Rhetorics, politics, and ecologic: The production of nature in American culture, 1840--1990

Lisa Terese Lebduska, University of Rhode Island


"Rhetorics, Politics and Ecologic: The Production of Nature in American Culture, 1840-1990" explores how dominant representations of "nature" and of the "natural" have both reflected and caused the transformation of "nature" into commodity. By locating similarities between radical ecology and post modem theories of "limits," the dissertation constructs a theory of "ecoculturalism" with which to "write" the image of nature into the rise of consumer culture. This "ecoculturalism," which draws on ecologic theories of the environment and marxist conceptions of materiality, ultimately problematizes the strategies and effects of invoking "nature" and "the natural." The project critically examines canonical nonfiction texts on "nature," "naturalistic" literature, children's "environmental" literature, and consumer texts within an historical landscape of increasing commodification. While "nature" has floated wildly as a signifier of America from demonic wilderness to Lethean Eden to ravished maiden, it nevertheless has been consistently tied to various constructions of American subjectivity. Specifically this work examines the intersections between Walden, its iconicity, and Walden Pond's material degradation. The work continues this mapping of social/natural binaries as it examines the division between the social and the "natural" in children's environmental literature. "Natural" in Willa Cather's O Pioneers! becomes "natural" property, that is, property is constructed as "nature." Finally, Procter and Gamble's long-lived Ivory consumer, consistently constructed through a shifting understanding of "natural" purity, completes the move towards simulated nature. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Lisa Terese Lebduska, "Rhetorics, politics, and ecologic: The production of nature in American culture, 1840--1990" (1996). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9702083.