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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century

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Edited By 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 ecocritical theory and its innovative results. Multiple discourses and aspects of reality are implicated that allow us to reconceptualise the world: literature, postcolonial theory, globalisation, post-humanism, climate change, new media, deconstructionism, film, etc. The most important thing, as Richard Kerridge writes, is that an ecocritical approach be guided by the principle of connections between humans and the non-human world.1

Adopting a broad framework that takes into account various ecocritical hypotheses, I will explore the ways in which the ethics and ecological poetics of Marguerite Yourcenar (1903–87) can be read in relation to the natural ← 137 | 138 → environment. Ecology is indubitably present in the reader’s expectations of Yourcenar’s work, since she pioneeringly alerts us to catastrophes related to the deterioration of our planet. A collection such as Marguerite Yourcenar y la ecología [Marguerite Yourcenar and Ecology] (2007), edited by Andrea Padilla and Vicente Torres, is a valuable tool for understanding the scope of the author’s ecological commitment. As Michèle Goslar writes in her contribution to the volume,

Si lo político puede ser definido como voluntad de incidir en el comportamiento de un grupo de individuos, puede decirse entonces que la preocupación constante de Marguerite Yourcenar por el porvenir de los animales y la naturaleza fue de carácter político. Esta preocupación por el respeto de la vida en todas sus formas se manifestó desde sus primeros escritos y en todos los géneros que cultivó: novela y poesía, teatro y ensayos, traducciones y discursos, entrevistas y correspondencia.2

[If the political can be defined as a willingness to affect the behaviour of a group of individuals, it can thus be said that Marguerite Yourcenar’s constant concern for the future of animals and nature was of a political nature. This concern for respecting life in all its forms manifested itself beginning with her first writings, and in all the genres that she cultivated: novels and poetry, theatre and essays, translations and discourses, interviews and correspondence.]

Another broad anthology about Yourcenar’s ecological thinking, entitled ‘Marguerite Yourcenar et l’écologie [Marguerite Yourcenar and Ecology]’, was published by the Centre International de Documentation Marguerite Yourcenar (CIDMY) in 1990.3 An ecocritical approach to Yourcenar’s œuvre reveals that, in the majority of her works, there is a chance for real compromise with respect to Nature and the living beings – human animals and non-human animals – inhabiting it. Yourcenar’s Un homme obscur [An Obscure Man] (1981) offers a vision of nature conveyed through a stark aesthetic of writing that can be studied from an ecopoetic perspective. In the novel, many passages describing nature could be considered as prose poetry. Yourcenar not only decentres language in an aesthetic way, but also gives a voice to other earthlings and the environment; her ecopoetics involves an important ethic of responsibility. ← 138 | 139 →

An ecocritical approach to Marguerite Yourcenar

Marguerite Yourcenar was the first woman to hold a position in the Académie française [French Academy]. Nominated by Jean d’Ormesson, her appointment took place in 1981, not without reticence on the part of some of les immortels [the immortals], many of whom – including Claude Lévi-Strauss – strongly opposed a woman entering into the exclusive body. Renowned anthropologist Lévi-Strauss defended his opposition with the argument that ‘on ne change pas les règles de la tribu [you don’t change the rules of the tribe]’.4

Yourcenar was a writer committed to ecological matters. She expressed her support for the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Animals, proclaimed by the International League of Animal Rights in 1978, and signed at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. She maintained that ecology was a part of her life, and one of her main concerns. In the chapter ‘Un écrivain dans le siècle [A Writer of the Times]’ in Les Yeux ouverts [Open Eyes], she responds to Matthieu Galey’s questions about ecology by referring to the sombre state of affairs depicted by some thinkers, such as geographer Franz Schrader, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Yourcenar predicts that all the catastrophes foreseen at that time will eventually turn out even worse, given that the panorama had become more terrifying by the end of the century due to acid rain, the pollution of rivers and seas with chemical and atomic residues, the disappearance of thousands of animal species, the generalised use of pesticides, oil spills, destruction of the ozone layer, etc.5

Yourcenar continually participated in public activities with associations aimed at the defence of the planet. At eighty-four years old, one month before her death, she travelled to Laval University in Canada to give her penultimate speech, ‘Si nous voulons encore essayer de sauver la terre [If We Still Want to Try to Save the Earth]’, in which she spoke of ‘cette espèce d’égarement de la conscience humaine [this kind of confusion of human conscience]’, and emphasised that ‘la formule “Terre des hommes” est extrêmement dangereuse. La Terre appartient à tous les vivants et nous dépérirons avec eux et avec elle [the formula “Earth of men” is ← 139 | 140 → extremely dangerous. The Earth belongs to all living beings, and we will perish with them and with it]’.6 This conviction is found in the worlds of her literary fiction, in her essays and interviews, and in her extensive autobiographical work, in which she alludes to her fundamental concerns: ecological problems, wars, racism, the ivory trade, factory farms, the leather industry, seal hunting, vivisection, and hunting. I will analyse Yourcenar’s work from an ecocritical perspective, mainly focussing on Un homme obscur, her last novel, and occasionally referring to her other writings, fictional and factual.

Nature and place-connectedness

First of all, we must ask what role nature plays in the author’s aesthetics. Certainly, it is not a Romantic idea of nature that predominates in Yourcenar’s writing; she distances herself from Old World discourses when referring to landscapes.7 Yourcenar avoids European idyllic types of narration that emphasise the beauty of the landscape in tandem with the feelings of a character afflicted by misery. We do not find representations of Nature as mere scenery or a projection of human moods, whereby a domesticated landscape is portrayed as an ideal refuge and a propitious distraction from the hardships of the Romantics. By contrast, Yourcenar adopts the notion of ‘wilderness’, of nature uncontaminated by civilisation. This is evident in Un homme obscur, which can be considered her ecological testament.

Set in the seventeenth century, the novella narrates the story of Nathanaël, a young Englishman who is sensitive and sickly, who works on a boat roaming the seas at the apogee of the Cartesian era. During his voyages, Nathanaël faces the reality of life and the atrocities of the world. He symbolises naturalness and sensibility. The experience of the journey allows him to discover the unmarred, splendid nature of North America. This world is much more than background scenery for the hero; it is a presence with its own reality. Nathanaël is in awe of this wild nature, and from the ship he perceives coasts fringed by impenetrable forests that bring to mind his reading of Virgil’s descriptions of forests at the edge of sanctuaries. At the end of the story, Nathanaël’s fusion with Nature becomes complete. ← 140 | 141 →

It is not surprising that Marguerite Yourcenar, through her protagonist, intently describes these landscapes devoid of all cultural or literary semanticisation. In The Song of the Earth, pioneering critic Jonathan Bate utilises an ecocritical approach to English literature to assert the importance of poetry in a highly technological society at the turn of a new millennium, and to emphasise the capacity of poetry to return us to the earth that is our home.8 We find this function in many of Marguerite Yourcenar’s works: a tireless traveller, she develops an imaginary marked by a commitment to denounce disasters that affect the beings who inhabit Earth.

In 1942, the author discovered Mount Desert Island in Maine, and a connection was born that led to her living there until the end of her life. Over the course of her time in the area, she came to adopt a sensitivity to wilderness that is characteristic of North American nature writing. In that place, open to the sea, she declared: ‘on a le sentiment d’être sur une frontière entre l’univers et le monde humain [one has the impression of being on a border between the universe and the human world]’.9 In the prologue to one of her first texts, the play La Petite Sirène [The Little Mermaid] (1942), Yourcenar writes that she replaced her interest in landscapes of the past with an interest for increasingly out-of-the-way places untouched by humanity.10

In the autobiographical trilogy Le Labyrinthe du monde [The Labyrinth of the World] (1974–88), which rejects conventional historical narration, the author confirms the degradation of idyllic places from her childhood. In the first entry, Souvenirs pieux [Pious Recollections], she focusses on the search for her maternal roots. Aiming to be true to reality, the narrator visits places that encompassed her family history, and adds to what she has learned from documents that guide her on trips to Belgium, the land of her ancestors and her first experiences of ‘place-connectedness’.11 In 1956, during one of these trips, she stops at the castle in Flémalle, near Liège. By visiting a familiar place, which had captured her attention in an engraving that she owned, Yourcenar asserts the reality of how symbols of history die: the virgin place shown in the engraving has become a ← 141 | 142 → place without grass or trees, an industrial zone with a hellish topography; of the castle, only some ruins remain; of the mansion, allotted to a demolition company, the best-conserved part is an eighteenth-century banister made from wrought iron. Yourcenar arrives one day before the demolition, and the scenery makes her think of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s eighteenth-century etchings, in which staircases happily rise to the sky.12 Yourcenar considers it vitally important to visit former residences because the stones and interiors that witnessed the lives of the inhabitants help to reconstruct memories.

During a trip in 1971, Yourcenar confirms the degradation of the place: dense, stinking clouds suffocate the visitor; the landscape is littered with closed coal mines and abandoned buildings that remind her of the black sorcerer’s ruined castle in Parsifal; the engraving Les Délices du pays de Liège [The Delights of the Region of Liège] is transformed into the ‘Apocalypse’,13 triggered by the errors of the human who becomes an apprentice to the sorcerer. In describing the industrial disfiguration of her parents’ region, Yourcenar shows her ecological commitment, as she draws on the vestiges of her family history to judge the world.

In Archives du Nord [Archives of the North], the second book of the familial trilogy, Yourcenar delves into the origins of her paternal family. Thinking about the place in which her family lived, she imagines its state before the birth of the world. She recalls a time when man did not exist,14 and imagines a virgin nature that changes according to seasons, untouched by calendars or timepieces, returning us to a tranquil world featuring the noises of free animals in their natural environment. The idyllic peace is swiftly shattered by the appearance of ‘le prédateur roi, le bûcheron des bêtes et l’assassin des arbres, le trappeur ajustant ses rêts où s’étranglent les oiseaux [the predator-king, the butcher of beasts, and the assassin of trees, the hunter setting his traps in which birds are strangled]’.15 Man is reflected in all his brutality:

Les bandes dessinées et les manuels de science populaires nous montrent cet Adam sans gloire sous l’aspect d’une brute poilue brandissant un casse-tête: nous sommes loin de la légende judéo-chrétienne pour laquelle l’homme original erre en paix sous les ombrages d’un beau jardin.16 ← 142 | 143 →

[Comic books and popular scientific manuals show us this inglorious Adam as a hairy brute brandishing a club: we are far from Judeo-Christian legend, in which originary man wanders in peace among the shadows of a beautiful garden.]

Man and his powers are an anomaly within the whole; his presence is not beneficial to the primitive garden.

Situating the fiction of Un homme obscur in the seventeenth century, Yourcenar alerts us to the danger that looms over natural spaces with the advent of modernity. Nathanaël admires the immense beauty of virgin Nature, and his thoughts convey the fragility of the jungles starting to be destroyed by human excess.17 As with Carolyn Merchant in The Death of Nature,18 Yourcenar denounces mechanistic philosophies that strip Nature of its ancient dignity as a possessor of spiritual energy. Yourcenar’s attraction to Renaissance animism, which succumbed to the attacks of mechanism, is shown in the choice of an alchemist as the main character of her novel L’Œuvre au noir [The Abyss] (1968), in which we find a critique of technologically advanced societies that consider Mother Earth to be inert material. The Yourcenarian condemnation of a disenchanted world given to intensive exploitation of Nature chimes with Rachel Carson’s admonitions in Silent Spring.19

An ethics of care and gender

Universal compassion is at the centre of Yourcenar’s ethics. Beginning with her early writings, she shows sensitivity to the sorrow of living beings who have ‘le sens d’une vie enfermée dans une forme différente [the sense of life enclosed in a different form]’.20 In a letter of 1957, Yourcenar congratulates poet and animal-rights activist Lise Deharme:

Je vous félicite d’avoir eu le courage de traiter ce sujet (il en est peu de plus graves) et de dédaigner d’avance les reproches de sentimentalité que les sots ne manqueront pas de vous adresser.21 ← 143 | 144 →

I salute you for having had the courage to engage with this issue (there are few more serious), and for pre-emptively disdaining the accusations of sentimentality that fools will surely launch against you.]

Yourcenar is aware of resistance to the development of a moral sensibility that acknowledges suffering beyond our species. Faced with a rationalist tradition that considers piety a passion, making it an expression of our corporeal nature that is inferior to intellect, Yourcenar advocates for the development of our sensory and affective capabilities, which have become subjugated to ‘cet ordinateur que le cerveau est pour nous [the computer that is the brain for us]’.22

In recent decades, the revaluation of sentiment in the realm of morality has gone hand-in-hand with increased attentiveness to gender studies. With In a Different Voice,23 Carol Gilligan calls for the recognition of a ‘different voice’, an ethic of care – a specifically feminine morality that has traditionally been dismissed. According to Gilligan’s empirical studies, men are guided in moral decisions by principles – they speak of concepts and duties, and think in terms of justice. Instead of a logic of principles, women start from a relational self that leads to a morality of responsibility, as well as to greater contextual relativism. The typologies of moral theorists such as Lawrence Kohlberg characterise the latter form of ethical thinking as inferior to one based on duties and principles, but Gilligan – together with other female theorists of an ethic of care – postulates that these two moral perspectives are not contradictory, and should not be hierarchised.

The concept of a feminine form of moral thinking has been widely debated and criticised. It has been pointed out that modern societies are complex, and that gender roles have become less rigid, making it erroneous to generalise a breed of moral thinking that is characteristic of women, yet statistics continue to show a difference in the numbers of women and men who fulfil caring roles. Most members of ecological and animal rights movements around the world are women.24 Ecofeminist theorists have taken up the idea of an ethic of care as a way of broadening a sense of moral responsibility for the non-human world, although they have adjusted it to theoretical positions that are very different from each other.25 Despite disparities, these ecofeminist readings concur in distancing ← 144 | 145 → themselves from essentialist ecofeminist positions that would impede men from adopting an ethic of care; they postulate the end of gendered contrapositions, aspiring to a non-androcentric morality shared by all.

In this sense, we could see Nathanaël as an ethical model in Un homme obscur. Nathanaël does not renounce his emotive nature, as dictated by the norms of masculinity – according to which nature is to be denigrated and considered an object that should be dominated in order to defend culture. He does not participate in this power structure, nor does he adhere to an attitude of competition practised by men. Over the course of his life, he accepts an ‘inferior’ rank, showing absolute discretion until his final, silent fusion with nature. Traits such as practising an ethic of care, rejecting violence, manifesting emotions – characteristics devalued on the basis of being historically attributed to women – are the basis of the affective world of Yourcenar’s lattermost characters.

Paradoxically, the women who appear in Un homme obscur conform to stereotypes. An analysis of the figures of femininity in the text – if we adopt the stance of Simone de Beauvoir’s Le Deuxième Sexe [The Second Sex]26 with regard to the work of André Breton, Paul Claudel and others – confirms that the women in the novel are not granted individuality. Janet, with whom Nathanaël has a short relationship before setting off on his journey, is a clearly stereotyped character, limited to a set of ruses through which she seduces the young man. Foy, Nathanaël’s companion on a deserted island, embodies the naïve woman who knows how to work the land, and is blessed with a seductive spontaneity. On his return to Europe, Nathanaël lives with Saraï, a prostitute who tricks and robs her clients. There are positive feminine figures in the novel, but they are always simplified.27 The main character crosses paths with women who help or save him, such as Madame d’Ailly, who is a symbol of the ideal woman, but she remains unreachable. As in the model of courtly love, Nathanaël’s veneration for her serves as a vehicle for perfecting his character. Madame d’Ailly gives him the spiritual force to continue on his path, and sacrifices her physical integrity by kissing him, though she knows that he has a contagious pulmonary disease. Nathanaël slowly becomes a complex character, whereas the women – a means to an end – remain anchored to a concrete function ← 145 | 146 → in a narrative that serves to show the transcendence of a masculine figure. The central masculine character represents the voice of the non-human other: upon freeing himself from the norms of his gender, he becomes a transcendent and wise subject in the very heart of Nature. We can conclude that Yourcenar was able to overcome anthropocentric bias, but not its androcentric counterpart, leading her to attribute a particular of gender to the false universal concept of Man.

Her efforts to overcome anthropocentrism make Yourcenar a pioneer deserving of ecocritical attention. Given the variety of perspectives in the spectrum of environmental thought, we can ask which position most characterises her work. Yourcenar criticises humanist anthropocentrism and the Cartesian theory of the animal-machine as a construction that favours exploitation and indifference. She wonders whether the Cartesian assertion has been fundamentally misunderstood, given the common ground of human beings and animal-machines:

Une machine à produire et à ordonnancer les actions, les pulsions et les réactions qui constituent les sensations de chaud et de froid, de faim et de satisfaction digestive, les poussées sexuelles, et aussi la douleur, la fatigue, la terreur que les animaux éprouvent comme nous le faisons nous-mêmes.28

[A machine to produce and order the actions, impulses, and reactions that constitute the sensations of hot and cold, hunger and fullness, the sexual impulses, as well as pain, tiredness, and terror that animals feel just as we do.]

In other words, her environmental thinking grants animal dignity a privileged place.

Sentiocentrism and biocentrism

Yourcenar expresses pathos-imbued sentiocentrism corresponding to the utilitarian philosophy of Peter Singer,29 who inherits Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the capacity to feel pain – not the capacity to reason – being the criterion for acting with moral consideration towards other living beings. In contrast to philosophers such as Singer who seek to ground anti-speciesism exclusively in reason, Yourcenar places great importance on the feelings of the subject, without disregarding norms and principles. Yourcenar is attentive to the fact that, despite the French Revolution’s ← 146 | 147 → Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen [Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen] (1789), there has been massive destruction of human lives, especially in concentration camps, which has degraded the notion of humanity to an extraordinary degree. Reflecting on whether such declarations will be effective if human beings do not change, she responds affirmatively:

Il convient toujours de promulguer ou de réaffirmer les Lois véritables, qui n’en seront pas moins enfreintes, mais en laissant ça et là aux transgresseurs le sentiment d’avoir fait mal. ‘Tu ne tueras pas’. Toute l’histoire, dont nous sommes si fières, est une perpétuelle infraction à cette loi.30

[It is always advisable to promote or reaffirm the true Laws, not that this will stop them from being infringed upon, but to leave transgressors here and there with the feeling of having behaved badly. ‘Thou shalt not kill’. All of history, of which we are so proud, is a perpetual violation of that law.]

Yourcenar extends this law to non-human animals as well: in an era when the abuse of animals continues to worsen seemingly without end, she finds some use in the UNESCO Déclaration universelle des droits de l’animal [Universal Declaration of Animal Rights] (1978).

Yourcenar’s positioning with respect to non-human animals is present in Un homme obscure: Nathanaël constantly rejects violence against them; he never speaks of their location, so that hunters cannot shoot them. A representative passage, narrated in a lyrical style, is when the protagonist and Foy spend time in an English colony in the New World. Nathanaël prefers to collect fruits, and to enjoy the forest, instead of following the rest of the young men, who enjoy hunting and fishing. The young man is united in solidarity with the animals who populate the forests: with the bear that he encounters; with the skunk that observes him; with the snakes condemned to be crushed if he reveals their existence to others.31

Yourcenar’s ethics have biocentric roots. A collection of her reading notes, published as Sources II, includes many texts that reveal her thinking and method of writing. Rémy Poignault highlights that these texts ‘tenían ante todo un objetivo personal, a saber, el de la meditación cotidiana a la manera de los estoicos, los cristianos o los filósofos orientales [had above all a personal objective, namely one of daily meditation in the style of the Stoics, the Christians, or the ← 147 | 148 → Eastern philosophers]’.32 In one of the sections entitled ‘Souhaits [Wishes]’, Yourcenar writes about her desires in relation to the world in which she would like to live: ‘un monde où tout objet vivant, arbre, animal, serait sacré et jamis détruit, sauf avec regret, et du fait d’une absolue nécessité [a world where every living object, tree, animal, would be sacred and never destroyed, except with sorrow, and in case of necessity]’.33 In ‘L’Homme qui aimait les pierres [The Man Who Loved Stones]’ – one of the essays included in En pèlerin et en étranger [As a Pilgrim and a Stranger] (1991), and dedicated to writer Roger Caillois – Yourcenar writes that stone is an antecedent of man; it is ‘un alphabet inconscient [an unconscious alphabet]’.34 The author even talks about the friendship of stones and their import because – as thirteenth-century mystic Eckhart von Hochheim believed – ‘la pierre est Dieu, mais elle ne sait pas qu’elle l’est [the stone is God, but it does not know that it is]’.35 In La Voix des choses [The Voice of Things],36 a quasi-anthology from the end of Yourcenar’s life, she insists on what an object can communicate to us. The title of the volume alludes to the noise emitted by the shattering of an ancient sheet of malachite from India that fell from her hands when she was very weak during a period of hospitalisation. Yourcenar, though upset by the destruction of a perfectly shaped mineral as old as the Earth, notes that the sound of it breaking – an example of the voice of things speaking to us – was very beautiful.

Does Yourcenar align herself with a kind of holism that gives value to ecosystems without regard for individuals? No. Yourcenar adopts a kind of biocentrism that encompasses an ethic of responsibility towards every non-human entity. Her biocentrism, corresponding to a markedly mystical anti-violent spiritualism in communion with the cosmos, is the basis of her belief that plants and stones practise reciprocity, thanking us for our care by way of vibrations when we touch them.37 This idea is exemplified in Un homme obscur by Nathanaël’s rejection of violence against all life-forms, animal or vegetal: ‘le garçon chérissait de même les arbres; il les plaignait, si grands et si majestueux qu’ils fussent, d’être incapables de fuir ou de se défendre, livrés à la hache du plus petit bûcheron [the boy equally loved the trees; ← 148 | 149 → he pitied them, so tall and so majestic as they were, for being incapable of fleeing or defending themselves from the axe of the weakest lumberjack]’.38 For the young protagonist, trees are individuals with an inherent value.

Conclusion

Yourcenar’s great yearning at the end of her life was for the planet to be free of violence and pollution. She never stopped standing firm against those whom she called ‘murderers’ of Nature, and ‘tormenters’ of animals. For her, literature was not only an aesthetic composition, but also an ethical commitment. Ecocriticism should be a sociopolitical commitment as much as a theoretical one, since fiction is tied to the context from which it emerges. The environmental crisis of our world is not a metanarrative, and we should remember that texts do not exist autonomously. In carrying out studies of representations of nature from the innovative perspective of ecocriticism, we must seek, in the words of Richard Kerridge, ‘to evaluate texts and ideas in terms of their coherence and usefulness as responses to environmental crisis’.39 We can thus raise awareness of the great danger that threatens the survival of our planet. An ecocritical approach to Marguerite Yourcenar’s work demonstrates the fruitfulness of this innovative current of cultural criticism that speaks to a far-reaching kind of eco-ethical commitment. Yourcenar’s texts and paratexts give a voice to what philosopher Michel Serres calls ‘la Biogée [Biogea]’, namely all life on Earth,40 and thus supply ample food for thought about the increasingly pressing need to find ways of preserving the community of all living things for generations to come.

References

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Buell, Lawrence, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U. S. and Beyond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001) ← 149 | 150 →

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—, ‘Le Droit à la qualité de l’environnement: un droit en devenir, un droit à définir’, Centre International de Documentation Marguerite Yourcenar (30 September 1987), <http://www.cidmy.be/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=43:conference-2&catid=4:discours-conferences&Itemid=34> [accessed 23 May 2016]

—, Les Yeux ouverts: entretiens avec Matthieu Galey (Paris: Le Centurion, 1980)

—, Lettres à ses amis et quelques autres, ed. by J. Brami and M. Sarde (Paris: Gallimard, 1995)

—, Œuvres romanesques (Paris: Gallimard, 1982)

—, Sources II, ed. by É. Dezon-Jones (Paris: Gallimard, 1999)

—, Théâtre, vol. 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1971)

—, ed., La Voix des choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1987)

Warren, Karen, ed., Ecological Feminist Philosophies (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996) ← 151 | 152 →


1 Richard Kerridge, ‘Ecocriticism and the Mission of “English”’, in Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies, ed. by G. Garrard (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 11–23 (12–13).

2 Michèle Goslar, ‘Marguerite Yourcenar y la protección de la naturaleza: el combate de toda una vida’, in Marguerite Yourcenar y la ecología: un combate ideológico y político, ed. by A. Padilla and V. Torres (Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, 2007), 37–48 (37) [unreferenced translations are mine].

3 Bulletin du Centre International de Documentation Marguerite Yourcenar 2 (1990), 116 pages [‘Marguerite Yourcenar et l’écologie’].

4 Claude Lévi-Strauss, quoted in Josyane Savigneau, Marguerite Yourcenar: l’invention d’une vie (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), 406; translated in Ingeborg Majer O’Sickey, ‘Introduction: Part I’, in Subversive Subjects: Reading Marguerite Yourcenar, ed. by J. H. Sarnecki and I. Majer O’Sickey (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004), 11–16 (12).

5 Marguerite Yourcenar, Les Yeux ouverts: entretiens avec Matthieu Galey (Paris: Le Centurion, 1980), 293–4.

6 Marguerite Yourcenar, ‘Le Droit à la qualité de l’environnement: un droit en devenir, un droit à définir’, Centre International de Documentation Marguerite Yourcenar (30 September 1987), <http://www.cidmy.be/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=43:conference-2&catid=4:discours-conferences&Itemid=34> [accessed 23 May 2016].

7 Teófilo Sanz, ‘L’Engagement écologique de Marguerite Yourcenar’, Polymnies 1 (2010), 113–18.

8 Jonathan Bate, The Song of the Earth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), vii.

9 Yourcenar, Les Yeux ouverts, 134.

10 Marguerite Yourcenar, Théâtre, vol. 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), 176 [La Petite Sirène, 135–72].

11 The concept of place-connectedness is evoked by Lawrence Buell in Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U. S. and Beyond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 64.

12 Marguerite Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires (Paris: Gallimard, 1991), 763–4 [Souvenirs pieux].

13 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 765–6 [Souvenirs pieux].

14 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 954 [Archives du Nord].

15 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 957 [Archives du Nord].

16 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 958 [Archives du Nord].

17 Yourcenar, Les Yeux ouverts, 296.

18 Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1980).

19 Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1962).

20 Yourcenar, Les Yeux ouverts, 317.

21 Marguerite Yourcenar, Lettres à ses amis et quelques autres, ed. by J. Brami and M. Sarde (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), 165.

22 Yourcenar, Les Yeux ouverts, 320.

23 Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).

24 Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer, Éthique animale (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2008).

25 Greta Gaard, ed., Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1993); Karen Warren, ed., Ecological Feminist Philosophies (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996); Alicia H. Puleo, Ecofeminismo para otro mundo posible (Madrid: Cátedra, 2011).

26 Simone de Beauvoir, Le Deuxième Sexe (Paris: Gallimard, 1949).

27 Teófilo Sanz, ‘Féminiser le masculin ou renier la féminité: l’éthique de la sollicitude dans Un homme obscur’, in Marguerite Yourcenar: la femme, les femmes, une écriture-femme?, ed. by M. Ledesma Pedraz and R. Poignault (Clermont-Ferrand: Société Internationale d’Études Yourcenariennes, 2005), 377–85.

28 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 375 [Le Temps, ce grand sculpteur (‘Qui sait si l’âme des bêtes va en bas?’)].

29 Peter Singer, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for our Treatment of Animals (New York, NY: New York Review, 1975); Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

30 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 375 [Le Temps, ce grand sculpteur (‘Qui sait si l’âme des bêtes va en bas?’)].

31 Marguerite Yourcenar, Œuvres romanesques (Paris: Gallimard, 1982), 930 [Un homme obscur].

32 Rémy Poignault, ‘Ensayos y meditaciones’, in Marguerite Yourcenar y la ecología: un combate ideológico y político, ed. by A. Padilla and V. Torres (Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, 2007), 49–50 (49).

33 Marguerite Yourcenar, Sources II, ed. by É. Dezon-Jones (Paris: Gallimard, 1999), 240.

34 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 552 [En pèlerin et en étranger].

35 Yourcenar, Essais et mémoires, 550 [En pèlerin et en étranger].

36 Marguerite Yourcenar, ed., La Voix des choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1987).

37 Yourcenar, Les Yeux ouverts, 322.

38 Yourcenar, Œuvres romanesques, 930 [Un homme obscur].

39 Richard Kerridge, ‘Introduction’, in Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism & Literature, ed. by R. Kerridge and N. Sammells (London: Zed, 1998), 1–9 (5) [my emphasis].

40 Michel Serres, Temps des crises (Paris: Le Pommier, 2009), 40.