A bittersweet belonging: Embodied paradigms for reconnection to the environment in contemporary American women authors

Mary Newell, Fordham University

Abstract

My dissertation addresses the intersections of literature with ecology, gender, and interdisciplinary paradigms of embodiment. I explore interactions between individual and environment in the poetry of Mary Oliver and Adrienne Rich, the creative non-fiction of naturalist Terry Tempest Williams and biologist Sandra Steingraber, and the fiction of Margaret Atwood and Linda Hogan. I begin from the premise that the cultural separation of mind from body and feelings has contributed to a sense of detachment from the natural environment. In paradigms of embodiment, thought and feeling are interconnected with biological processes, themselves sustained by ecological ones. Embodiment, then, can provide a framework for rediscovering a sense of relatedness to other species that share biological functions and to the ecosystem as a whole. Building on work in ecocriticism, phenomenology, and cognitive psychology, I propose that a reconnection to embodiment, including affect, will support a renewed sense of connection to, and responsibility toward, the ecosystem. ^ I discuss sensory, kinesthetic, and affective bases of attuning to environments and the often-accompanying moments of enhanced self-awareness. I bring network models from social geography and dynamic models of human/environment interaction into dialogue with feminist theories of more flexible individual boundaries. I selected women authors for this project because in the past, women as a category have been linked to "nature" in constricting and objectifying ways. I am interested in how these authors negotiate situated positions and represent disconnections, missed connections, and renewed connections. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Mary Newell, "A bittersweet belonging: Embodied paradigms for reconnection to the environment in contemporary American women authors" (January 1, 2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3255049.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3255049

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