Ecodomesticity: imagining the landscape in the American domestic novel

Maguire Elliott, Anna (2017) Ecodomesticity: imagining the landscape in the American domestic novel. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This is the first study to explore the representation of landscape by American women writers from within the genre of the domestic novel. This thesis takes an ecocritical approach to domestic novels by Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson and Barbara Kingsolver, exploring the imagining of the American landscape in the mid-nineteenth century, when the genre was at its peak, and its continuing influence on contemporary women writers. The thesis contributes to the literary criticism of American domesticity and of ecofeminism both by challenging the conceptualisation of the American landscape as a space apart from the home, and by reassessing the contribution of women domestic novelists to its literary construction. I argue for these texts to be read within a tradition of "ecodomesticity," which positions the home as a pivotal point in the construction of landscape, and as part of a broader ecological household.

Within the nineteenth century texts, I analyse the challenge to male representations of landscape and consider how a concern for social justice, and particularly abolition, influences the representation of the natural world within the genre. I then extend these concerns to the contemporary domestic novel, exploring how the representation of race is explored in relation to landscape, how the sentimental is rewritten and reproduced, and finally how the didacticism of the nineteenth century novel is translated into contemporary environmental concerns. I trace a development in the ecodomestic novel from personal reflection and silent contemplation to national and overtly political concerns. I conclude that ecodomestic novels dissolve the boundaries between home and landscape, and offer instead a vision of their interdependence. This call for a greater sensitivity to the human relationship to the natural world represents a significant and important revisioning of landscape, particularly within the current context of global environmental crisis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0360 Prose
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2017 07:39
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/66702

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