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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century


Daniel A. Finch-Race and Stephanie Posthumus

This book expounds fruitful ways of analysing matters of ecology, environments, nature, and the non-human world in a broad spectrum of material in French. Scholars from Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States examine the work of writers and thinkers including Michel de Montaigne, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gilbert Simondon, Michel Serres, Michel Houellebecq, and Éric Chevillard. The diverse approaches in the volume signal a common desire to bring together form and content, politics and aesthetics, theory and practice, under the aegis of the environmental humanities.

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Marguerite Yourcenar’s Ecological Thinking: Wilderness, Place-Connectedness, Biocentrism, and an Ethic of Care (Teófilo Sanz)


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Teófilo Sanz

Marguerite Yourcenar’s Ecological Thinking: Wilderness, Place-Connectedness, Biocentrism, and an Ethic of Care

Abstract: In recent years, literary critics in the francophone world have attempted to develop their own ecocritical theory as a counterpoint to the enormous weight of anglophone studies in the field, and the emergence of écopoétique [ecopoetics] is a response to ecocriticism’s supposed lack of attention to a text’s formal and aesthetic elements. This chapter reflects on the potential of a specifically francophone ecocriticism based on non-anthropocentric ethical values. Twentieth-century writer Marguerite Yourcenar always claimed that ecology was a main concern for her, and this chapter uses an ecocritical approach to consider her relationship with nature. Studying in particular her fictional novel Un homme obscur [An Obscure Man], and taking into account her autobiographical work and paratexts, this chapter analyses the role of the natural environment in the literary production of the first female writer accepted into the Académie française [French Academy]. My overview shows the rich variety of ecocritical themes in Yourcenar’s work: wilderness, place-connectedness, biocentrism, and an ethics of care. Yourcenar’s texts, which evoke remarkable sensitivity and commitment to animals and the planet, are proof that her literary aesthetic goes hand-in-hand with an environmental commitment, giving a voice to what French philosopher Michel Serres calls Biogée – all life on Earth.

The collective volume Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies (2012), edited by Greg Garrard, offers a broad panorama of...

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