- Hardcover: 262 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 31, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674024346
- ISBN-13: 978-0674024342
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics
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Rigorous and unsettling, Timothy Morton's book is a vividly realized critique of the political and ethical meanings of "place" and "space." Steeped in philosophical and literary history, Ecology without Nature is a profoundly convinced and convincing intervention, calling as it does for a more intellectually robust and politically supple environmentalism, one much better suited to the realities of twenty-first-century life. A more thoughtful reflection on the future of dwelling together in a vulnerable world would be hard to find.
--David L. Clark, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
Morton demonstrates that because most ecocriticism assumes nature/environment as a concept, most ecocritics perpetuate the assumptions of the literature that they purport to critique. He argues that nature is an arbitrary rhetorical concept whose modern origins can be traced to Romantics writing during the Industrial Revolution--essentially, that ecocriticism fetishizes "nature." He contends that a "really deep ecology" would let go of the idea of nature because it marks the difference between "us" and "it." Drawing on writers from Adorno to Zizek, and considering literature and art from the 18th century to the present, Morton offers a complex, important, and often playful argument that lays the groundwork for new directions in ecocriticism.
--G. D. MacDonald (Choice 2007-10-01)
We’re in the sh**. We have to face it and learn to live with it. That’s a basic idea in dark ecology, which Timothy Morton outlines in his book Ecology Without Nature...Dark ecology has a realistic take on the human state without resorting to false optimism or fatalistic tones of apocalypse. It also requires people to take control, and not lay down in the mud with blind faith of staying above the surface without ever drowning. When we realise our connection to the rest of the world, we understand that our actions reflect all life on the planet...Dark ecology has the potential to be the punk rock or experimental pop of ecological thinking. Or even the death metal, since it shares a goth sensibility that focuses on the dark. (Kasino A4 2007-12-01)
Ecology Without Nature offers original and important critiques of ecocritical theory, in particular through its analysis of the legacy of Romanticism and the paradox of dualism that pervades much ecological writing. Its occasionally irreverent style and embrace of kitsch make it an enjoyable read, even when the associationist organization and technical terminology require the reader to slow down. However, this slowing down is exactly what Morton recommends for ecocritics as we enter the twenty-first century and the increasingly urgent demands of “this poisoned ground” where Morton calls us to stand.
--Janet Fiskio (Environmental Philosophy 2008-04-01)
From the Inside Flap
In Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the image of nature itself. Ecological writers propose a new worldview, but their very zeal to preserve the natural world leads them away from the "nature" they revere. The problem is a symptom of the ecological catastrophe in which we are living. Morton sets out a seeming paradox: to have a properly ecological view, we must relinquish the idea of nature once and for all. Ecology without Nature investigates our ecological assumptions in a way that is provocative and deeply engaging. Ranging widely in eighteenth-century through contemporary philosophy, culture, and history, he explores the value of art in imagining environmental projects for the future. Morton develops a fresh vocabulary for reading "environmentality" in artistic form as well as content, and traces the contexts of ecological constructs through the history of capitalism. From John Clare to John Cage, from Kierkegaard to Kristeva, from
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I guess OOO just leaves me cold at the end of each text I encounter and I have to agree with Ursula Heise's critique of Morton (not of 'Ecology,' to be clear, but from her review of 'Hyperobjects,' yet I still find it fitting): his "seamless transition from the subatomic realm...to the cosmological realm of the extremely large without any discussion of the fact that theoretical physicists have found it very difficult to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity theory" is messy, discomfiting, at best. At worst, these just feel like thought games to me and, well, when I can quite literally (that is, not at all metaphorically) step out of my house and scoop up a glass of Bateson's "ecology of bad ideas," I can't help but feel--at the elemental level? at the level of cellular mutation?--an urgency missing from Morton's thoughtful but ultimately not "Silent Spring"/"Limits to Growth" enough text. But maybe I'm just a downer.
Perhaps we deserve this, but do we need it? Morton says yes, that Ecological writing, which he refers to with the neologism "ecomimesis," is too grounded in the romantic assumption that we humans can somehow, perhaps through literature, identify with the otherness we call "nature," thus Morton's critique of the "ecomimetic illusion of immediacy" what he also refers to as the "beautiful soul syndrome." His text is more a negative attack on the assumptions of romantic nature writers than the construction of an alternative. What is deconstruction if not a universal acid that deconstructs even its own efforts? So how could he create anything of any use, other than as a critique of the romantic assumptions running rampant?
In this, I am sympathetic to his argument even as I am repelled by his condescending voice. I see it, to some extent, in the tradition of William Cronon's critique of the idea of wilderness as far too romantic.
Yet why write in a voice that creates a wall between the text and the reader, since the point of writing is to communicate? Like any po-mo deconstructionist, Morton loves to throw around the word "commodity." Perhaps this is what such language is, the commodity of the graduate school and the tenure-track professor trying to establish his (or her) credentials in the hierarchical aristocracy of academia, entrance into which requires the possession of such a tongue?
I can imagine grad students trying to prove themselves worthy poring over the complexities inherent in every other sentence like medieval supplicants trying to approach the mysteries of the mass chanted in a Latin they did not know. It is a symbol of a world which seems full of knowing and mystery and wonder inside of which the holy of holies hides, revealed only to the inner sanctum of the priesthood.
Thus, we get a paragraph that begins "Ecomimetic ekphrasis sits in an oblique relation to the text," as indeed does the intelligent reader. What to make of: "This jetztzeit or nowness is an intense signifying atmosphere that erupts out of the `homogeneous empty time' of official reality, even when the ideological machinery is running smoothly."
Despite the modern and post-modern feel of his ramblings, what Morton cannot completely hide is his rediscovery of the pre-modern religious idea of "sin." No, not sex, but the reality that we are all trapped in this illusion of a text from which we cannot escape. That every attempt to get from "I" to "Thou" fails because we cannot escape ourselves. Hence Emily Dickinson:
How adequate unto itself
Its properties shall be
Itself unto itself and none
Shall make discovery
Adventure most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be -
Attended by a single hound
Its own identity.
That we cannot escape from ourselves into some blessed other we call Nature, the heart of the book, is thus an ancient tale retold many times, and in much clearer style. Back in the 60s, Norman O Brown said quite clearly, "The Fall is into language." Outside of the text is not, as Derrida said, nothing, but a void which to us is holy terror, not grace. Morton has brought us stumbling full circle back to the Old Testament: "In the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom."
The seminar was nothing short of an adventure, and this spirit of adventure is reflected in the book that it became. And yet it's an adventure that involves a lot of doubling back and dispelling of illusions along the way. In other words, the maze quality remains: it is a book for slow readers, for a kind of patient searching that opens up many unexpected paths as you go. The method of Ecology without Nature is subtle and profound: Morton builds a vocabulary for reading ecologically, at the same time that he relentlessly strips Nature of its aura--or at the very least, Morton reveals how and why that aura came to be in the first place.
This book is key reading for anyone interested in matters of environment, ecology, aesthetics, nature writing, and even travel writing. It provides both an eclectic history of a trans-disciplinary motif, and it also makes convincing arguments for why we might do well to be wary of this motif (i.e., Nature with a big N).
Ecology without Nature is sort of a trick title: it's not so much a eulogy as a wager, or a question posed about what happens when we think about 'ecology' without the baggage of 'Nature'. (The answer, or a really a set of interlinked answers, appears in Morton's passionately written prequel, The Ecological Thought.)