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Ré-inventer le réel

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Thomas Dutoit
, 
Trevor Harris

Re-inventing the environment

Thomas Pughe

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1The subject of this paper is the representation of nature in certain contemporary American writers. My examples are drawn from fiction and some non-fiction whose local setting is mainly but not exclusively the American West. I should add that a fairly large part of this paper will be devoted to theoretical reflections on the approach to my subject.

I

2In what sense could this subject contribute to the topic of our conference — "re-inventing the real"? Certain thematic aspects immediately come to mind. Though I would like eventually to get beyond them, they are worth mentioning at the beginning. Most of the fictions in my corpus are historical. They include Annie Dillard's The Living (1992), Ivan Doig's Dancing at the Rascal Fair (1987), Edward Hoagland's Seven Rivers West (1986), Peter Matthiessen's Killing Mr Watson (1990) and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian (1985). These wilderness and pioneering novels represent local settings and events — the history of the West, the "taming" of the wilderness—that are evidently revisions and thus re-inventions of the colonial history of the United States.

3Lee Mitchell, in an essay devoted to the representation of Western landscapes in Albert Bierstadt's paintings and Brett Hart's stories, speaks of "the West as a direction of thought" (1996, 99) rather than as a geographical place. Pushing Mitchell's intellectual and cultural concept of the West a little further, we could say that perhaps from the earliest colonial writings and certainly within the tradition of American wilderness novels — starting with James Fenimore Cooper's — representations of the West have been products of what Raymond Williams in The Country and the City (1973) calls "metropolitan culture", products, in other words, of the complex interrelations between country and city. The novels I wish to draw attention to here are thus links in a long chain of inventions and re-inventions of the land and its civilisation. It is perhaps useful to recall that in the 1980s Louis Lamour, a modern writer of popular Westerns, still sold millions of copies and that a decade after his death he is considered a kind of American classic.

4A central question that arises in the course of these considerations is whether all nature writing is not a form of "re-inventing the real" or, rather, a form of re-inventing ways of writing about nature. I think that this is one of the conclusions to be drawn from Paul de Man's famous essay on "The Rhetoric of Temporality". Thoreau reflecting in his journal on the charm that French place names in Canada have for him, arrives at a corroborating general statement about re-inventing nature: "to find realities of course we assign to the place the idea which the written history or poem suggested" (1993, 125). So, if writing about nature is re-inventing — i.e. "assigning" ideas in order to "find realities" — what could be the stimulus for re-inventing nature today and of what kind is the rhetoric of re-invention? Those are the sorts of questions that seem to me to correspond to the problematic of this conference.

5It is easy to see at this point where the term "environment" (announced in the title of this paper) comes in: is it (to borrow the title of a very impressive recent study by Lawrence Buell [1995]) "the environmental imagination" of my writers (and others) that has inspired their imaginative return to the wilderness? According to Buell, the environmental imagination — driven by a growing sense of impending ecocatastrophe — will give rise to "an odyssey of re-orientation... by reconsidering the place of the environment in our conventions of reading and writing" (23). I indeed think that the texts under discussion here are part of that "odyssey of re-orientation". Buell goes on to suggest that it is mainly up to writers of what he calls "literary non-fiction" to redress the balance in favour of the environment. Must we conclude, th en, that the "environmental imagination" produces greater realism in nature writing, i.e. more scientific detail, sharper ecological criticism, a darker, apocalyptic vision? Though there is something to this, the problem reaches well beyond the generic and referential dimensions. To be able to show why, I must ask the reader to follow me on a theoretical excursion before hitting the wilderness trail.

II

6The first of two general points I want to make in the following sketch of a theoretical framework concerns the field of aesthetics. It is simply to recall that in classical aesthetics the imitation of nature was considered as the touchstone of mimesis. This is so well known that I can content myself with quoting one famous eighteenth-century voice as evidence. In his Essay on Criticism (1711) Alexander Pope reminds the poet to, "First follow NATURE and your judgement frame / By her just Standard, which is still the same" (lines 67-68). Nature is indeed, Pope emphasizes, "At once the Source, and End, and Test of Art" (63). He, of course, does not refer to nature writing in the modern sense. On the contrary, he has in mind, for example, Virgil's Eclogues, since it is from the ancients that the poet can learn the rules of poetry which in turn are, "Nature still, but Nature Methodizd" (89). "Imitating Nature" is thus not a form of realism, as Pope's poem "Windsor Forest" (1713), modelled on Virgil, demonstrates. When the poet, following in his imagination the course of the Thames, reads the "Peace and Plenty" of the landscape as signs that "tell, a Stuart reigns" (line 42), or when, at the end of the poem, his vision widens to include in his English version of the pastoral the British colonial empire ("Unbounded Thames shall flow for all Mankind, / Whole Nations enter with each swelling Tyde" [lines 399-400]), we realize that "imitating nature" is a formula for allegory. The beauty of nature symbolizes some ulterior value, in Pope's case an ideal of English imperial civilization. It might seem surprising to mention "Windsor Forest" in a paper concerned with the American wilderness, but Pope's " nature moralisée " seems to me to foreshadow a text like William Cullen Bryant's "The Prairies" (1834) where nature is similarly presented as an ultimately political allegory — a vision of the manifest destiny of Anglo-American colonization.

  • 1 Jonathan Bate, in Romantic Ecology, challenges the view that suspects romantic poetry of being, bro (...)

7As far as the allegorical approach to nature is concerned, the Romantic Revolution was, I think, less a revolution than a change of tone. Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" (1798) begins (like Pope's and Bryant's poems) with a description of a given setting but then, instead of moving outwards, moves inwards, landscape being transformed into mindscape. Nature — even to the very word itself — figures what could be called an identity theme; thus the poet is "well pleased to recognize / In nature and the language of the sense, / The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, / The guide, the guardian of my heart and soul" (lines 108-11). Mimesis here means subjective expression to which outward nature furnishes a code. I do realize that romantic poetics are more complicated than that. De Man (among others) in his essay on the "Rhetoric of Temporality" shows this clearly. But my few remarks on Wordsworth are, I think, sufficient to point out a problem that is incidentally characteristic of the contradictions of romanticism: how can nature figure authentic subjective expression and the liberty of the creative imagination in a period of increasing industrialization and urbanization? Can we today share Wordsworth's confidence in nature without feeling sentimental and hollow?1 Indeed, is there not a hollowness at the very core of Wordsworth's romantic programme, a form of escapism? Theodor Adorno in Aesthetic Theory (1970) succinctly poses the problem of romantic, or romanticising, nature symbolism in the postromantic period:

Integrated into the commercial world (as 'tourist industry', for example) and devoid of its critical sting, the immediate appreciation of nature has become neutralized. As nature becomes synonymous with national parks and wildlife preserves, its beauty is purely tokenistic. Natural beauty is an ideological notion because it offers mediatedness in the guise of immediacy. (101)

8Thus nature as poetic symbol has become suspect in our own century. Serious writers (roughly from the period of modernism) are wary of the risks of flat sentimentalism, of what Adorno calls "mediatedness in the guise of immediacy". Joyce Carol Oates (in an essay entitled "Against Nature") speaks for many contemporary writers when she suspects that nature, "inspires a painfully limited set of responses in 'nature-writers' — reverence, awe, piety, mystical oneness" (quoted in Wild, 1996, 128). It is against such a "painfully limited set" of responses that Stanley Elkin's The Franchiser seems to protest when up in the Rocky Mountains he observes that "in nature ... everything was a disease, all growth a sickness, the mountains a sickness and the trees a sickness, too, with their symptomatic leaves and their pathological barks" ([1976], 1980, 199). Notice how Elkin turns the allegorical reading of nature's beauty that we have observed from Pope's Essay onwards, against itself (pathological, symptomatic). Perhaps the clearest symptom of the malaise afflicting nature's traditionally central role in literary aesthetics is the creation, towards the end of the nineteenth century, of a distinct sub-genre, neither fact nor fiction — that of nature writing. And yet the tradition persists. In May 1997, at a conference at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Fontenay), William Gass, for example, voiced the characteristic modernist and post-modernist suspicions against nature writing, but did so by quoting Valéry's maxim that, "Nature must be made to go as far as the mind goes" — which is simply a radicalized form of romantic poetics. Adorno summarizes the uneasy persistence of the allegorizing tradition I have been describing:

The image of nature survives because its complete negation by artefacts would necessarily involve closing one's eyes to the possibility of a sphere beyond bourgeois work and commodity relations. In spite of its social mediatedness, the beautiful in nature remains an allegory of that beyond. (1984, 102)

9This quotation from Aesthetic Theory usefully reminds us of what is at stake in the paradigm of art's imitating nature (namely, values). Moreover, Adorno's stress on the moral and ideological quality of nature as allegory provides me with a transition to the second point in my theoretical excursion: it concerns the persistence of pastoralism in American literary culture. (So now we at last set foot on the continent from which my writers hail.) There is no need to describe in detail the profound significance of the pastoral tradition in North American culture. Its effect is felt today by many Americans for whom, as Buell points out, "a polluted universe seem[s] so perverse partly because the idea of nature as an integral realm, long sanctioned ... by the American pastoral tradition, seem[s] so profoundly right" (1995, 292). It is indeed striking that despite technological revolution the essential image of America remains, for many, exurban, green, pastoral, even wild. The opposition between an arcadian and a dystopian (i.e. encroaching urban and industrialized) world is deeply ingrained in the pastoral ideology whether its roots reach back to puritanism, agrarianism, romanticism, or nationalism. It is this pastoral ideology that D.H. Lawrence (in Studies in Classic American Literature, 1923) alluded to when he spoke of the "yearning myth" in American literary culture. Cooper's wilderness romances, for example, exemplify such yearning for a purer, simpler, more moral life incarnated by the "pristine" American wilderness. But in giving voice to his yearning, Cooper already exemplifies the typically romantic trait of "mak[ing] nature go as far as the mind goes," for the wilderness he describes, for example in The Last of the Mohicans, is a figment of his imagination and a figure of his desire. As Wayne Franklin (1992, 33-39) has shown, Cooper had to erase all the traces of history from the Hudson River valley landscapes that he used as his models to shape his wilderness — a wilderness of the mind.

  • 2 Elements of a response to this question, on the level of theory and of critical practice, be found (...)

10Pastoralism, with its inherent contradictions — I have of course only touched on them in mentioning the example of Cooper's "pastoral escape" (Buell), — is thus a typically American version of the more general aesthetic problem of nature that I addressed earlier. It amounts to American pastoralism working as a kind of "social conscience" (Buell): this cultural practice is still very much alive today. The title of Philip Roth's latest novel, American Pastoral (1997), ironically draws attention to the identification of typically American values with the ostensible innocence (or "radical innocence" [Hassan]) of a life close to nature. More to the point, the presence of Thoreau as a model of a great deal of twentieth-century nature writing (Annie Dillard's, for example) is a powerful sign of the survival of the tradition. Thoreau is incidentally the principal point of reference in Buell's study on the environmental imagination. And yet, how can contemporary writers tap into the critical and Utopian dimension of pastoralism without losing their aesthetic credibility, without seeming hopelessly out of touch with the realities of an industrialized and technologized environment and without reducing their voices to a painfully limited set of responses?2 That is the challenge that the environmental imagination faces.

11In sum, "reinventing" nature is not simply replacing a poetic and symbolic form of writing (i.e. nature) by a scientific, factual and descriptive one (i.e. environment). Rather, what is involved is a transformation of the allegorical traditon of nature writing, an implantation in the spirit — and the rhetoric — of this tradition of an environmental consciousness. In the case of the contemporary American writers I am interested in we may expect to find an ambiguous relationship to the pastoral tradition, a practice of simultaneously writing within and against it. At any rate, I think that the cultural and aesthetic horizon that I have tried to sketch should help us to identify certain rhetorical strategies forged in the environmental imagination. I have time to touch on only two of these in the final part of this paper.

III

12The first strategy is the blurring of boundaries between fact and fiction.

13Of the five novelists in my corpus only one, Cormac McCarthy, is not at the same time a writer of environmental non-fiction. The reader of non-fiction (biography, essays) by Dillard or Doig (1978) is struck by their tendency to underline, frequently by commentary, the artifices employed in representing nature. Doig's comments concern the role of memory in his representation of Montanan landscapes. Dillard's, in essays such as "Teaching a Stone to Talk", constantly question and subvert her imaginative repossession of the natural phenomena she talks about. In comments like, "We are here to witness. There is nothing else to do with these mute materials we do not need," (1982, 72) she blocks all possibilities of "pastoral escape" and at the same time prepares us for the magnificent ending of the essay in which she describes the palo santo trees on the Galapagos islands as "mute materials": "You see them from the water on the steeps that face the sea, hundreds together, small and thin and spread, and so much more pale than their red soils that any black and white photograph of them looks like a negative" (75). Describing their otherness — their negativity if the pun be permitted — is a little bit like teaching a stone to talk. I think the point Dillard makes very forcefully is that writing environmental non-fiction brings into play the poetic-allegorical tradition, and thus awareness of the environment unavoidably begins with the awareness — with the wariness — of rhetoric.

14This is of course just a circumstantial way of defining irony, and indeed all readers of Dillard's essays, as well as of Doig's or of Hoagland's non-fiction, quickly become aware of its presence. Irony emanating from the play between fact and fiction, environment and nature can also be found in a writer like Gretel Ehrlich whose vignettes of Wyoming contain comments such as this one: "I try to imagine a world in which I could ride my horse across uncharted land. There is no wilderness left; wildness, yes, but true wilderness has been gone on this continent since the time of Lewis and Clark's overland journey" (1984, 8). Ehrlich's distinction between wilderness and wildness is typical. Since no part of the American landscape remains "uncharted" and thus untouched by civilization, the wilderness is inevitably a product of human desire, of wildness. The lonely rider looking for land to discover is an ironical emblem of the tug of metaphor felt by this nature writer in her depictions of the "open spaces" of Wyoming and of the "solace" they give her.

  • 3 Of course, literary maps have a long tradition, from Thomas Hardy to Faulkner. The most interesting (...)

15Ehrlich's comment ironically reminds us of the tendency in American pastoralism to "tak[e] the civilization all out of the landscape" (Thoreau, 1993, 201) — or at least the disturbing aspects of civilization. The phrase "uncharted land" could also serve as an introduction to the wilderness novels and westerns in my corpus. But in fact, The Living, Seven Rivers West, Killing Mr Watson or Dancing at the Rascal Fair, all contain maps on their opening pages. McCarthy's Blood Meridian is the one exception. These maps, hand-drawn "charts" for the most part, give the reader a geographical aperçu of the novels' nineteenth-century setting. Corresponding more or less to what can be found on modern maps, their non-scientific form of representing the land emphasizes that they are also part imagination.3 Their paratextual function, like that of the apparatus of (more or less reliable) historical acknowledgments which we find included in most of the novels, is to stress the main text's quality as an historical reconstruction or re-invention of the real. As the "author's note" at the beginning of Killing Mr Watson states: "The book is in no way 'historical' .... On the other hand, there is nothing that could not have happened" (n.pag). Though the readers are invited to imagine the land in a state of wilderness or semi-wilderness, they are not allowed to escape into the nostalgia for a purer, better world because the re-presentation is historicized and contextualized. It is identified as a re-invention of the pre-industrial past. We thus find ourselves constantly on the lookout for signs of civilization's impact on the environment and forced to judge the implications of that impact. For example, in one of the fictional interviews with Everglades settlers that make up Killing Mr Watson, we read about the hunting of egret plumes that,

a man using one of them Flobert rifles that don't snap no louder than a twig can stand there under the trees in a big rookery and pick them birds off fast as he can reload.... A real big rookery... hell, might take you three-four years to clean it out, but after that, them birds is gone for good. (54)

16Historicizing the pastoral impulse thus lets the environment catch up, so to speak, with nature. Clearly the fiction as well as the nonfiction of these writers originates in their awareness of the ideological implications of pastoralism, and this awareness calls for irony.

17McCarthy's Blood Meridian is a case apart, or, to a certain extent, a radicalization. Though it is based like the other novels on historical documents, McCarthy's anti-Western eschews the paratextual strategies used by them. Rather, in his descriptions of Texan and New Mexican landscapes he concentrates on the traces of history spread across them and thus historicizes the land: "In the dry sand of the arroyo floor old bones and broken shapes of painted pottery and graven in the rocks above them pictographs of horse and cougar and turtle and mounted Spaniards helmeted and bucklered and contemptuous of stone and silence and time itself" (1992, 139). The process of historical change is conveyed by McCarthy's stress on the indifference of the land to such change — or, more importantly, the transience of civilisations and cultures conveys the mute and immutable thereness of the environment. More radically than any of the other writers, McCarthy thus works to counter Thoreau's strategy of "taking civilization all out of nature". Fact and fiction are irretrievably blurred, for the environment in Blood Meridian is not just a felt presence, it is a witness and thus almost a character. But this observation is already part of the second rhetorical strategy I want to mention.

18This strategy, which I will call the play of presence and absence, is closely linked to the first. We observed that our texts work to block the readers' "pastoral escape". Rather than guiding them to look for significance beyond the natural scenes described, the focus of the representation is on nature as environment, as the condition of human civilisation and culture. We can in fact observe several more or less ironical narrative strategies of figuring thereness or presence. I shall just briefly mention them, in the order of their degree of foregrounding.

19Ivan Doig uses a form of synecdoche to suggest nature's presence. In Dancing at the Rascal Fair (as in his other Montana novels) it is frequently the weather that sharpens the reader's sense of the region's particularity and of the hardships of living in such an environment: "Here was existence scoured down as far as it could go. Just the flecked sky filled with fat snowflakes and spiteful wind; and us, six horse creatures and three humans .... Maybe winter was trying to blow itself out in this one day" (1987, 376). Of course, Montanans really do suffer from the inclemency of the weather, but my point here is the rhetorical use made of this feature to suggest presence, even a kind of intention ("was trying to"). A sort of intentionality (scientists would perhaps speak of an "ecosystem") is also evoked in Dillard's The Living (1992), whose story, like that of Doig's novel, recounts the problems of implanting Western civilization in regions generally hostile to settlement, such as the giant forests coming down to Puget Sound:

It was the rough edge of the world, where the trees came smack down to the stones. The shore looked to Ada as if the corner of the continent had got torn off right here, sometime near yesterday, and the dark trees kept on growing like nothing happened. The ocean just filled in the tear and settled down. (5)

20Notice the character's mystification with this scene, with its rhythm of evolution ("right here", "sometime near yesterday", "like nothing happened"). Time and space are not human dimensions here. Indeed, Dillard's strategy is to constantly re-dimension human beings and their striving by measuring them up to natural phenomena: "A big fir was seventeen feet through the trunk, and they all grew right close together, so you needed to turn sideways and tamp your skirt to pass between them" (10).

21Hoagland gives the figuration of presence a hint of the fantastic. He introduces Sasquatch or Big Foot, the legendary Wild Man of the mountains who, like the White Whale, draws attention to both the yearning and the limitations of Hoagland's representation of the wilderness. It is a mythopoeic creature for, like Hoagland's beautiful evocation of Rocky Mountains wildlife and its habitat (over which Big Foot presides), it is only a textual trace of something real — a ghost haunting Hoagland's thick description. At the end of the novel, when Hoagland's hero returns from the wilderness trail to the railhead of the transcontinental railroad without having succeeded in capturing a Big Foot, there is a last ironical signal of its elusive presence: '"Ko-hoh, Ko-hoh, Ko-hoh, Ko-hoh!'came a whole jubilant V of flying swans, bugling and trumpeting, just above the curdled water" (1986, 319). Nature signs off, so to speak.

22Finally, it is McCarthy, combining in Blood Meridian several of the strategies mentioned so far, who conveys the most powerful and the most haunting sense of a living environment. In his scenes of the South West, nature is not the object of humans' yearning for a better, or at least a simpler, life. Instead, human life appears as a doubtful stage of a much vaster evolution. Notice in the following quotation how McCarthy's polysyndetic syntax cuts off the reader's desire to invest the landscape with human significance:

They rode through the long twilight and the sun set and the moon rose and to the west the mountains shuddered again and again in clattering frames and burned to final darkness and the rain hissed in the blind night land... and they rode under dark grottoes where the water dripped and spattered and tasted of iron and they saw the silver filaments of cascades divided upon the faces of distant buttes that appeared as signs and wonders in the heavens themselves so dark was the ground of their origins. They crossed the blackened wood of a burn and they rode through a region of cloven rock. (1992, 187)

23This passage reminds us of sequences in other Westerns where men ride through a landcape, noting its features as they pass. Yet here the experience of their passing leaves no linguistic trace in the landscape, not even an indication of the temporal progress of the ride (for example, in the first sentence we would expect a then, later or while). The monotonous repetition of and creates no ordering of the real other than an enumeration of stations in a ride. But the "signs and wonders" of earth's evolution attract our attention because McCarthy refuses to subject them to the economy of characterization and plot; these signs appear, as McCarthy's visionary narrator says. Nature is present, a challenge to our environmental imagination.

IV

24I have of course only touched upon the rhetorical strategies employed in "re-inventing the environment". A far more precise and detailed rhetorical analysis would be necessary. But it should nevertheless have become clear that these strategies emerge out of the writers' confrontation with the tradition of pastoralism, particularly its function as a kind of social conscience. I think, in conclusion, that we can best characterize such rhetoric with Buell's concept of "dual accountability" — accountability, that is, to both nature and the environment. I also think that "dual accountability" necessarily leads to irony — irony as the arm that combats (to repeat a phrase of Adorno's quoted earlier) "mediatedness in the guise of immediacy". Let me close with a sentence of Thoreau's to whose influence on contemporary "reinventions of the environment" I have not been able to do justice here; at one point in his Journal, thinking about his writing life, he exclaims: "I will not be shipwrecked in a vain reality" (113). That is as useful a maxim for contemporary environmental writers as one is likely to find.

Bibliographie

Works Cited

Adorno, Theodor W., 1984. Aesthetic Theory. Trans. C. Lenhardt. London: Routledge.

Bate, Jonathan, 1991. Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition. London: Routledge.

Buell, Lawrence, 1995. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge MA: Harvard UP.

De Man, Paul, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Temporality". In Blindness and Insight. Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism. 2nd edition. London: Methuen, 187-228.

Dillard, Annie, 1982. Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters. New York: Harper.

—— 1992. The Living. New York: Harper.

Doig, Ivan, 1978. This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind. San Diego: Harvest.

—— 1987. Dancing at the Rascal Fair. New York: Scribner.

Elkin, Stanley [1976], 1980. The Franchiser. Boston: Nonpareil.

Ehrlich, Gretel, 1984. The Solace of Empty Spaces. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Franklin, Wayne, 1992. "The Wilderness of Words in The Last of the Mohicans". In New Essays on "The Last of the Mohicans". Ed. H. Daniel Peck. Cambridge: CUP.

Hoagland, Edward, 1986. Seven Rivers West. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Matthiessen, Peter, 1991. Killing Mr Watson. London: Flamingo.

McCarthy, Cormac [1985], 1992. Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West. New York: Vintage.

Mitchell, Lee, 1996. "Bierstadt's Settings, Harte's Plots." In Reading the West: New Essays on the Literature of the American West. Ed. Michael Kowalewski. Cambridge: CUP, 99-124.

Pope, Alexander, 1963. The Poems of Alexander Pope. Ed. John Butt. London: Methuen.

Roth, Philip, 1997. American Pastoral. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Thoreau, Henry David, 1993. A Year in Thoreau's Journal: 1881. Ed. H Daniel Peck. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Wild, Peter, 1996. "Sentimentalism in the American Southwest: John C. Van Dyke, Mary Austen, and Edward Abbey." In Reading the West: New Essays on the Literature of the American West. Ed. Michael Kowalewski. Cambridge: CUP, 127-43.

Williams, Raymond, 1973. The Country and the City. London: The Hogarth Press.

Wordsworth, William, 1969. Poetical Works. Ed. Thomas Hutchinson. Rev. Ernest de Selincourt. London: OUP.

Notes

1 Jonathan Bate, in Romantic Ecology, challenges the view that suspects romantic poetry of being, broadly speaking, escapist. For Bate, Wordsworth's continuing appeal is precisely that he speaks to contemporary environmental concerns: "The time is now right to allow Wordsworth to become once more what he imagined himself to be, what Shelley called him, and what he was to the Victorians: 'Poet of Nature'.... It still seems to me valuable and important to make claims for the historical continuity and tradition of environmental consciousness; Wordsworth by no means initiated that tradition, but he has been a vital influence upon it" (1991, 9).

2 Elements of a response to this question, on the level of theory and of critical practice, be found in Bate 1991, Buell 1995 and Williams 1973. Important contributions to the debate over "eco-pastoralism" also in Love, 1992 and Marx, 1991.

3 Of course, literary maps have a long tradition, from Thomas Hardy to Faulkner. The most interesting map is perhaps Hoagland's. Not only is it an imaginative recreation of Lewis and Clark country, but its Indian names for geographical features remind us that even before Lewis and Clark put an end to the wilderness (as Gretel Ehrlich says), the land was wilderness only from a European point of view. Hoagland's nature is, so to speak, doubly re-invented — as in fact it is in all my novels.

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Université d'Orléans

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1999

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