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Title:Cartographies of undomesticated ground: Nature and feminism in American women's fiction and theory
Author(s):Alaimo, Stacy
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nelson, Cary
Department / Program:English
Discipline:Literature, American
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American Studies
Women's Studies
Literature, American
Environmental Sciences
Abstract:My dissertation examines how American women writers from the early nineteenth century to the present have rearticulated the gendered ideologies of nature. Insights from feminist theory, cultural studies, and interdisciplinary postmodern theories of nature enable me to reveal how women's texts transform the representations promoted by literary, popular, and political discourses. By analyzing environmental and feminist history--including original documents from the progressive women's conservation movement--I demonstrate how a diverse array of fiction transfigures the ideologies of nature for feminist, and sometimes environmentalist ends. Informed by feminist and poststructuralist theory, this study also critiques the way these theories have distanced themselves from the category of nature. In contrast, I argue that "nature" has been and continues to be a crucial site for feminist cultural intervention.
Although much feminist theory shuns the category of nature, the first chapter demonstrates that a persistent tradition of women's fiction, starting with Sedgwick's Hope Leslie, has depicted nature as a liberating, undomesticated space--but one that is racially marked. Chapter Two argues that Mary Austin challenged the ideology of the Women's Progressive Conservation Movement, which promoted female domesticity and a utilitarian conception of nature. Austin's startling creation of a sexual but not domesticated land offers women a figure of identification outside the home by depicting nature as a force that exceeds and resists mastery. From Emma Goldman through Marxist-feminist theories and novels of the thirties, I argue in Chapter Three that radical women project pastoral visions to demand social justice. During the struggle for reproductive rights, however, many novels dramatize how nature is not a liberating space but a trap, since reproduction is a natural disaster.
Chapter Four explores the work of Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Leslie Silko, Jane Rule, Marian Engel, and Octavia Butler; the next chapter contrasts ecofeminism, Donna Haraway's theories, and several popular culture "texts." By forging connections between feminist epistemologies and an interdisciplinary range of postmodern theories of nature, I argue that casting nature as postmodern opens up possibilities for feminists to ally themselves with nature while at the same time warding off detrimental associations between "woman" and "nature."
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Alaimo, Stacy
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9503127
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9503127

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