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Overview of Ecocriticism

What is ecocriticism?

Ecocriticism, also referred to as environmental criticism, is a rather new, and evolving, body of criticism.

According to the editors of The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment, the "defined intellectual movement" that is ecocriticism is "largely datable to the founding of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment in 1992, originally in the United States, and then with branches in Europe, India, the Far East and the Antipodes. (4)"

I have not found an adequate summary definition of ecocrtiticism.  My own understanding of the subject, based on my reading, is that ecocritical scholarship attempts to explore the ways nature and the environment, and the human relationship with both, are represented in cultural constructs such as literature and art (but can also include architecture, urban planning, scientific experiments, or social movements). 

So that you can form your own understanding of this complex and fluid body of criticism, I would like to invite you to read the introductions of the books and anthologies below, all of which are owned by the CSUS Library.  

Branch, Michael P. and Scott Slovic.  The ISLE Reader: Ecocriticism, 1993 - 2003.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003. Print.

Buell, Lawrence.  The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard Univeristy, 1995. Print. 

Clark, Timothy, ed. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

Garrard, Greg.  The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.  Print. 

Glotfelty, Cheryll and Harold Bloom, eds.  The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: University of Georgia Press. 1996. Print.

Kroeber, Karl. Ecological Literary Criticism: Romantic Imagining and the Biology of Mind. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Print.

LeMenager, Stephanie, Shewry Teresa, and Ken Hiltner, eds. Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century.  New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2011. Print.

Opperman, Serpil, ed. New International Voices in Ecocriticism. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014. Print.

Parham, John and Louise Hutchings Westling, eds. A Global History of LIterature and the Environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Print.

Slovic, Scott, Swarnalatha Rangarajan, Vidya Sarveswaran.  Ecoambiguity, Community, and Development : toward a Politicized Ecocriticism. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2014. Print.

Zapf, Hubert, Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology.  Berlin: De Gruyter,  2016. Online access.

A good synopsis of the emerging field of ecocriticism can also be found in this interview:

Balaev, Michael The Formation of a Field: Ecocriticism in America - An Interview with Cheryl Glotfelty  PMLA 127.3 (2012) 607-16.  Web. 

Much ecocritical writing focuses on how nature and the environment are represented in classic and contemporary literature.  As part of the collection of literature guides, this particular guide will direct you to sources with that focus.


This LibGuide, Ecocriticism, was created by Librarian Maria Kochis and was first published on 10/25/2013.  I would like to give a shout out of thanks to former library intern Benjamin Wingard  who conducted searches for scholarly articles and books about ecocriticism, and also printed and photocopied copious articles, in the summer of 2011.  Those articles furthered my  understanding of this complex subject and helped make this LibGuide possible.