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Necessary Wonder: Promises and Pitfalls of Enchantment

Abstract : There is a caricature of ecopoetic writing as being well-intentioned propaganda or preaching to the choir. Critics like William Cronon have pointed to underlying conceptual risks when ecologically-conscious citizens speak about nature or wilderness, for instance observing that “Wilderness fulfills the old romantic project of secularizing Judeo-Christian values so as to make a new cathedral not in some petty human building but in God’s own creation, Nature itself.” Seen in this light, a “reenchanted” dwelling might seem like a recycled version of the narcissistic idea of dominion, of treating the earth as one of our spoils. To move beyond such pitfalls—that is, if the literary is going to align with the ecopoetic and appeal to an audience beyond the “choir”—a necessary focus will be on the text itself, with no apologies or special pleading. How can a text become a “dwelling of enchantment?” In order to “think like a mountain,” as Aldo Leopold counsels, it is necessary to shake up entrenched habits of seeing, and literature’s powers of estrangement are still effective in this regard. Leopold’s figurative language points to a simple but fundamental insight: in order to be more realistic about the human position on earth, it makes practical sense to be lyrical. With reference to Emily Dickinson, Aldo Leopold and others, this discussion explores how the surrender of self can facilitate aesthetic pleasure, including enchantment. This experience can be considered a response consistent with an accommodated relationship with the earth. Ultimately, literature is not an escape from the world but into the world.
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https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-02520729
Contributor : Charles Holdefer <>
Submitted on : Thursday, March 26, 2020 - 7:26:52 PM
Last modification on : Friday, March 27, 2020 - 5:04:34 PM

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Charles Holdefer. Necessary Wonder: Promises and Pitfalls of Enchantment. Bénédicte Meillon. Dwellings of Enchantment, Rowman & Littlefield, In press. ⟨halshs-02520729⟩

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