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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century

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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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Michel Serres: From Restricted to General Ecology (Christopher Watkin)

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Christopher Watkin

Michel Serres: From Restricted to General Ecology

Abstract: Michel Serres’s relation to ecocriticism is complex. On the one hand, he is a pioneer in the area, anticipating the current fashion for ecological thought by over a decade. On the other hand, ‘ecology’ and ‘eco-criticism’ are singularly infelicitous terms to describe Serres’s thinking if they are taken to indicate that attention should be paid to particular ‘environmental’ concerns. For Serres, such local, circumscribed ideas as ‘ecology’ or ‘eco-philosophy’ are one of the causes of our ecological crisis, and no progress can be made while such narrow concerns govern our thinking. This chapter intervenes in the ongoing discussion about the relation of Serres to ecology by drawing on some of Serres’s more recent texts on pollution and dwelling, and this fresh material leads us to modulate existing treatments of Serres and ecology. I insist on the inextricability of two senses of ecology in Serres’s approach: a broader meaning that refers to the interconnectedness and inextricability of all entities (natural and cultural, material and ideal), and a narrower sense that evokes classically ‘environmental’ concerns. Serres’s recent work leads us to challenge some of the vectors and assumptions of the debate by radicalising the continuity between ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ phenomena, questioning some of the commonplaces that structure almost all ecological thinking, and arguing that the entire paradigm of ecology as ‘conservation’ and ‘protection’ is bankrupt and self-undermining. After outlining the shape of Serres’s ‘general...

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