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The Etiquette of Ecocriticism: Ecology and Literature


The Etiquette of Ecocriticism: Ecology and Literature


Wasim Azam

PhD Research Scholar

Department of English

Banaras Hindu University

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India



Ecocriticism is an exploration of relationship between ecology and literature. It signifies the impeccable connection between human life and nature. It evokes the proper association of determinism and possibilism. Nature controls human action with the exaltation of embodiment of various sources that are vital in human perspective. The objective of the paper is to present the relationship between human concentration and environmental control regarding the perception of equity of science and literature. Ecocriticism empowers the connection between human and the environment leading to the manifestation of uniformity and wellbeing. It is known for its analysis and synthesis with an assessment of ecology and literary texts. It evokes the natural world and physical world as well. It is the study of natural matters in literature rather than artificial substances. The paper explores real matter in relation to the environment is dominated by language, culture, and society. The eternal combination of ecology and literature can be displayed with a peculiar analogy that is paralleled between ecosystem and imaginative text.

Keywords: Ecology, Literature, Environment, Ecocriticism, Nature


The term ecocriticism is an evolution of relationship between human and nature in which environmental concerns along with human concerns are covered. Ecocriticism is first time originated by Joseph Meeker in his work The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology published in 1972. He has termed it as “literary ecology.” Ecocriticism is first time coined by American critic William Rueckert in his essay titled Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism that is published in 1978. The work covers the analysis of environmental issues and concerns. Ecocriticism describes its origins and evolution from early works of ecology, ethics, language, criticism, geography, natural and social sciences, history, literature, American studies, and media studies. Basically it is consulted by fields, such as ecology, sustainable design, biopolitics, environmental history, environmentalism, and social ecology. It is concerned with green studies or green cultural studies. Ecocriticism sometimes advocates the environmental literary criticism. It facilitates how matters are possible in literature and environmental studies. It works as an art of prevailing rapture describing the term ecopoetics. “The field of enquiry that analyzes and promotes works of art which raise moral questions about human interactions with nature, while also motivating audiences to live within a limit that will be binding over generations” (Gomides).

The Scope of Ecocriticism

Ecocriticism is evolved broadly throughout the environmental studies and literature. It is extended from ecopoetics, natural writing, and romantic poetry. It is evolved for theatre, animal stories, fable, parable, children stories, architecture, film studies, cinema studies, media studies, science narratives, science fiction, and stories of romance. Dana Phillips has criticized the literary quality and scientific accuracy of natural writing in the work The Truth Ecology with giving recommendations of environmental equity. Environmental equity as an agitation works for ecocritical discourse. Joseph Henry Vogel states, “Ecocriticism is an assessment of economic school of thought.” This criticism is taken for film studies on the matter of Amazonian deforestation. Ecology depicts various resources having no technical solution regarding problems and technical issues. Ashton Nichols states, “The historical dangers of a romantic version of nature are needed to have replaced by urban-natural roosting” with a reflection of rural life and urban life. The passion is required for not only urban life but also for natural passion of rural life. There are several ways to generate the luminous intensity throughout the literature and ecology. The concerns of literary texts and environmental studies are studied on a boarder level to scale the various fields related to ecocriticism.

Ecocriticism: Fundamental Tenets

The human perception is examined on the basis of relationship between human dimension and natural dimension. The ecological perceptions can be extracted from natural texts related to the natural relationship. It can be man centered. It can be nature centered. It is concerned with green culture and environmental culture. The relationship with nature makes a comfortable environment for human. “Ecocriticism in relation to anthropocentrism is a mainstream assumption that the natural world would be seen primarily as a resource for human beings as well as critical approaches to changing ideas in the material and cultural bases of modern society” (Clark).

The term ecocriticism is derived from various disciplines, such as history, economics, philosophy, ethics, and psychology which are recognized by ecocritics. William Rueckert is the first one to introduce the term ecocriticism in his essay titled Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism which is owed to Rachel Carson. Rachel has exposed the environmental concerns by exploring the spring of silent. Rueckert has examined intention to concentrate on the application of ecology and ecological concepts to the study of literature.

1) Exploring green cultural studies

2) The interdependence of nature and culture

3) The ethical component of literature

4) The connection between living environment and ethical wholeness

5) Expansion of family, community, and household

6) The dichotomy between pattern and rhythm

7) The dichotomy between time and change

8) The dichotomy between life and death

9) Pastoral versions of people and nature

10) The passion between urban life and rural life

11) The connection between local and international utterances

12) Inculcation of ecofeminism

13) The extension of hyper-reality

Anthropocentrism is considered in the tragic manner in which moral conflicts are more popular than just biological survival concerns. The science of animal ethology demonstrates a comic mode of muddling and making love, not war having ecological value and importance. In the second wave of ecocriticism, there is an adoption of an ecophilosophical position with scientific sanction. Things are presented through ideological point of view and historical point of view. “The second wave of ecocriticism is defined with public health environmentalism with a reception of ethics and politics that are sociocentric rather than ecocentric” (Buell).

The second wave not only considers wilderness but also encompasses urban landscape and industrial landscape. The urban and industrial landscape has been explored by Victorian social novelist Charles Dickens, writing about public concerns and health approaches. The second wave of ecocriticism has been explored with the first wave of ecocriticism through an innovative approach of resources. The environmental resource distribution, environmental equity, minority, and socio-economic impacts are vital to the significance of the second wave of ecocriticism.

The Approach of Determinism and Possibilism

There is a proper assimilation of nature and man. The relationship between human and nature states the concept of determinism and possibilism. The approach takes man in the lap of nature by which man is controlled by nature. We can understand the relationship between man and nature with the spirit of making concentration to environmental studies.  The connection between man and nature can be understood with theories of determinism and possibilism. Friedrich Ratzel mentions that nature is in centre and controls the activity of man, while defining the concept of determinism. In the concept of possibilism, Man is in centre and forwards according to the law of nature. Man is in centre but never crosses the boundaries of nature, just follows all the ways of nature anyway. Apart of these two concepts, third concept is Neo-determinism which is blending of determinism and possibilism. Through the concept of neo-determinism, the connection between man and nature is existed. Neo-determinism is the state of providing the mystic and ascetic nexus between man and nature. Each particle sojourns in the each and every part of nature while nature covers all aspects of environments. The concept of neo-determinism seeks to impart how nature plays an important and dominant role in making connection between man and nature.

Ecocriticism: Anthropological Culture

Ecocriticism is associated with anthropology and culture. The relationship between human and nature is directed and impacted by the state of culture and structure. The human behaviors are important to understand the association between environment and human perceptions through the ecocriticism to Shakespearean studies. Estok states, “Ecocriticism is the study of nature or natural things in literature rather than it’s a theory that is committed to effecting change by analyzing the thematic, artistic, social, historical, ideological, theoretical function of natural environment that contribute the material practices in the material worlds.” The functional approach of the cultural ecology is the branch of ecocriticism, refining the imaginative literary text. It states the assessment of analogy between ecosystems and imaginative patterns, positing as an ecological function in the anthropological culture. It is known for green studies and environmental literary criticism, incorporating insights from ecology, sustainable design, and biodiversity. Nature behaves in the realistic ways as human perceives the things whatever things are required to mention the connection between human behavior and anthropological culture.

Ecofeminism: Form of Ecocriticism

Ecofeminism is an important discipline to state the thoughts of ecology and feministic thought. It may be political environment and social ecology. It states the concept of gender studies to make a connection between environment and man. It may be noted to assimilate the physical world and natural world. Ecofeminism is first time coined by French critic Francoise d’Eaubonne in her work Le Feminisme ou la Mort that is published in 1974. It reflects a proper perception of green politics with the notion of greenery parts of criticism. Green politics is an exploration of equilibrium for assessing the state of egalitarianism within society. The prominent culture is infused with the notion of truth, morality, and ethics. Ecofeminism may be liberal, cultural, social, spiritual, and materialistic. It can be healed by the feminine instinct for nourishment and the holistic schooling of nature equation. Ecofeminist states the relationship between female and nature in culture, economy, religion, society, politics, literature, and iconography. Ecofeminism levels all oppressions of natural instincts and the oppressions of women.  It is not only restricted to female and nature’s perspective that is considered through materialistic approach. Environmental approach highlights the perspective of both female and nature. Men are considered as the curators of culture while women are considered as the curators of nature. Ecofeminism is reflected in terms of domination where men dominate over women and humans dominate over nature but humans grow and process things according to rules and regulations of nature. It encompasses the gender identity and nature on the basis of coordination. Ecocriticism evaluates three phases of ecofeminism that is evolved by art, literature, and culture. The art, literature, and cultural perceptions are created by humans in relation to the environment. The ecological approach encompasses the ambience of nature concentrated by human. An art centric rather than human centric state the three phases of ecofeminism as the followings are given below:

a) The representation of image

b) The signification of value

c) The theoretical construction and the symbolic construction


Ecocriticism is sometimes considered as ecological criticism. It is the study of relationship between literature and physical environment. The environmental concern along with human interaction is reflected through natural motivation and attention. Ecocriticism emphasizes the natural environment and physical environment of human culture. It is figured through pastoral concern, the concept of wilderness, and the theory of ecofeminism. Ecology and literature both are connected to each other in terms of human perception. Human action is a common to both fields that’s why ecocriticism covers literature, biological perspective, and geographical perspective. Ecocriticism is an exploration of environmental concerns, examining human perceptions of wilderness, and critique human-centered vision of nature.

Works Cited

Adams, Carol. Ecofeminism and the Sacred. Continuum, 2007, pp. 1-8.

Buell, Lawrence. “Ecocriticism: Some Emerging Trends.” Qui Parle, vol. 19, no. 2, 2011, pp. 87-115. JSTOR, doi:10.5250/quiparle.19.2.0087.

Clark, Timothy. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment. New York: Cambridge UP, 2011, p. 2.

Gomides, Camilo. “Putting a New Definition of Ecocriticism to the Test: The Case of the Burning Season.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 13, no. 1, 2006, pp. 13-23. ISLE, doi:10.1093/isle/13.1.13.

Meeker, Joseph. The Comedy of Survival: Literary Ecology and a Play Ethic. University of Arizona Press, 1997.

Merchant, Carolyn. “Ecofeminism.” Radical Ecology, Routledge, 2005, pp. 193-221.

O’Grady, John. “Unhandling Our Perspective.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Oxford University Press, vol. 2, no. 1, 1994, pp. 117-121. JSTOR,