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Where Place Meets Language

Amit Sarwal

By C.A. Cranston and Robert Zeller
Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2007, pp. 319, $96


With its weird red earth and its alien flora and fauna—the eucalyptus trees and kangaroos—Australia was the eighteenth-century equivalent of Mars. (Ferguson 2004). Australia—the world’s largest island and smallest continent is often distin-guished from the rest of the world by its history—‘a colony populated by people whom Britain had thrown out (but which] proved to be so loyal to the British Empire for so long’ and its geography—‘red earth and its alien flora and fauna’ (Ferguson 2004). Images of this distinct landscape are all-pervasive not just in non-fiction, travelogues and nature books, but also in fiction of or about Australia so much so that the landscape offers far more than a localized setting or analogy or a transcendental perspective; it is often a central character in its own right. Littoral Zone: Australian Contexts and Their Writers is the first collection of eco-critical essays devoted to Australian contexts and their writers or to the criticism of writers and texts regarding Australian nature. In this collection the contributors observe, using their own experiences as background, the role of the sea, land and interior through the works of major (and minor) authors: poets, playwrights, novelists, and non-fiction writers belonging to the ‘littoral’ territory known as Australia. The word ‘littoral’, derived from the Latin litus, litoris, meaning ‘shore’, refers to the coastal zone of an ocean or sea, or to the banks of a river, lake or estuary. ‘Ecocriticism’ is a methodological approach to literary and cultural criticism that takes ‘the environment’ as its primary focus or systematically studies the relationship between literature and the natural environment. It has roots in nature writing, Literature of the Environment, environmental philosophy, and environmental history. Lawrence Buell in The Environmental Imagination (1995) defines ecocriticism as ‘(a) study of the relationship between literature and the environment conducted in a spirit of commitment to environmentalist praxis.’ Libby Robin has argued in How a Continent Created a Nation (2007), that science in Australia provides ‘a primary, authoritative voice for nature’ although in the past three decades or so cultural theorists and critics working in the area of English studies around the world have also added place or environment or ecological approach as a new central category to the already existing ones like race, gender, class, culture, etc. Critical studies like the present book can rectify this in Australia. This book, with carefully edited articles devoted to organizing an ...

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