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Toward decolonized conceptions of space and literature of place in ecocritical analysis : the process and production of landscape in William Bartram's travels and Samuel Hearne's a journey to the Northern Ocean



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The tendency to stage appreciation for and attention to nature as a passive, guiltless enterprise was necessary for eighteenth-century colonial claims to space, but it also remains a very deeply entrenched aspect of environmentalist attitudes today. Indeed, innovations that shaped the technological interpretation and inscription of place in the latter eighteenth century have strongly situated contemporary North American environmental discourses.This thesis explores the methods of spatial representation in Samuel Hearne’s A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort, in Hudson’s Bay, to the Northern Ocean(1795) and William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, The Cherokee Country, The Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws (1792). Both ecocritical and postcolonial methods underlay an analysis of the discourses and rhetorics of space exhibited in the North American travel writing of these two late-eighteenth-century writers. A first move monitors how landscape accrues not only as a product of descriptive techniques, frames, and screens, but also as a process whereby narrative identity is formed against and within a represented landscape. A second move locates these texts as versions of Mary Louise Pratt’s “anti-conquest,” in which the hero-explorer of colonial encounter is staged as both passive and innocent.Two primary results from this research into the relationship between literature and environment are reported. First, according to conventions of ecocritical analysis, Hearne and Bartram implement two very different modes of spatial representation in travel narratives from the same period; in the broadest strokes, Hearne’s text is deeply anthropocentric and only partially engages in eighteenth-century vogues of natural history, while Bartram’s is compellingly and precociously ecocentric as well as deeply invested in the commerce of Linnaean systemizations of nature that revolutionized natural history in the period. Second, this disparity in representational method is correlated not only with variances in the ecological (or green) sensibilities of the authors, but also with distinctions in the colonial functionality of the texts, verifying that literature of place, despite the putative object of description, always already maintains significant valencies in social registers.



environmentalism, environment, nature writing, anti-conquest, travel writing, ecocriticism, postcolonialism



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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