Participatory Reading: Nature Writing and Response in the Wake of John Burroughs

Morel, Eric Gilbert. Participatory Reading: Nature Writing and Response in the Wake of John Burroughs. 2019. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.
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Participatory Reading: Nature Writing and Response in the Wake of John Burroughs tracks an alternative, reader-focused history of nature writing to describe and retrieve an interactive relationship between readers and their environments—where reading encouraged readers’ outdoorism and nature observation inspired reading. This intertwined history of professional and amateur readers redirects previous ecocritical definitions of nature writing based on its content, which lost sight of readers’ interactions with texts’ key ideas, and thus recovers dynamic and diverse literary pasts. Nature writing, I argue, does not merely seek to instill care for the environment but organizes a history of writers and readers committed to integrating ideas about nature with outdoor experience. My chapters pair reception histories of John Burroughs and Herman Melville, Celia Thaxter and Sarah Orne Jewett, John Muir and Henry James, and Louis Agassiz Fuertes and Alexander Posey and thereby resuscitate forgotten cultures of reading with renewed relevance in the face of popular climate inaction.

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