Shifting the Ground: American Women Writers' Revisions of Nature, Gender, and Race

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University of Virginia Press, 1997 - Literary Criticism - 183 pages
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In Shifting the Ground, Rachel Stein adds a feminist slant to the rapidly growing field of ecocriticism. Americans have historically defined themselves in terms of their conquest of "virgin land". Unfortunately, this identification has often proved disastrous to groups such as women, Native Americans, and African Americans, who were regarded as nature incarnate, part of the ground that must be mastered in the name of nation.

From a perspective of ecofeminist theory, Stein suggests that selected writings by Emily Dickinson, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Leslie Marmon Silko cannily revise intersections between American conceptions of nature and problematic formulations of gender and race. Writing from diverse social positions, each author examines a historical instance of this colonial conjunction: Dickinson grapples with the forces of Victorian Puritanism; Hurston interrogates Afro-Caribbean and African-American women's abuse as "beasts of burden"; Walker examines black mothers' struggles in the Jim Crow South as the legacy of their history as slave "chattel"; and Silko treats the social ills of Native Americans as stemming from their objectification by white settlers.

In order to alleviate these oppressive conditions, Stein argues, each writer incorporates an alternative conception of nature from popular and indigenous traditions such as sentimentalism, Voodoo, African-American animism, and Laguna Pueblo story cycles. By reinterpreting nature, they transform their characters from social objects into self-empowered subjects.

Recasting these authors against the backdrop of conquest rhetoric, Stein offers provocative new readings of their texts. Her book paves the way forfurther development of ecocriticism and ecofeminist theory with regard to American women writers.


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Shifting the Ground by Rachel Stein
Shifting the Ground: American Women Writers' Revisions of Nature, Gender, and Race. by Rachel Stein. 183 pages, 6 x 9. ISBN 0-8139-1741-7 • Cloth $19.50 ... books/ stein.html

Feminist Ecocriticism:
1. Feminist Ecocriticism:. A Selected Bibliography for. Ecofeminist Literary Theory and Criticism. Compiled by Glynis Carr. Department of English ... gcarr/ ecofem.pdf

CLEAR-CUTTING EDEN:. REPRESENTATIONS OF NATURE IN SOUTHERN FICTION, 1930-1950. A Dissertation. Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the ... docs/ available/ etd-0417102-220244/ unrestricted/ Rieger_dis.pdf

JSTOR: "I Like These Plants That You Call Weeds": Historicizing ...
On the connections between nature and nationalism, see Rachel Stein, Shifting the Ground: American Women Writers'Revisions of Nature, Gender, ... sici?sici=0891-9356(200306)58%3A1%3C42%3A%22LTPTY%3E2.0.CO%3B2-%23

About the author (1997)

Stein is Associate Professor of American Literature and Director of Women's and Multicultural Studies at Siena College.

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