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The Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America Paperback – Jun 9 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195137698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195137699
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 2 x 15.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,015,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Readers concerned that the community of nature writers and ecocritics has become too chummy and self-congratulatory...need look no further than Dana Phillips's witty and provocative new book for an astringent remedy.... Reading The Truth of Ecology...will make you stronger, better able to appreciate and evaluate the literature that explores our relationship with nature."--Orion

"The Truth of Ecology will help ecocriticism come of age. Dana Phillips is a tough, challenging, and unsentimental reader. Even those who disagree with him will agree that he adds two crucial elements to current discourse in the environmental humanities: a powerful philosophical armature and a genuinely sophisticated understanding of ecological science and its discontents."--William Howarth, Princeton University

"The grand project of this text is to urge writers to question the gaps between experience and language, perception and description; these are worthwhile portals of inquiry for writers working in landscapes that seem to have a priori discrete identities."--Western American Literature

"The Truth of Ecology is a fiercely interesting book at least in part because it is quite fierce. Dana Phillips takes on the very young tradition of ecocriticism, which he finds already moldy. He declares a pox on both the houses of nature-as-text and nature-as-the-world-out-there. But if he has a sharp eye for an argument, Mr. Phillips is also immensely learned, balanced, generous. Nature-writing is the most classic American literature and The Truth of Ecology does it full and rare justice."--Myra Jehlen, Rutgers University

"The Truth of Ecology provides a penetrating assessment of contemporary conceptions of nature and ecology, which have been plagued by a combination of mysticism and literalism. Dana Phillips is setting ecocriticism on the right track: toward a theoretically rigorous, truly interdisciplinary, and imaginative discussion of the entanglements of nature and culture."--Bonnie Costello, Boston University

"The Truth of Ecology is a significant intervention in the ongoing nature/culture debates. Within its original contributions to these debates, Dana Phillips's book raises important questions abut the relationship between science and the humanities through querying the function of theory in both these fields. It is a polemic of exceptional theoretical rigor and imagination, written with a fine sense of style, of which wit is a welcome component. Whether or not one is interested in ecocriticism per se, the book has a lot to offer in its wide ranging interests and is a pleasure to read for the lively critical intelligence therein engaged."--Eric Cheyfitz, University of Pennsylvania

About the Author

Dana Phillips earned a doctorate in English at Duke University. He has published articles on American literature in Raritan, American Literature, Arizona Quarterly, Nineteenth-Century Literature and New Literary History.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Because American ecocriticism, as a movement, is only about a dozen years old, generalizations about it are hard to make and still harder to validate. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
Phillips has made an outstanding contribution to ecocriticism, and I see it as positive. He makes thoughtful connections to contemporary theory but obliterates cultural studies and the school of social construction, which have denigrated natural science for too long and discouraged humanists from absorbing the realities of biome and genome. Yes, his tone is brusque but not dismissive; he echoes the kind of discussion familiar to philosophers, where logic and reason prevail over sentiment. The claim that he has nothing new to offer is wrong: in the late chapters he calls for a "wild" ecocriticism that is diverse, eclectic, and pragmatic. I see this approach as far more constructive, and instructive, than the dewy-eyed reverence that preoccupies too many nature writers and their critics to date. Fifty years ago, Leslie Fiedler performed the same service for New Criticism, when he called Huck back to the raft. Instead of reacting defensively, I hope ecocritics will realize that a good mind and wit has taken up their cause and urged them to get serious and active: a languid pastoralism will not win attention in the academy or clean house at the Department of Interior.
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Format: Paperback
Phillips book is flawed on a fundamental level. As he works through his arugement he not only essentializes and trivializes the work of ecologists and ecocritics alike, he goes at them from a perspective wholly foregin to their own. Phillips seems to be trying to play the role of the disillusioned environmentalist, yearning for a better, more equitable ecocritical paradigm, but in his self professed attempt to "philosophize with a hammer," he comes off instead as trying to completely undercut the ecological values and aesthetics of the Green Left. He takes pot shots at everyone from Muir and Thoreau to Lopez, Dillard and Ammons. Constantly crying foul at their lack of objectivity, Phillips argues that ecocritics should take on more of a scientific approach, and abandon the world of the spiritual, aesthetic and mystical. His attack at, what he considers to be, the cliche of the "ecological epiphany" is particularly barbed, as is his attack of Dillard's sense of the mystery and awe she feels when confronted with the Blue Ridge Mountains (he does quite a number on her "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"). In the process of dismantaling the ecocritical aesthetic Phillips aligns himself with Joyce Carol Oates in trivializing the "REVERENCE, AWE, PIETY, MYSTICAL ONENESS" that characterize ecocritical responses. In one of his attacks Phillips questions whether "any sense can be made out of" Andrew Pickering's assertion that "the claims that the Earth circles the Sun and that it rests on a stack of turtles were of equal validity." At this point I should have stopped reading, because it should have become clear that Phillips is someone who just doesn't get it.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
The previous review is a bit unfair and so I am moved to add a few words. Yes, if you are drawn to an environmentalism that is underwritten by spiritual or mystical motivations, then you probably will be irritated by Phillips' irreverence. However, there is much to be said for this literate and well-researched book. Phillips has astoundingly wide interests, which include contemporary environmental thought, environmental history, environmental literature, and the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. His book does contain some positive suggestions about how the environmental movement might take a more pragmatic approach and so become more successful. Also, there is some pleasure, and perhaps glory, to be found in the witty and withering barbs that Phillips hurls at his objects of study. The environmental movement is too important to recoil from criticism like this. It can only be strengthened by the intelligent, informed and, sometimes, acerbic voice of Dana Phillips.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
irreverent but informed Feb. 15 2004
By Alwyn Tower - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The previous review is a bit unfair and so I am moved to add a few words. Yes, if you are drawn to an environmentalism that is underwritten by spiritual or mystical motivations, then you probably will be irritated by Phillips' irreverence. However, there is much to be said for this literate and well-researched book. Phillips has astoundingly wide interests, which include contemporary environmental thought, environmental history, environmental literature, and the history, philosophy, and sociology of science. His book does contain some positive suggestions about how the environmental movement might take a more pragmatic approach and so become more successful. Also, there is some pleasure, and perhaps glory, to be found in the witty and withering barbs that Phillips hurls at his objects of study. The environmental movement is too important to recoil from criticism like this. It can only be strengthened by the intelligent, informed and, sometimes, acerbic voice of Dana Phillips.
Straightforward and unapologetic Oct. 22 2008
By RiverBrat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
While some readers may be offended by the author's unromantic views of nature writing and ecocriticism alike, Dana Philips is at least honest about his pragmatic and often scathing opinions and analyses. He refuses to be swept away by the mystery of nature and believes that it is useless and counter-productive for nature writers to reflect on their own act of reflecting. I would like to have known that this was a dissection of specific authors and even specific works of those authors (Dillard, Lopez and more), before purchasing it; by the title, I was anticipating a broader philosophic or paradigmatic work. I found myself laughing aloud at a few points, when Philips' clever writing style surprised me with an unexpected turn of phrase or an unusual visual image!
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, tough, unsentimental: all good for ecocriticism March 13 2004
By HenryC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Phillips has made an outstanding contribution to ecocriticism, and I see it as positive. He makes thoughtful connections to contemporary theory but obliterates cultural studies and the school of social construction, which have denigrated natural science for too long and discouraged humanists from absorbing the realities of biome and genome. Yes, his tone is brusque but not dismissive; he echoes the kind of discussion familiar to philosophers, where logic and reason prevail over sentiment. The claim that he has nothing new to offer is wrong: in the late chapters he calls for a "wild" ecocriticism that is diverse, eclectic, and pragmatic. I see this approach as far more constructive, and instructive, than the dewy-eyed reverence that preoccupies too many nature writers and their critics to date. Fifty years ago, Leslie Fiedler performed the same service for New Criticism, when he called Huck back to the raft. Instead of reacting defensively, I hope ecocritics will realize that a good mind and wit has taken up their cause and urged them to get serious and active: a languid pastoralism will not win attention in the academy or clean house at the Department of Interior.
Surprising read April 22 2013
By t - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Would not have thought to read it but am glad I did. Describes ecology as a whole and how the process works.
15 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Unfair and irresponsible Dec 3 2003
By "warfrat73" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Phillips book is flawed on a fundamental level. As he works through his arugement he not only essentializes and trivializes the work of ecologists and ecocritics alike, he goes at them from a perspective wholly foregin to their own. Phillips seems to be trying to play the role of the disillusioned environmentalist, yearning for a better, more equitable ecocritical paradigm, but in his self professed attempt to "philosophize with a hammer," he comes off instead as trying to completely undercut the ecological values and aesthetics of the Green Left. He takes pot shots at everyone from Muir and Thoreau to Lopez, Dillard and Ammons. Constantly crying foul at their lack of objectivity, Phillips argues that ecocritics should take on more of a scientific approach, and abandon the world of the spiritual, aesthetic and mystical. His attack at, what he considers to be, the cliche of the "ecological epiphany" is particularly barbed, as is his attack of Dillard's sense of the mystery and awe she feels when confronted with the Blue Ridge Mountains (he does quite a number on her "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek"). In the process of dismantaling the ecocritical aesthetic Phillips aligns himself with Joyce Carol Oates in trivializing the "REVERENCE, AWE, PIETY, MYSTICAL ONENESS" that characterize ecocritical responses. In one of his attacks Phillips questions whether "any sense can be made out of" Andrew Pickering's assertion that "the claims that the Earth circles the Sun and that it rests on a stack of turtles were of equal validity." At this point I should have stopped reading, because it should have become clear that Phillips is someone who just doesn't get it. Clearly he is confusing facts with truth, mysticism with positivism, and in asserting that there is some fundemental problem with this statement he is revealing himself is an enemy of the ecocritical project. Clearly ecocriticism, being a young field, is in need of maturing, and admittedly Phillips points out some real problems in its application, but he falls into trap of cutting down the field without sewing new seeds or seeing to the fertility of the ground. Clearly the values that Phillips has brought to the table are so fundamentally different from the ecocritics that he deems to speak of that they can never be reconciled. I will however throw Phillips a bone and point out that he does admit to being unapologetically argumentative, though I'd say dismissive would be more accurate.


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