Science, wonder, and new nature writing

Rachel Carson

Authored by: Saskia Beudel

Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138053137
eBook ISBN: 9781315167343
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315167343-23

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Abstract

Writer, scientist and activist Rachel Carson proposed that wonder had a redeeming role to play during an age of escalating environmental destruction. For her, wonder was an integral part of scientific inquiry. This was an open-ended wonder in a Socratic tradition, which fostered not only a sense of appreciation and gratitude for everyday processes and objects of the natural world but also a deeper scientific understanding of that world. As such, it was a powerful check to what she called a lust for destruction. Pioneering any kind of new literature in the field of the natural sciences, or nature writing, thus involved conveying and communicating a participatory wonder from beyond the privileged domain of the scientist to a broader non-specialist audience. This chapter suggests that evoking and awakening wonder was a civic responsibility for Carson. It formed a subtle mode of pre-emptive or anticipatory activism, which foreclosed an inclination toward destruction before it occurred. Her writing distilled, synthesized and communicated complex scientific knowledge from across a range of disciplines in order to impel a sense of wonder in broad public audiences.

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