Ecocriticism and the Idea of Culture: Biology and the Bildungsroman draws on work by Kinji Imanishi, Frans de Waal, and other biologists to create an interdisciplinary, materialist notion of culture for ecocritical analysis. In this timely intervention, Feder examines the humanist idea of culture by taking a fresh look at the stories it explicitly tells about itself. These stories fall into the genre of the Bildungsroman, the tale of individual acculturation that participates in the myth of its complete separation from and opposition to nature which, Feder argues, is culture’s own origin story. Moving from Voltaire’s Candide to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando to Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy, the book dramatizes humanism’s own awareness of the fallacy of this foundational binary. In the final chapters, Feder examines the discourse of animality at work in this narrative as a humanist fantasy about empathy, one that paradoxically excludes other animals from the ethical community to justify the continued domination of both human and nonhuman others.
Helena Feder is Associate Professor of Literature and Environment at East Carolina University. She has published articles on various subjects in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Green Letters, Women's Studies, and the Journal of Ecocriticism.
'Professor Feder makes a fresh, distinctive, consistently illuminating contribution to ecocriticism by reading a strikingly variegated array of borderline examples of Bildungsroman from the 1700s to the present against the grain of that genre’s implicit claim to tell stories of uniquely human origin and growth.' Lawrence Buell, Harvard University, USA ' ... an important call to expand political relevance to include the nonhuman (especially other animals) in meaningful recognition of the deep, interconnecting continuity of life. By demonstrating the Bildungsroman's failure to maintain the illusion of human cultural superiority, Feder's book contests the humanist ideology of culture and makes room for a multispecies multiculturalism.' Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment 'Ecocriticism and the Idea of Culture ... is certainly [a text] that all those interested in the interlocking areas of ecocriticism, the narrative form and feminism will find rewarding, provocative and challenging in equal measure.' Green Letters