Play it again, Sam

Decline and finishing in environmental narratives

Authored by: Richard White

The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138786745
eBook ISBN: 9781315766355
Adobe ISBN: 9781317660194


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Over the last half-century, popular environmental literature in the United States has responded to environmental crises ranging from pesticides to global warming with a single narrative. Writers have recycled a pastoral fable of decline and possible redemption far older than any of the crises. George Perkins Marsh launched the modern version of the fable in Man and Nature, but it initially coexisted with and drew upon a very different narrative of “finishing.” In the twentieth century the fable took its dominant form in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in many ways the urtext of modern American environmentalism. Much of the environmental writing that followed emulated it.

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