Sentimental ecology: Susan Fenimore Cooper and a new model of ecocriticism

Richard Michael Magee, Fordham University


This project contributes to literary studies and ecocriticism by investigating the thematic and rhetorical connections between nineteenth-century sentimental literature and nature writing, using Susan Fenimore Cooper as a paradigmatic figure. The first chapter provides a definition of sentimental ecology as a type of writing in which sentimental and domestic concerns inform, emphasize, and define environmental and ecological concerns, while the environmental in turn illuminates the sentimental. The chapter also outlines my methodology and reviews the theoretical contexts of ecocriticism, ecofeminism, and sentimentalism. Chapter Two examines Cooper's use of landscape painting devices to illustrate both her sentimental and environmental concerns. It compares her approach to landscape to her father's descriptions in several of the Leatherstocking stories. Chapter Three discusses the connections Cooper draws between domesticity and the environment. It also demonstrates how environmental, social, and domestic issues converge. Chapter Four looks at the prevalence of sentimental botanical texts of the nineteenth century, while Chapter Five considers the rhetorical structures employed by other types of scientific writing. Both chapters compare scientific and sentimental rhetoric to show how sentimental ecology works. Chapter Six considers the problem of sentimental rhetoric in contemporary literature, using Rachel Carson and Barbara Kingsolver as representative authors. Although both authors wrote in a time more hostile to sentimental concerns than the nineteenth century, both use sentimental ecology effectively.

Subject Area

American literature

Recommended Citation

Magee, Richard Michael, "Sentimental ecology: Susan Fenimore Cooper and a new model of ecocriticism" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3061337.