Prepared by Dr. Mark Bassett for USSY 265 (“Nature Writing”)
Buell, Lawrence. Introduction.
The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and
the Formation of American Culture.
Cambridge, MA: Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1995. 1-
Buell outlines four ingredients common to "environmental texts" (that is, the various sub-genres
of nature writing):
(1) “The nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that
begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history” (7).
(2) “The human interest is not understood to be the only legitimate interest” (7).
(3) “Human accountability to the environment is part of the text's ethical orientation” (7).
(4) “Some sense of the environment as a process rather than as a constant or a given is at least
implicit in the text” (8).
Jenkins, McKay. “Nature.”
A Field Guide for Science Writers.
ed. Eds. Deborah Blum, Mary
Knudson, and Robin Marantz Henig. New York: Oxford UP, 2006. 229-235.
p. 230 – “For the nonspecialist, ‘nature writing’ can seem especially intimidating, since it seems,
at first glance, to be a subject without human drama, without a narrative trajectory,
without a beginning, middle, and an end—as opposed to, say, writing about cops, or
courts, or politics, or sports. It can seem overly technical, or ponderous, or misanthropic.
It can seem abstract, even irrelevant, especially to urban audiences who think of ‘nature’
as something they encounter on boutique holidays out west. Norman Maclean’s
Runs Through It,
according to legend, was rejected by a New York publisher because ‘it
had too many trees in it.’”
p. 230 – “… where environmental reporters might use [field] research to bolster a particular
argument, a nature writer might use it as a prompt for meditation.…”
p. 230 – “Since so much of nature writing concerns itself with the nonhuman world, one of the
struggles is to figure out how to describe and muse about things to which humans have
limited access. To my mind, a nature writer has the challenge of the poet: With lofty,
often abstract imaginative aspirations, he or she must find the most vivid details with
which to express them.…”
p. 234 –“Indeed, beyond offering the opportunity to write ‘natural history,’ that is, the story of a