New Grounds: Ecocriticism, Globalization and Cultural Memory 13- 15 January 2010 Radboud University, Nijmegen
Abstract: Recently in Ecology without Nature (2007) Timothy Morton has questioned the perpetuation of Romantic conceptions of environment and Heideggerian being-centred philosophy, suggesting that criticism must abandon the idea of “Nature” altogether and embrace what he terms “dark ecology”. Where Morton draws on Wordsworth and Clare to comment on current ecological concerns, this paper moves beyond the limits of Romantic literature, testing the concept of “dark ecology” against Iain Sinclair’s Edge of the Orison (2005). I argue that Sinclair responds to ecological concerns by revising his own relationship to Romanticism from within contemporary literary and cultural contexts. Although critical approaches to Sinclair largely focus on the material culture and space of the city (London), little has been said about the ecological potential of his writing.
For Morton, ecological thought is incompatible with Romantic conceptions of being in the world. Dualism produces the idea of “Nature” as something “over there” to be exploited or protected, and monism risks a mere reduction of “the world of two to that of one”. Instead Morton advocates a kind of “hanging out in the distance” of dualism, where we face up to the “slimy” underside of our therapeutic idea of “Nature” and the fact that the ecological catastrophe has already happened. I argue that Sinclair’s peripatetic homage to Clare is precisely that kind of hanging out in the distance amidst the detritus of landscape, that Morton puts forward as ecological thought. Sinclair unsettles Romantic genealogies, foregrounding the contingency of self and place amid the “lush chlorophyll of liquidity”; the watery East Anglian landscape that might also stand here for the dissolution of “Nature”.