by the Emersonian pollen, Thoreau is thus far the most remarkable; and it is something eminently fitting that his posthumous works should be offered us by Emerson, for they are...

(The entire section is 2634 words.)

Fannie Eckstorm (essay date 1908)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Eckstorm, Fannie. “Fannie Eckstorm on Thoreau's The Maine Woods.” In A Century of Early Ecocriticism, edited by David Mazel, pp. 163‐72. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1908, Eckstorm assesses Henry David Thoreau's treatment of the Maine wilderness, noting his lack of adeptness as a woodsman but praising his poetic understanding of nature and his ability to reveal the value of natural objects.]

It is more than half a century since Henry D. Thoreau made his last visit to Maine. And now the forest which he came to see has all but vanished, and in its place...

(The entire section is 4148 words.)

Lewis Mumford (essay date 1926)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mumford, Lewis. “Lewis Mumford on Thoreau, Nature, and Society.” In A Century of Early Ecocriticism, edited by David Mazel, pp. 249‐56. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1926 as “The Dawn,” Mumford critiques Henry David Thoreau's writing and values, discussing the writer's views about consumerism, his ideas about the relationship between science and nature, and his interest in nature as a means for improving individuals and society.]

The pioneer who broke the trail westward left scarcely a trace of his adventure in the mind: what remains are the tags of pioneer customs, and mere souvenirs of...

(The entire section is 2923 words.)

Henry Nash Smith (essay date 1950)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Smith, Henry Nash. “The Innocence and Wildness of Nature: Charles W. Webber and Others.” In Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth, pp. 71‐80. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950.

[In the following excerpt, Smith examines the interpretation of the American West by Charles Webber and other writers.]

The Wild Western hunter and scout descended from [James Fenimore Cooper's character] Leatherstocking could reach full status as a literary hero only at the cost of losing contact with nature. …

Leatherstocking's own debt to nature was of course very great. “I have been a solitary man much of my time,” he exclaimed in his...

(The entire section is 3730 words.)

Perry Miller (lecture date 1953)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Miller, Perry. “Perry Miller on Nature and American Nationalism.” In A Century of Early Ecocriticism, edited by David Mazel, pp. 314‐28. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001.

[In the following essay, which was originally delivered as a speech at Yale University in 1953 and published in the Harvard Theological Review in 1955, Miller explores the importance of the Romantic movement in America's cultural and intellectual development, arguing that one of the consequences of Romanticism was the birth of environmentalism.]

On May 8, 1847, The Literary World—the newly founded vehicle in New York City for the program of “nativist”...

(The entire section is 5734 words.)

Leo Marx (essay date 1964)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Marx, Leo. “Two Kingdoms of Force.” In The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, pp. 227‐353. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964.

[In the following excerpt, Marx argues that Ralph Waldo Emerson's ideas about nature are informed by American pastoralism and philosophic idealism.]

Three months before the episode in Sleepy Hollow, Ralph Waldo Emerson published “The Young American,” a version of an address originally delivered in Boston on February 7, 1844. Here Emerson speaks in his public voice as prophet of the American idyll. Combining a vivid, Jeffersonian sense of the land as an economic and political force with a...

(The entire section is 4051 words.)

Wilson O. Clough (essay date 1964)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Clough, Wilson O. “A Native Metaphor Is Born.” In The Necessary Earth: Nature and Solitude in American Literature, pp. 77‐87. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964.

[In the following excerpt, Clough examines the western frontier of the United States as a metaphor that has been assimilated into the American psyche and has influenced American literature.]

The title of this section, “Frontiers of Thought,” was no haphazard choice. It was suggested, indeed, by one of many available passages from the writings of Henry Thoreau, in this case his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, begun around 1839 and published a decade later. Thoreau...

(The entire section is 3599 words.)

Roderick Nash (essay date 1967)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nash, Roderick. “The American Wilderness.” In Wilderness and the American Mind, 1967. Reprint, revised, pp. 67‐83. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1967 and then reprinted in a revised 1973 edition, Nash assesses the importance of the idea of wilderness to American culture and letters, discussing how nineteenth‐century writers such as William Cullen Bryant, James Kirke Paulding, and James Fenimore Cooper responded to the unique landscape of America.]

Though American scenery is destitute of many of those circumstances that give value to the European, still it has features,...

(The entire section is 6933 words.)

Janice B. Daniel (essay date December 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Daniel, Janice B. “‘Apples of the Thoughts and Fancies’: Nature as Narrator in The Scarlet Letter.ATQ: Nineteenth‐Century American Literature and Culture n.s. 7, no. 4 (December 1993): 307‐18.

[In the following essay, Daniel examines Nathaniel Hawthorne's personification of nature in The Scarlet Letter as a rhetorical device.]

Even the most casual reader of Nathaniel Hawthorne cannot fail to notice his conspicuous and consistent focus on nature. Through his description of natural surroundings as well as his use of figurative language, he works into his fiction a place of special importance for nature. As a Romanticist who gives...

(The entire section is 5611 words.)

Daniel J. Philippon (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Philippon, Daniel J. “‘I only seek to put you in rapport’: Message and Method in Walt Whitman's Specimen Days.” In Reading the Earth: New Directions on the Study of Literature and Environment, edited by Michael P. Branch, Rochelle Johnson, Daniel Patterson, and Scott Slovic, pp. 179‐89. Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Philippon examines the notes on nature in Walt Whitman's Specimen Days, claiming that Whitman turned to nature for therapy and arguing that the author aimed to represent nature to his readers despite thinking that it could not be expressed or interpreted.]

Perhaps “the most...

(The entire section is 5566 words.)

Michael Bennett (essay date 2001)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bennett, Michael. “Anti‐Pastoralism, Frederick Douglass, and the Nature of Slavery.” In Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism, edited by Karla Armbruster and Kathleen R. Wallace, pp. 195‐209. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001.

[In the following essay, Bennett offers an ecocritical reading of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, arguing that the boundaries of the ecological must be expanded and that the dominant culture must take into account the perceptions of landscape by African‐Americans and not just by white writers who have tended to romanticize the wilderness.]

If we separate the...

(The entire section is 6034 words.)