A bittersweet belonging: Embodied paradigms for reconnection to the environment in contemporary American women authors
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.
Womens studies|American literature
Newell, Mary, "A bittersweet belonging: Embodied paradigms for reconnection to the environment in contemporary American women authors" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3255049.