Theoretical, Historical, and Other Secondary Texts

Click on the author’s name to read my posts on the texts.

Klicken Sie auf den Namen des Autors, um die entsprechenden Einträge zu lesen.


Blackbourn, David. The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany. New York, NY: Norton, 2006. ISBN 0393329992

A fascinating and important environmental history of Germany from the 18th century onwards.  I particularly appreciate the fact that Blackbourn is also a reader of the fiction, making this book a handy guide to the literary responses to the phenomena he describes.

Cronon, William, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1996. ISBN 0393315118

With essays on the Nature Company and a mid 1990s Sea World ad campaign, this book might seem a bit dated.  Nevertheless, the interesting and provocative essays contained in this volume shed considerable light on the way that ideologies of nature and wilderness get reproduced throughout the public sphere.  On a personal note, since the book began as a project at my alma mater, it is particularly near and dear to my heart.

Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. New York: Penguin, 2009. ISBN 0140439129

The historical importance of this book needs no comment from me. 

Davis, Mike. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the The Third World. London: Verso, 2001.

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. 2nd Ed. New York: Routledge, 2012. ISBN 0415667860

This book is a pretty useful guide to ecocriticism, its history, theory, practice, and key terms.  Naturally there are any number of complaints one can bring against such a book (in my case, I’d rather read more about non-Anglophone literatures).  But rather than sinking into quibbles, the value of this book is that it lays out some of the important positions that fall under the rubric of “ecocriticism,” explores important concepts and ways of thinking from various angles, it assumes a good critical edge, and most importantly, points the way to further reading and research.

Glotfelty, Cheryll and Harol Fromm, ed. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1996. ISBN 0820317810

This anthology of theoretical essays and readings of fictional and non-fictional texts is a cornerstone of ecocriticism in general.  The contributors are pretty diverse: Glen Love, Don Scheese, Sueellen Campbell, Scott Slovic, and Dana Phillips are all important names in the field.  Since the book has appeared, there’s been a lot more scholarship, which means that the entries in this book hardly exhaust the range of possibilities for thinking about the environment within the context of humanistic inquiry.  Greg Garrard’s book would, in that sense, be a more useful guide to a scholar trying to find a way into the field.  But even if it is, in that sense, dated, this collection belongs on the bookshelf.

Harvey, David. Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. ISBN 1557866813

A landmark of critical geography, Harvey also critiques some of the major concepts one encounters in some environmentalist discourses.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Trans. Ben Fowkes. Vol. 1. New York: Penguin, 1990. ISBN 0140445684

Marx’s analysis has much to offer for an understanding of the way that the environment is not only drawn into the production process, but for the way that the evolution of the means of production has shaped common ways of seeing and imagining the environment.  David Harvey, for one, has done much to draw these issues out.

Smith, Neil. Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space. 3rd ed. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2008.

Smith is another critical geographer whose theory about the dialectical production of second and first nature has been extraordinarily fruitful for helping me to illustrate the character of the landscapes I encounter in the literature I look at in my dissertation.

Soper, Kate. What is Nature: Culture, Politics, and the non-Human. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995.

Soper’s book is an incredibly useful, comprehensive, and even-handed overview of political, cultural, and philosophical takes on nature. The book appeared at the peak of the so -called “Science Wars” of the 1990s, and is by now standard for anyone who wishes to critically engage with ideas of Nature without getting lost in the ideological morass that the term carries with it.