Glasgow Review of Books: Hyperobjects and Prismatic Ecology

By Tom White
Glasgow Review of Books

cohen_prismatic[EXCERPT] In an academic context, green cultural studies has developed over the last three decades from a small sub-genre of literary criticism largely focused on nature writing to a keyword of the order of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. As Jeffrey J. Cohen writes in the introduction to Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green, a green reading offers “an environmentally-minded analysis of literature and culture” concerned primarily with “how nature is represented within a text and how modes of human inhabitance unfold within an imagined natural world.” In a presentist mode often combined with an “admirably activist bent,” green readings have examined various issues of environmental degradation (particularly as a result of unchecked industrialisation).[3] As Cohen notes though, green readings often reproduce what Bruno Latour has called the “Great Bifurcation” between nature and culture, the split between self-evident natural world and human-produced culture that Latour argues is continually thought but never actually practiced. Underwriting many green readings is the supposed serenity of the natural world and, in turn, a faith in the restorative powers of natural landscapes; this nature is somewhere we go to, rather than something within which we live, hopelessly imbricated, each day. As a mode of inquiry green “too frequently signifies a return, however belatedly, to the verdancy of an unspoiled world, to whatever remnants of a lost paradise might be reclaimed.”  

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