Introduction: Queering Ecopoetics

Introduction: Queering Ecopoetics When lesbian Chicana poet and essayist Gloria Anzaldúa spoke of home, she said, “I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back” (21). To be a queer Mexican American woman was, for Anzaldúa, to live in complicated, uncomfortable relationship to environment and home. “[I]f going home is denied me,” Anzaldúa writes, “then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture—una cultura mestiza” (22). At once extending and contravening an ecocritical tradition that has long based environmental ethics in cultivating deep relationships to place, Anzaldúa orients us toward place’s utopian potentials. Here, the making of a new home—constructed in spite of oppressive cultural imperatives for ethnic purity, monolingualism, and the patrilineal nuclear family—becomes a work of cultural and poetic invention that creates a more sustaining social and ecological context than the existing culture offers. Anzaldúa wrote Borderlands/La Frontera in 1987, a decade before the term “ecopoetics” started circulating, a term whose etymology—with “eco” coming from the Greek oikos, meaning family, property, and house; and “poetics” coming from poiesis, meaning to make—invokes precisely what Anzaldúa describes: “homemaking.” Thus, through Anzaldúa, we may approach ecopoiesis as the practice of forging human and nonhuman community beyond the bounds of nationality, territory, ethnocentrism, and the normative family unit. In light of Anzaldúa, we might say that ecopoetics has been queer all along. Yet to date, the concept of a queer, or LGBTTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, and queer), ecopoetics remains largely undertheorized by scholars. To address this theoretical gap, we have assembled this special cluster, which asks: what does it mean to queer ecopoetics today? How are queer theory and queer ecocriticism shaping poetry scholarship at present? How do poetry and poetry scholarship continue to illuminate queer ecologies? In this introduction, we begin by surveying what we read as key interventions in queer ecocriticism. Then, we explore recent queer ecopoetics scholarship to chart how scholars are beginning to grasp poetry’s relationship to queer theories and ecologies. As we will show, the articles in this special cluster extend Anzaldúa’s work of queering ecopoetics by tackling questions of queer kinship and environmental relation, critiquing heterocentric aspects of mainstream environmentalism, and decolonizing eroticism from the prohibitions of Western modernity. Queer Ecocriticisms The introduction of queer theory to ecocriticism—two fields whose goals might seem to be opposed, with queer theory seeking to denaturalize assumptions about biology and sexuality, and ecocriticism traditionally focused on getting back to nature—has been enormously productive. In their field-making anthology, Queer Ecologies, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson argue that “queer ecology” investigates how sexual politics and relations affect the ways we perceive, construct, and constitute nature, and vice versa (5).1 Here we examine two crucial conversations for queer ecocriticism—reproductive futurity and toxic discourse—that have been particularly generative for literary studies. An investment in the future—the future of the planet, the future of endangered plants and animals, the future of ecosystems and the lifeways that depend on them—may be one of the defining qualities of environmentalism. In a contemporary moment shaped by the short-term horizons of financial markets, on the one hand, and the demand for instantaneous gratification, on the other, it is often the environmentalist who is tasked with working to preserve and steward a world whose very persistence seems uncertain. One need only think of the twenty-one young adult members of “Earth Guardians” who are currently suing the US government for failing to adequately protect future generations from climate change, or those would-be parents who have chosen not to have children in the face of climate uncertainty, or, indeed, any recent rallying cry to “save our children” from the newest litany of environmental threats to sense the ways in which our environmental future is so often cast in the sentimental—and domestic—terms of the heterosexual nuclear family.2 As recent queer theorists have taught us, past, present, and future are often yoked together through the conventions of reproductively oriented events like birth, adolescence, childrearing, and death. Critiquing the Child as the basic organizing principle behind current political discourse, Lee Edelman vaunts queerness as “the side of those not ‘fighting for the children’” (3). Edelman draws on Sigmund Freud’s concept of the death drive to embrace the queer as a figure of negativity—anti-productive and epistemically unintelligible—who radically rejects “every realization of futurity” (4). Similarly, Jack Halberstam has suggested that “queer time” disregards conventional life goals such as stability and longevity to enact velocities of living that unfurl without concern for whatever might come next (2). In the face of an oppressively heterosexist future—in which the basic units of reproduction are always the reproductive individual and the family structure itself—it is perhaps no surprise that some queer theorists have dispensed with the notion of the future altogether. But from an environmental standpoint, such a message comes all too close to the extractivist logic of today’s resource industries, which might happily join Edelman in saying, “Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we’re collectively terrorized … fuck Laws both with capital ls and with small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop” (29). Like those coal companies that move from one West Virginia mountaintop to the next without concern for the exhausted landscapes they leave behind, the rejection of futurity risks reaffirming the live-for-today attitude that defines our social and environmental relations. In the face of such an apparent impasse, contemporary ecocritics have sought new ways of imagining stewardship and care beyond the strictures of reproductive futurity. In doing so, they echo José Esteban Muñoz’s rejoinder to queer theory’s anti-futurist impulse. Defining queerness as “that thing that lets us feel that this world is not enough, that indeed something is missing,” Muñoz argues that queer temporalities move us closer to radical futures that otherwise appear foreclosed by “devastating … cultural logics such as capitalism and heteronormativity” (1, 12). Inspired by Muñoz, Nicole Seymour points to ways in which queer theory risks rendering futurity into a regressive, oppressive goal, even as antiracist and environmental justice activists work toward securing all-too-tenuous futures for marginalized peoples whose survival is in no sense simply guaranteed (8–9). Futurity, however, need not imply reproduction. Sarah Ensor has argued for a “spinster ecology” capable of enacting an indirect, avuncular form of stewardship that “[tends] the future without contributing directly to it” (409). Spinsterhood, seen this way, enables us to imagine a nonreproductive futurity that “stands in a slanted relationship to a place and time that [the spinster] will tend but will not—and cannot—directly pass on” (417). If contemporary ecocritics writing under the influence of queer theory have directed our attention to the environmental futures we collectively imagine, they have also effectively recast the environmental subject as no longer the misanthrope—think Edward Abbey hiding out in Arches—but a participant in queer structures of kinship.3 Queer ecocriticism has also begun to critique toxic discourse, an ostensibly progressive offshoot of mainstream environmentalism. Toxic discourse, as Lawrence Buell termed it in 1996, emerged in the wake of the environmental justice movement and sought to challenge ecocriticism’s traditional emphasis on preservation, arguing that ecocriticism must also account for human health (639–40). To this end, toxic discourse has worked to forward the interests of groups disproportionately burdened by environmental contamination and hazard. As Buell writes, in modern nature “humans are biotically imbricated (like it or not) and … nature figures as modified (like it or not) by techne” (657). By acknowledging that the “natural” is inextricable from and often determined by technological innovation, toxic discourse has helped ecocritics articulate environmental justice approaches and antiracist environmentalisms. But as queer theory has shown, toxic discourse, or antitoxics advocacy, can be problematic from an LGBTTQ+ and LGBTTQ+ antiracist perspective.4 Despite its admission that environment can no longer be thought of in holistic terms, toxic discourse, as Giovanna Di Chiro argues, can still reinforce sexist, queerphobic ideas about what’s healthy and “normal.” Consider, for example, environmental justice activists’ warnings about the herbicide Atrazine, which has been found to feminize fish, amphibians, and reptiles (Di Chiro 212). On one hand, it is essential to point out the toxic effects of such chemicals, the brunt of which often end up being borne by historically vulnerable groups, such as factory workers, and also wildlife species in the surrounding environment (214). At the same time, when environmentalists cite these findings and conflate “health” with “normal” sex characteristics and reproductive futurity, they can end up reinforcing a heteronormative politics. Di Chiro pointedly asks, “how might we develop a more proactive (rather than polluted) politics that argues for the integrity, security, and health of bodies, homes, families, and communities without reproducing the eugenics discourse of the ‘normal/natural?’” (210). A body of scholarship called new materialism has in part sought to bring some of these tensions and contradictions to light and to advocate, moreover, the inherent queerness of nature’s mutability. In 2008 Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman proclaimed a “material turn” in feminist theory. Concerned that social constructionist feminist theories—feminism’s adoption of the principle that gender is socially constructed and performed—had eclipsed the material, they called for material feminists to account for how the material and the discursive co-constitute embodied experience (3–5).5 But importantly, such work has been undertaken by poets all along; after all, it was black lesbian feminist poet Audre Lorde who in her Cancer Journals in the late 1970s and 1980s took seriously the ways in which both material and social forces together determined the health and life chances of women of color, anticipating later moves by both toxic discourse and new materialism.6 Queer ecocriticism has made tremendous strides in unyoking normative assumptions about gender, sexuality, and reproduction from ecological futurity and toxic discourse. New work in queer ecopoetics is making its own interventions into to the field of queer ecocriticism. These interventions build on those just discussed, while extending new lines of inquiry as well. Toward a Queer Ecopoetics As we noted at the outset, ecopoetics might be understood broadly as “homemaking”—an activity that, as Anzaldúa suggests, could take any number of different forms, from creative writing and art to activism and justice work. In the context of literary studies, the term often refers to ecologically oriented poetry and poetics. It can also refer to writings about poetry and poetics. Thus, here we use the term to refer not only to poems and poetic practices, but to scholarly writings about those poems and other practices. In the realm of critical theory, ecopoetics has been pursued as a project of revealing, and hence saving, the nonhuman world, to borrow the Heideggerean language of some early ecopoetics criticism. Among the first critics to use the term this way was Jonathan Bate, who understood it as a practice emerging out of the Romantic tradition. In a move that both prioritized human poiesis and made it the central site of reflection about the nonhuman earth, Bate defined ecopoetics as “a way of reflecting upon what it might mean to dwell with the earth” (266). Contesting the anthropocentrism she saw implicit to Heidegger and Bate, Catherine E. Rigby proposed an expanded ecopoiesis in which humans become participants in, rather than privileged voicers of, the multiplicity of the nonhuman world (434). Ecopoetics has also been understood through its interdisciplinary movement, as Jonathan Skinner highlights in his 2001 introduction to the inaugural issue of the journal ecopoetics. Ecopoetics, Skinner writes, offers “a site open to … contradictions” and “ideally function[s] as an edge (as in edge of the meadow, or shore, rather than leading edge) where different disciplines can meet and complicate one another” (6). In their introduction to Ecopoetics: Essays in the Field (2018), Angela Hume and Gillian Osborne further develop the interdisciplinary potential of ecopoetics. They collect essays that bring the methods and insights of a range of political, multiethnic, antiracist, and activist lenses to ecopoetics. Following Hume and Osborne, we aim to highlight innovative writing by scholars who are doing interdisciplinary work, with specific relevance to queer theory. If ecopoetics has opened up crucial questions about how we might best dwell on earth and about the politics of such dwelling, queer ecopoetics orients us toward the affects, kinship practices, and erotic exchanges that shape dwelling as a relational endeavor. In doing so, it draws on poetry’s long concern with the construction of self and other, lover and beloved, to cultivate new forms of environmental sociality. So when Frank O’Hara confesses to his lover, “I wanted to be sure to reach you / Though my ship was on the way it got caught” (217) and when Robert Frost writes, “Good fences make good neighbors” (33), they participate in a poetic tradition in which difference, distance, and otherness are conditions of—not boundaries to—coming into relation. Poetry’s reach mediates distance and desire. In doing so, poetry and the study of poetry inquires into the (im)possibility of relation, suggesting that our attachments may be more oblique and diffuse than we usually imagine. Queer ecopoetics, then, pursues human and nonhuman associations beyond the conventions of heteronormative family bonds and anthropocentric ecological ones. Poetry about the environment may also be seen as poetry that engages the language of the senses. Susan Stewart has argued that when we read lyric poetry we find “a repository of synaesthesia, an archive of how the form has served as a means for working through the body’s ongoing mutuality of relations between nature and exterior objects and the ego’s necessary articulation of itself as both separate from the world and transformed by the world” (42). Seen this way, poetry registers our negotiations of and reflections on surrounding contexts that may range from the hostile to the benign. As queer ecocriticism encourages us to expand our repertoire of affects to incorporate disappointment, sadness, sickness, failure, and other negative feelings, poetry—as in Betsy Warland’s “blue” poetics, discussed in this cluster—becomes a way of staying with experiences of unease, discomfort, and illness to pursue vital, though difficult, forms of mutuality and association. Today we see several lines of inquiry emerging in the arena of queer ecopoetics. In this cluster, Ensor and Mortimer-Sandilands draw on queer reconfigurations of subjectivity and sociality to reimagine our relations to the environment. We also see a turn, or return, to decoloniality and indigenous knowledges. David Huebert exemplifies this turn, mobilizing decolonial theory in the process of performing a queer reading of two Native poets. In our next sections, we discuss these cluster contributions in their greater theoretical contexts. Queering the Environmental Subject Like the early American Puritan Mary Rowlandson who stole a piece of raw horseflesh from a starving English child to survive her wilderness captivity during King Philips War, the environmental subject relies on their wits and strength to ensure self-preservation. Such an autonomous subject—capable, ruggedly resourceful, and master of their own fate—continues to act as protagonist in popularly consumed environmental writing, from Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild (1996) to Cheryl Strayed’s recent memoir-turned-movie Wild (2012, 2014). Wilderness writing aside, environmental discourse has frequently cast the subject as decisive, able to confidently make ethical choices from a position of removal—what Timothy Morton, following G.W.F. Hegel, has termed “Beautiful Soul Syndrome” (109–23). Environmental discourse also presumes the subject to be whole—coherent, bounded, and without internal contradiction or bodily fragmentation. Yet, at least since Rachel Carson’s plea to acknowledge the body’s unending transit with the ambient environment, or Thoreau’s insistence that his off-the-grid experiment at Walden Pond begin with borrowing an ax from his neighbor, or even since Rowlandson’s own cunning was tempered by infusions of divine grace, such a vision of a self-reliant, autonomous subject may be exposed as a dangerous, if seductive, fiction that fails to account for our dependence on and vulnerability to larger social and ecological contexts. Those qualities endowed to the autonomous subject—the capacity to think and act freely and deliberately, independent of others and the environment—may not only sever us from our surroundings, but also make possible the fiction that the world is over there, an object that exists for the subject, first for mastery, then for consumption. Thinking ecologically, then, requires rethinking subjectivity. The task of imagining an alternative to the fantasy of the sovereign subject has been pursued by queer theorists such as Leo Bersani, Lee Edelman, and Lauren Berlant. For these critics, the dissolution of the self during sex becomes the ground for rethinking both sovereignty and relationality in a social, political, and psychic sense. Writing from the midst of the AIDS crisis, Bersani described sex, and in particular gay sex, as “the jouissance of exploded limits” (217). Sex, here, shatters the psychic structures of the self, as well as the social relations that are based on the self’s exercise of or abdication to power. This negativity of sex—its power to undo both ourselves and our ways of being in relation—is not only negative, for it is in these tenuous moments of not fully knowing or being in control of ourselves, as Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman remind us, that “negativity unleashes the energy that allows for the possibility of change” (viii). For all three of these critics, the self’s encounter with nonsovereignty during sex becomes the site at which one can reconfigure subjectivity to acknowledge our fundamental porosity to and passivity in the world. A corresponding attention to negative affects—feelings of melancholy, failure, damage, and depression—has accompanied queer theory’s reevaluation of negativity. Heather Love has argued that the need to imagine a better future for gays and lesbians sits in tension with queer histories of psychic and social damage. Creating a queer archive of twentieth-century texts that are “visibly marked by queer suffering,” Love takes up negative affects like shame, self-hatred, despair, and “ressentiment” to voice “the corporeal and psychic costs of homophobia” (4). Like Love, Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure rescues a queer archive of affect that spans from disappointment to despair and reaches across “high” and “low” art. For Halberstam, staying with negativity opens up a queer critique of the relentless can-do optimism of our neoliberal present in which failure becomes yet another mechanism for turning structural inequalities into personal responsibilities (3–4). The contributors to this special cluster take up queer theory’s riposte to sovereignty and positivity to reconceive of our relations to the environment. In her pursuit of a queer ecopoetics of contact, Sarah Ensor asks us to “exchange our familiarly dyadic, object-oriented model of contact … for a more ambient and less directed mode.” Ensor extends queer theory’s insights that scenes of sex—here, cruising—enable us to encounter relationality beyond the boundaries of the subject. Because the anonymity of cruising “restricts the personal,” unyoking sex from personhood, it enables us to re-envision relationality outside the transitive grammar of “immediate utility or identifiable end.” While environmental imperatives often urge us to abstain from desire—to make do with less, or ascetically go without—Ensor suggests that by approaching ecological contact through queer practices like cruising, we can recuperate desire as the pleasure of association without a predetermined, teleological end. Rather than renouncing desire by learning to desire less, we can, then, learn new ways of imagining and enacting desire. Where Ensor pushes us to attend to relationality beyond transitivity, teleology, and personhood to cultivate new forms of ecological association, Mortimer-Sandilands draws on nonsovereignty and negative affects to pursue an ethics of care based in a shared sense of vulnerability. Her essay “Into this Blue” shows how the temporal discontinuities and corporeal disruptions of queer experiences including illness—specifically, AIDS and breast cancer—can enable new “networks of care” to emerge from experiences of grief and loss. Through readings of Warland’s poetry—its capacity for hesitation, indeterminacy, and its enactment of a journey that abjures closure—Mortimer-Sandilands charts the subject’s encounter with nonsovereignty as it uncovers identities which, rather than being stable or coherent, “are more likely experienced and recognized as partial, contextual, fluid, performative, and precarious.” Unlike “green” ecocriticism, which remains optimistically invested in futurity and health, attending to negative, “blue” affect allows us to linger in an open-ended present that undoes the boundary between self and world and affords a new environmentalism based in shared experiences of precarity. Decolonial Queer Ecopoetics Critiques of the sovereign subject—a conception of subjectivity that underpins much of modern Western thought—are perhaps implicit to critiques of coloniality. We see the incorporation of decolonial theory and indigenous knowledges as a second emerging theoretical direction in queer ecopoetics. One might say that decolonial ecocriticism seeks to unsettle normative and Western-centric ideas about environmental consciousness. Unlike Eurocentric critiques of modernity, decolonial theory emerged out of political thought in the Global South (Mignolo xi–xii). Today, decolonial theory is sited outside of the West and also within it, as in the case of indigenous critiques of settler colonialism, for example, and also black diasporic studies critiques of nationalist discourses within black studies.7 As Walter Mignolo argues, decolonial thought begins with the premise that European modernity’s hidden agenda is coloniality (xxi); what Mignolo names “the colonial matrix of power” renders racialized bodies disposable and exerts itself not only on subjectivity, economy, race, gender, and sexuality, but on nature itself. Ecofeminists have emphasized in particular how gender and sexual oppression have been constitutive of Western coloniality. In the late 1990s, as part of a project to queer ecofeminism, Greta Gaard built on the work of Val Plumwood and Sedgwick to critique colonial compulsory heterosexuality. Gaard argues that Western coloniality pits rational thought against the natural and the erotic, enacting “colonial erotophobia” (129). On Gaard’s account, European colonizers appealed to Christianity to justify the subjugation of animals and nature, Native peoples and perceived racial others, women, and, crucially, queers and queer sexualities (122–23). A key aspect of coloniality was the suppression of indigenous sexual practices deemed to be deviant. Thus, decolonization is closely and necessarily tied to the project of queer liberation. Scholars of queer ecopoetics are also beginning to think along decolonial ecofeminist lines. In her new book on Mexican American literature, Priscilla Solis Ybarra suggests that writings by or inspired by lesbian Chicana feminists Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa exemplify what she names “goodlife” writing—decolonial environmental writing that rejects the Western dichotomization of the human and the natural and which incorporates indigenous knowledges that predate, and have persisted in spite of, colonization (15). Chicana feminist writings are particularly good models for today’s decolonial ecocritics, Ybarra suggests, because they have long sought to transcend colonial possession and control of their bodies, sexualities, and the land by insisting on multiple and intersectional conceptions of identity (23). A related decolonial approach that resonates with ecofeminism in its resistance to Western devaluation and destruction of nature is indigenous cosmopolitics. A global environmental justice approach, indigenous cosmopolitics recognizes the rights and unique world experiences of all species and things (Adamson 148). One such approach is the 2006 case of the Peruvian activists and indigenous peoples who opposed the building of a mine on the basis of its threat to the right to existence of Ausangate mountain (de la Cadena, cited by Adamson 148). In a related case, after 140 years of advocacy, in March 2017 the New Zealand Māori tribe saw the Whanganui river, which the tribe considers an ancestor, awarded the same legal rights as a person by the New Zealand government (Roy). Days later, in India the Ganges and Yamuna rivers were also granted legal personhood status (Daley). Anthropologist Marisol de la Cadena, translating the indigenous Andean term tirakuna, offers the term “earth-being” for Ausangate mountain and other nonhuman beings like the New Zealand and Indian rivers “who participate in the lives of those who call themselves runakuna, people” and “actively partake in modern institutions that cannot know, let alone recognize, [them]” (xxiv). While the cosmopolitical argument for the person status of earth-beings may model a politics of resistance, it is not inherently feminist or queer. Even so, decolonial cosmopolitics can articulate how ideas about gender and sexuality among indigenous peoples have influenced environmental relations historically and also shape responses to environmental crises today. This approach goes farther than ecofeminism by not only pointing out how colonization has led to the subjugation of indigenous women and sexualities, but by striving to reconstruct indigenous feminisms that reflect an understanding of how, prior to colonization especially, women and LGBTTQ+ people played important social and cultural roles in indigenous communities.8 Cosmopolitics also looks at how environmental crisis creates greater vulnerability for earth-beings alongside Native women and LGBTTQ+ people, while at the same time imagining how women’s and queer agency in indigenous cultures might inform environmental activism going forward. A recent model for this type of approach is that of the Standing Rock Water Protectors, a Native women-led group that sought to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from being constructed on unceded Lakota tribal lands and threatening Lake Oahe along with culturally significant sites. Some Water Protectors highlighted how the construction of pipelines such as DAPL often lead to a greater incidence of sexual violence against Native women in the areas (Gillette). At the same time, Water Protectors emphasized their own agency and power as members of a matrilineal society, leading the charge in resisting police repression, leading ceremonies, and helping run the Sacred Stone Camp (Bengal)—an ecopoetics practice if there ever was one. Perhaps it is no surprise that feminist poets have already begun to respond to the Water Protectors. In her recent book WHEREAS (2017), for example, Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier incorporates language from an interview with self-identified mother, teacher, and Lakota Water Protector Waniya Locke (94–96). In this cluster, Huebert performs a related queer decolonial ecopoetics in his reading of the “equine eros” of Chickasaw poet Linda Hogan’s and Muscogee Creek poet Joy Harjo’s work. He takes as his starting point the idea that Native studies and queer theory are poised to join forces in confronting settler coloniality. Like the earlier ecofeminists, Huebert argues that the term queer might be understood as that which has the potential to undermine the straightness mandated by Western sexuality. For Huebert, in Hogan’s and Harjo’s poems queer decoloniality occurs at the site of the human–horse encounter. In addition to reading what he names Hogan’s “poetics of multispecies affinity,” Huebert applies a decolonial cosmopolitical lens in his reading of the figure of the mustang in Hogan—a breed that, as he explains, was introduced to the Americas by Spanish colonizers, later escaped and flourished in the wild, only to eventually be recaptured and slaughtered in large numbers. In Harjo, Huebert reads the ways in which human–horse eroticism transgresses the normative bounds of the species divide, despite the dominant culture’s “species panic” around cross-species sexual encounters. As Huebert writes, “Reading the poetics of equine eros through the lens of settler colonialism opens a seam into an erotic and affective world that persists beyond and in spite of settler logics of white human supremacy, rigid species taxonomies, and Western regimes of linear progress.” “Messy ecologies,” Trans* Poetics, and Writing Against Cure There are, of course, trajectories in queer ecopoetics that are not reflected in this cluster. Elsewhere, for example, poets and critics are making connections between ecopoetics and such fields as trans theory and queer disability studies to rethink queer ecology. In his book Dear Herculine (2014), Aaron Apps problematizes the notion of healthy nature from his perspective as an intersex person, foregrounding instead the “messy ecologies” that constitute the embodied experiences of queers, often defined by uncomfortable proximity and vulnerable exposure. Cody-Rose Clevidence’s Beast Feast (2014) traces a frenzied techno-natural world whose capacity for shapeshifting—across genders, across human/nonhuman boundaries—is matched only by the beastly transfigurations of the market economy that voraciously feeds off its flesh. Seemingly in conversation with both Apps’s and Clevidence’s projects, Petra Kuppers’s PearlStitch (2016) explores how for disabled queers ecological interrelation can heighten experiences of precarity, and touch can threaten harm or offer healing. Trans disabled poet–critic Eli Clare’s recent book Brilliant Imperfection (2017) provides a critical framework with which to approach these projects. Through creative-critical meditations on the concept of “body-mind” along with that of ecological restoration, Clare challenges pervasive and widely embraced ideologies of cure. And, in their essay on how transgender/trans* theory may crucially contribute to the project of decentering and querying humanism and its deadly anthropocentrism, Eva Hayward and Jami Weinstein propose that trans* “is not a thing or a being, it is rather the process through which thingness and beingness are constituted. In its prefixial state, trans* is prepositionally oriented—marking the with, through, of, in, and across that make life possible” (196). Seen this way, a trans* ecopoetics is a crucial nexus not only for queering ecology but also for realizing dwelling as a relational endeavor undertaken in concert and in friction with human and nonhuman others. While full consideration of these lines of inquiry is beyond the scope of this introduction, we hope that other scholars will take them up moving forward. As Ensor’s, Mortimer-Sandilands’s, and Huebert’s articles show, poetry, queer theory, and ecocriticism together challenge us to rethink relationality in those liminal zones that have been said to demarcate everything from persons, species, and nations to sex and gender. While exposing the subject-centric, heterocentric, colonial, and gender oppressive logics of the often violent lines we draw between forms of life—the constructed borders that produce una herida abierta, as Anzaldúa termed it—queer ecopoetics exposes “the other” to be a fiction that forecloses possibilities for community, yet also insists on the complexity and reality of our differences. In this context, one of ecological proximity and precarity, queer ecopoetics imagines new possibilities for attachment, kinship, and care. Footnotes 1 For more on queer ecocriticism’s ambitious critical agenda today, see Mortimer-Sandilands, “Whose there is there there? Queer Directions and Ecocritical Orientations.” 2 For details on the lawsuits, see https://www.earthguardians.org/. For more on anxiety about childrearing in an age of climate catastrophe, see Ostrander. 3 For more on queer kinship, see Haraway and Sedgwick. 4 For a queer antiracist perspective, see, for example, Mel Y. Chen, “Lead’s Racial Matters.” 5 More recently, Victoria Pitts-Taylor discusses how across many fields of study the dualism between the social and the biological is being replaced by notions of the “biocultural.” See Pitts-Taylor, “Mattering: Feminism, Science, and Corporeal Politics.” 6 For an expanded critique of new materialism, see Ahmed, “Imaginary Prohibitions.” Ahmed argues that pointing to feminism’s antibiologism is a reductionist rhetorical move that neglects entire histories of feminist criticism that have been engaged with the biological and material, including the sciences, all along. 7 More than a decade ago, black diasporic studies began to investigate intersections between black studies and queer studies. See, for example, Rinaldo Walcott. 8 As Native studies scholars point out, in tribes that recognized LGBTTQ+ people, queer people were often free to pursue tribal roles to which they were inclined, even if those responsibilities were not traditionally associated with their biological sex, or to pursue both traditionally masculine and feminine roles (15). See Vinyeta, Whyte, and Lynn, p. 15. Works Cited Adamson Joni. “Indigenous Literatures, Multinaturalism, and Avatar: The Emergence of Indigenous Cosmopolitics.” American Literary History 24, no. 1 ( 2012 ): 143 – 62 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Ahmed Sara. “Imaginary Prohibitions: Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the ‘New Materialism.’” European Journal of Women’s Studies 15 , no. 1 ( 2008 ): 23 – 39 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Alaimo Stacy , Hekman Susan J. , eds. “Introduction: Emerging Models of Materiality in Feminist Theory.” Material Feminisms. Indiana UP , 2008 . 1 – 19 . Anzaldúa Gloria. “Movimientos de rebeldía y las culturas que traicionan,” Borderlands/La Frontera . Aunt Lute Books , 1987 . 15 – 23 . Apps Aaron. Dear Herculine . Ahsahta Press , 2015 . Bate Jonathan. The Song of the Earth . Harvard UP , 2000 . Bengal Rebecca. “The Water Protectors at Standing Rock.” Vogue . 8 Mar. 2017 . Bersani Leo. “Is the Rectum a Grave?” October 43 ( 1987 ): 197 – 222 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Berlant Lauren , Edelman Lee . Sex, or the Unbearable . Duke UP , 2014 . Buell Lawrence. “Toxic Discourse.” Critical Inquiry 24 , no. 3 ( 1998 ): 639 – 65 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Chen Mel Y. “Lead’s Racial Matters.” Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect . Duke UP , 2012 . 159 – 88 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Clare Eli. Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure . Duke UP , 2017 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Clevidence Cody-Rose. Beast Feast . Ahsahta Press , 2014 . Daley Jason. “India’s Ganges and Yamuna Rivers Are Given the Rights of People.” Smithsonian.com, 23 Mar. 2017 . De la Cadena Marisol. Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice across Andean Worlds . Duke UP , 2015 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Di Chiro Giovanna. “Polluted Panics: Confronting Toxic Discourse, Sex Panic, and Eco-Normativity.” Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire . Ed. Mortimer-Sandilands Catriona , Erickson Bruce . Indiana UP , 2010 . 199 – 230 . Edelman Lee. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive . Duke UP , 2004 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Ensor Sarah. “Spinster Ecology: Rachel Carson, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Nonreproductive Futurity.” American Literature 84 , no. 2 ( 2012 ): 409 – 35 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Environmental Lawsuits. Earth Guardians, www.earthguardians.org/youthvgov. Accessed March 28, 2018. Frost Robert. “Mending Wall.” The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged . Henry Holt and Company , 1969 . Gaard Greta. “Toward a Queer Ecofeminism.” Hypatia 12 , no. 1 ( 1997 ): 114 – 37 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Gillette Cedar Wilkie. “Pipeline Expansion Means Increased Violence against Tribal Women.” Huffpost, 10 Oct. 2016 . Halberstam J . In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives . New York UP , 2005 . Halberstam J The Queer Art of Failure . Duke UP , 2011 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Haraway Donna. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene . Duke UP , 2016 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hayward Eva , Weinstein Jami . “Introduction: Tranimalities in the Age of Trans* Life.” Tranimalities, special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 2 , no. 2 ( 2015 ): 195 – 208 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hume Angela , Osborne Gillian . “Ecopoetics as Expanded Critical Practice: An Introduction.” Ecopoetics: Essays in the Field . Ed. Hume Angela , Osborne Gillian . U of Iowa P , 2018 . 1 – 16 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Krakauer Jon. Into the Wild . Anchor Books , 1997 . Kuppers Petra. PearlStitch . Spuyten Duyvil Publishing , 2016 . Long Solider Layli. WHEREAS . Graywolf Press , 2017 . Lorde Audre. The Cancer Journals: Special Edition . Aunt Lute Books , 1980 . Love Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History . Harvard UP , 2007 . Mignolo Walter D. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options . Duke UP , 2011 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Mortimer-Sandilands Catriona. “Whose there is there there? Queer Directions and Ecocritical Orientations,” Ecozon@ 1, no. 1 ( 2010 ): 63 – 69 . Mortimer-Sandilands Catriona , Erickson Bruce . “Introduction: A Genealogy of Queer Ecologies.” Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire . Ed. Mortimer-Sandilands Catriona , Erickson Bruce . Indiana UP , 2010 . 1 – 47 . Morton Timothy. Ecology without Nature . Harvard UP , 2007 . Muñoz José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity . New York UP , 2009 . O’Hara Frank. “To the Harbormaster.” The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara . U of California P , 1995 . Ostrander Madeline. “How Do You Decide to Have a Baby When Climate Change is Remaking Life on Earth?” The Nation , 24 Mar. 2016 . Pitts-Taylor Victoria. “Mattering: Feminism, Science, and Corporeal Politics.” Mattering: Feminism, Science, and Materialism . Ed. Pitts-Taylor Victoria . New York UP , 2016 . 1 – 20 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Rigby Catherine E. “Earth, World, Text: On the (Im)possibility of Ecopoiesis.” New Literary History 35 , no. 3 ( 2004 ): 427 – 42 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Rowlandson Mary . The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. Ed. Neal Salisbury . Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997 . Roy Eleanor Ainge. “New Zealand River Granted Same Legal Rights as Human Being.” The Guardian , 16 Mar. 2017 . Sedgwick Eve. K . Epistemology of the Closet . U of California P , 1990 . Sedgwick Eve. K Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity . Duke UP , 2003 . Seymour Nicole. Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination . U of Illinois P , 2013 . Skinner Jonathan. “Editor’s Statement.” Ecopoetics 1 ( 2001 ): 5 – 8 . Solis Ybarra Priscilla. Writing the Goodlife: Mexican American Literature and the Environment . U of Arizona P , 2016 . Stewart Susan . Poetry and the Fate of the Senses . U of Chicago Press, 2002 . Strayed Cheryl. Wild . Vintage , 2013 . Thoreau Henry David. Walden . Oxford UP , 2009 . Vinyeta Kirsten , Kyle Powys Whyte , Kathy Lynn . “Climate Change through an Intersectional Lens: Gendered Vulnerability and Resilience in Indigenous Communities in the United States.” United States Department of Agriculture, 2015 . Walcott Rinaldo. “Outside in Black Studies; Reading from a Queer Place in the Diaspora.” Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology . Ed. Patrick Johnson E. , Henderson Mae G. . Duke UP , 2005 . 90 – 105 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment Oxford University Press

Introduction: Queering Ecopoetics

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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
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Abstract

When lesbian Chicana poet and essayist Gloria Anzaldúa spoke of home, she said, “I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back” (21). To be a queer Mexican American woman was, for Anzaldúa, to live in complicated, uncomfortable relationship to environment and home. “[I]f going home is denied me,” Anzaldúa writes, “then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture—una cultura mestiza” (22). At once extending and contravening an ecocritical tradition that has long based environmental ethics in cultivating deep relationships to place, Anzaldúa orients us toward place’s utopian potentials. Here, the making of a new home—constructed in spite of oppressive cultural imperatives for ethnic purity, monolingualism, and the patrilineal nuclear family—becomes a work of cultural and poetic invention that creates a more sustaining social and ecological context than the existing culture offers. Anzaldúa wrote Borderlands/La Frontera in 1987, a decade before the term “ecopoetics” started circulating, a term whose etymology—with “eco” coming from the Greek oikos, meaning family, property, and house; and “poetics” coming from poiesis, meaning to make—invokes precisely what Anzaldúa describes: “homemaking.” Thus, through Anzaldúa, we may approach ecopoiesis as the practice of forging human and nonhuman community beyond the bounds of nationality, territory, ethnocentrism, and the normative family unit. In light of Anzaldúa, we might say that ecopoetics has been queer all along. Yet to date, the concept of a queer, or LGBTTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, and queer), ecopoetics remains largely undertheorized by scholars. To address this theoretical gap, we have assembled this special cluster, which asks: what does it mean to queer ecopoetics today? How are queer theory and queer ecocriticism shaping poetry scholarship at present? How do poetry and poetry scholarship continue to illuminate queer ecologies? In this introduction, we begin by surveying what we read as key interventions in queer ecocriticism. Then, we explore recent queer ecopoetics scholarship to chart how scholars are beginning to grasp poetry’s relationship to queer theories and ecologies. As we will show, the articles in this special cluster extend Anzaldúa’s work of queering ecopoetics by tackling questions of queer kinship and environmental relation, critiquing heterocentric aspects of mainstream environmentalism, and decolonizing eroticism from the prohibitions of Western modernity. Queer Ecocriticisms The introduction of queer theory to ecocriticism—two fields whose goals might seem to be opposed, with queer theory seeking to denaturalize assumptions about biology and sexuality, and ecocriticism traditionally focused on getting back to nature—has been enormously productive. In their field-making anthology, Queer Ecologies, Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson argue that “queer ecology” investigates how sexual politics and relations affect the ways we perceive, construct, and constitute nature, and vice versa (5).1 Here we examine two crucial conversations for queer ecocriticism—reproductive futurity and toxic discourse—that have been particularly generative for literary studies. An investment in the future—the future of the planet, the future of endangered plants and animals, the future of ecosystems and the lifeways that depend on them—may be one of the defining qualities of environmentalism. In a contemporary moment shaped by the short-term horizons of financial markets, on the one hand, and the demand for instantaneous gratification, on the other, it is often the environmentalist who is tasked with working to preserve and steward a world whose very persistence seems uncertain. One need only think of the twenty-one young adult members of “Earth Guardians” who are currently suing the US government for failing to adequately protect future generations from climate change, or those would-be parents who have chosen not to have children in the face of climate uncertainty, or, indeed, any recent rallying cry to “save our children” from the newest litany of environmental threats to sense the ways in which our environmental future is so often cast in the sentimental—and domestic—terms of the heterosexual nuclear family.2 As recent queer theorists have taught us, past, present, and future are often yoked together through the conventions of reproductively oriented events like birth, adolescence, childrearing, and death. Critiquing the Child as the basic organizing principle behind current political discourse, Lee Edelman vaunts queerness as “the side of those not ‘fighting for the children’” (3). Edelman draws on Sigmund Freud’s concept of the death drive to embrace the queer as a figure of negativity—anti-productive and epistemically unintelligible—who radically rejects “every realization of futurity” (4). Similarly, Jack Halberstam has suggested that “queer time” disregards conventional life goals such as stability and longevity to enact velocities of living that unfurl without concern for whatever might come next (2). In the face of an oppressively heterosexist future—in which the basic units of reproduction are always the reproductive individual and the family structure itself—it is perhaps no surprise that some queer theorists have dispensed with the notion of the future altogether. But from an environmental standpoint, such a message comes all too close to the extractivist logic of today’s resource industries, which might happily join Edelman in saying, “Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we’re collectively terrorized … fuck Laws both with capital ls and with small; fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop” (29). Like those coal companies that move from one West Virginia mountaintop to the next without concern for the exhausted landscapes they leave behind, the rejection of futurity risks reaffirming the live-for-today attitude that defines our social and environmental relations. In the face of such an apparent impasse, contemporary ecocritics have sought new ways of imagining stewardship and care beyond the strictures of reproductive futurity. In doing so, they echo José Esteban Muñoz’s rejoinder to queer theory’s anti-futurist impulse. Defining queerness as “that thing that lets us feel that this world is not enough, that indeed something is missing,” Muñoz argues that queer temporalities move us closer to radical futures that otherwise appear foreclosed by “devastating … cultural logics such as capitalism and heteronormativity” (1, 12). Inspired by Muñoz, Nicole Seymour points to ways in which queer theory risks rendering futurity into a regressive, oppressive goal, even as antiracist and environmental justice activists work toward securing all-too-tenuous futures for marginalized peoples whose survival is in no sense simply guaranteed (8–9). Futurity, however, need not imply reproduction. Sarah Ensor has argued for a “spinster ecology” capable of enacting an indirect, avuncular form of stewardship that “[tends] the future without contributing directly to it” (409). Spinsterhood, seen this way, enables us to imagine a nonreproductive futurity that “stands in a slanted relationship to a place and time that [the spinster] will tend but will not—and cannot—directly pass on” (417). If contemporary ecocritics writing under the influence of queer theory have directed our attention to the environmental futures we collectively imagine, they have also effectively recast the environmental subject as no longer the misanthrope—think Edward Abbey hiding out in Arches—but a participant in queer structures of kinship.3 Queer ecocriticism has also begun to critique toxic discourse, an ostensibly progressive offshoot of mainstream environmentalism. Toxic discourse, as Lawrence Buell termed it in 1996, emerged in the wake of the environmental justice movement and sought to challenge ecocriticism’s traditional emphasis on preservation, arguing that ecocriticism must also account for human health (639–40). To this end, toxic discourse has worked to forward the interests of groups disproportionately burdened by environmental contamination and hazard. As Buell writes, in modern nature “humans are biotically imbricated (like it or not) and … nature figures as modified (like it or not) by techne” (657). By acknowledging that the “natural” is inextricable from and often determined by technological innovation, toxic discourse has helped ecocritics articulate environmental justice approaches and antiracist environmentalisms. But as queer theory has shown, toxic discourse, or antitoxics advocacy, can be problematic from an LGBTTQ+ and LGBTTQ+ antiracist perspective.4 Despite its admission that environment can no longer be thought of in holistic terms, toxic discourse, as Giovanna Di Chiro argues, can still reinforce sexist, queerphobic ideas about what’s healthy and “normal.” Consider, for example, environmental justice activists’ warnings about the herbicide Atrazine, which has been found to feminize fish, amphibians, and reptiles (Di Chiro 212). On one hand, it is essential to point out the toxic effects of such chemicals, the brunt of which often end up being borne by historically vulnerable groups, such as factory workers, and also wildlife species in the surrounding environment (214). At the same time, when environmentalists cite these findings and conflate “health” with “normal” sex characteristics and reproductive futurity, they can end up reinforcing a heteronormative politics. Di Chiro pointedly asks, “how might we develop a more proactive (rather than polluted) politics that argues for the integrity, security, and health of bodies, homes, families, and communities without reproducing the eugenics discourse of the ‘normal/natural?’” (210). A body of scholarship called new materialism has in part sought to bring some of these tensions and contradictions to light and to advocate, moreover, the inherent queerness of nature’s mutability. In 2008 Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman proclaimed a “material turn” in feminist theory. Concerned that social constructionist feminist theories—feminism’s adoption of the principle that gender is socially constructed and performed—had eclipsed the material, they called for material feminists to account for how the material and the discursive co-constitute embodied experience (3–5).5 But importantly, such work has been undertaken by poets all along; after all, it was black lesbian feminist poet Audre Lorde who in her Cancer Journals in the late 1970s and 1980s took seriously the ways in which both material and social forces together determined the health and life chances of women of color, anticipating later moves by both toxic discourse and new materialism.6 Queer ecocriticism has made tremendous strides in unyoking normative assumptions about gender, sexuality, and reproduction from ecological futurity and toxic discourse. New work in queer ecopoetics is making its own interventions into to the field of queer ecocriticism. These interventions build on those just discussed, while extending new lines of inquiry as well. Toward a Queer Ecopoetics As we noted at the outset, ecopoetics might be understood broadly as “homemaking”—an activity that, as Anzaldúa suggests, could take any number of different forms, from creative writing and art to activism and justice work. In the context of literary studies, the term often refers to ecologically oriented poetry and poetics. It can also refer to writings about poetry and poetics. Thus, here we use the term to refer not only to poems and poetic practices, but to scholarly writings about those poems and other practices. In the realm of critical theory, ecopoetics has been pursued as a project of revealing, and hence saving, the nonhuman world, to borrow the Heideggerean language of some early ecopoetics criticism. Among the first critics to use the term this way was Jonathan Bate, who understood it as a practice emerging out of the Romantic tradition. In a move that both prioritized human poiesis and made it the central site of reflection about the nonhuman earth, Bate defined ecopoetics as “a way of reflecting upon what it might mean to dwell with the earth” (266). Contesting the anthropocentrism she saw implicit to Heidegger and Bate, Catherine E. Rigby proposed an expanded ecopoiesis in which humans become participants in, rather than privileged voicers of, the multiplicity of the nonhuman world (434). Ecopoetics has also been understood through its interdisciplinary movement, as Jonathan Skinner highlights in his 2001 introduction to the inaugural issue of the journal ecopoetics. Ecopoetics, Skinner writes, offers “a site open to … contradictions” and “ideally function[s] as an edge (as in edge of the meadow, or shore, rather than leading edge) where different disciplines can meet and complicate one another” (6). In their introduction to Ecopoetics: Essays in the Field (2018), Angela Hume and Gillian Osborne further develop the interdisciplinary potential of ecopoetics. They collect essays that bring the methods and insights of a range of political, multiethnic, antiracist, and activist lenses to ecopoetics. Following Hume and Osborne, we aim to highlight innovative writing by scholars who are doing interdisciplinary work, with specific relevance to queer theory. If ecopoetics has opened up crucial questions about how we might best dwell on earth and about the politics of such dwelling, queer ecopoetics orients us toward the affects, kinship practices, and erotic exchanges that shape dwelling as a relational endeavor. In doing so, it draws on poetry’s long concern with the construction of self and other, lover and beloved, to cultivate new forms of environmental sociality. So when Frank O’Hara confesses to his lover, “I wanted to be sure to reach you / Though my ship was on the way it got caught” (217) and when Robert Frost writes, “Good fences make good neighbors” (33), they participate in a poetic tradition in which difference, distance, and otherness are conditions of—not boundaries to—coming into relation. Poetry’s reach mediates distance and desire. In doing so, poetry and the study of poetry inquires into the (im)possibility of relation, suggesting that our attachments may be more oblique and diffuse than we usually imagine. Queer ecopoetics, then, pursues human and nonhuman associations beyond the conventions of heteronormative family bonds and anthropocentric ecological ones. Poetry about the environment may also be seen as poetry that engages the language of the senses. Susan Stewart has argued that when we read lyric poetry we find “a repository of synaesthesia, an archive of how the form has served as a means for working through the body’s ongoing mutuality of relations between nature and exterior objects and the ego’s necessary articulation of itself as both separate from the world and transformed by the world” (42). Seen this way, poetry registers our negotiations of and reflections on surrounding contexts that may range from the hostile to the benign. As queer ecocriticism encourages us to expand our repertoire of affects to incorporate disappointment, sadness, sickness, failure, and other negative feelings, poetry—as in Betsy Warland’s “blue” poetics, discussed in this cluster—becomes a way of staying with experiences of unease, discomfort, and illness to pursue vital, though difficult, forms of mutuality and association. Today we see several lines of inquiry emerging in the arena of queer ecopoetics. In this cluster, Ensor and Mortimer-Sandilands draw on queer reconfigurations of subjectivity and sociality to reimagine our relations to the environment. We also see a turn, or return, to decoloniality and indigenous knowledges. David Huebert exemplifies this turn, mobilizing decolonial theory in the process of performing a queer reading of two Native poets. In our next sections, we discuss these cluster contributions in their greater theoretical contexts. Queering the Environmental Subject Like the early American Puritan Mary Rowlandson who stole a piece of raw horseflesh from a starving English child to survive her wilderness captivity during King Philips War, the environmental subject relies on their wits and strength to ensure self-preservation. Such an autonomous subject—capable, ruggedly resourceful, and master of their own fate—continues to act as protagonist in popularly consumed environmental writing, from Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild (1996) to Cheryl Strayed’s recent memoir-turned-movie Wild (2012, 2014). Wilderness writing aside, environmental discourse has frequently cast the subject as decisive, able to confidently make ethical choices from a position of removal—what Timothy Morton, following G.W.F. Hegel, has termed “Beautiful Soul Syndrome” (109–23). Environmental discourse also presumes the subject to be whole—coherent, bounded, and without internal contradiction or bodily fragmentation. Yet, at least since Rachel Carson’s plea to acknowledge the body’s unending transit with the ambient environment, or Thoreau’s insistence that his off-the-grid experiment at Walden Pond begin with borrowing an ax from his neighbor, or even since Rowlandson’s own cunning was tempered by infusions of divine grace, such a vision of a self-reliant, autonomous subject may be exposed as a dangerous, if seductive, fiction that fails to account for our dependence on and vulnerability to larger social and ecological contexts. Those qualities endowed to the autonomous subject—the capacity to think and act freely and deliberately, independent of others and the environment—may not only sever us from our surroundings, but also make possible the fiction that the world is over there, an object that exists for the subject, first for mastery, then for consumption. Thinking ecologically, then, requires rethinking subjectivity. The task of imagining an alternative to the fantasy of the sovereign subject has been pursued by queer theorists such as Leo Bersani, Lee Edelman, and Lauren Berlant. For these critics, the dissolution of the self during sex becomes the ground for rethinking both sovereignty and relationality in a social, political, and psychic sense. Writing from the midst of the AIDS crisis, Bersani described sex, and in particular gay sex, as “the jouissance of exploded limits” (217). Sex, here, shatters the psychic structures of the self, as well as the social relations that are based on the self’s exercise of or abdication to power. This negativity of sex—its power to undo both ourselves and our ways of being in relation—is not only negative, for it is in these tenuous moments of not fully knowing or being in control of ourselves, as Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman remind us, that “negativity unleashes the energy that allows for the possibility of change” (viii). For all three of these critics, the self’s encounter with nonsovereignty during sex becomes the site at which one can reconfigure subjectivity to acknowledge our fundamental porosity to and passivity in the world. A corresponding attention to negative affects—feelings of melancholy, failure, damage, and depression—has accompanied queer theory’s reevaluation of negativity. Heather Love has argued that the need to imagine a better future for gays and lesbians sits in tension with queer histories of psychic and social damage. Creating a queer archive of twentieth-century texts that are “visibly marked by queer suffering,” Love takes up negative affects like shame, self-hatred, despair, and “ressentiment” to voice “the corporeal and psychic costs of homophobia” (4). Like Love, Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure rescues a queer archive of affect that spans from disappointment to despair and reaches across “high” and “low” art. For Halberstam, staying with negativity opens up a queer critique of the relentless can-do optimism of our neoliberal present in which failure becomes yet another mechanism for turning structural inequalities into personal responsibilities (3–4). The contributors to this special cluster take up queer theory’s riposte to sovereignty and positivity to reconceive of our relations to the environment. In her pursuit of a queer ecopoetics of contact, Sarah Ensor asks us to “exchange our familiarly dyadic, object-oriented model of contact … for a more ambient and less directed mode.” Ensor extends queer theory’s insights that scenes of sex—here, cruising—enable us to encounter relationality beyond the boundaries of the subject. Because the anonymity of cruising “restricts the personal,” unyoking sex from personhood, it enables us to re-envision relationality outside the transitive grammar of “immediate utility or identifiable end.” While environmental imperatives often urge us to abstain from desire—to make do with less, or ascetically go without—Ensor suggests that by approaching ecological contact through queer practices like cruising, we can recuperate desire as the pleasure of association without a predetermined, teleological end. Rather than renouncing desire by learning to desire less, we can, then, learn new ways of imagining and enacting desire. Where Ensor pushes us to attend to relationality beyond transitivity, teleology, and personhood to cultivate new forms of ecological association, Mortimer-Sandilands draws on nonsovereignty and negative affects to pursue an ethics of care based in a shared sense of vulnerability. Her essay “Into this Blue” shows how the temporal discontinuities and corporeal disruptions of queer experiences including illness—specifically, AIDS and breast cancer—can enable new “networks of care” to emerge from experiences of grief and loss. Through readings of Warland’s poetry—its capacity for hesitation, indeterminacy, and its enactment of a journey that abjures closure—Mortimer-Sandilands charts the subject’s encounter with nonsovereignty as it uncovers identities which, rather than being stable or coherent, “are more likely experienced and recognized as partial, contextual, fluid, performative, and precarious.” Unlike “green” ecocriticism, which remains optimistically invested in futurity and health, attending to negative, “blue” affect allows us to linger in an open-ended present that undoes the boundary between self and world and affords a new environmentalism based in shared experiences of precarity. Decolonial Queer Ecopoetics Critiques of the sovereign subject—a conception of subjectivity that underpins much of modern Western thought—are perhaps implicit to critiques of coloniality. We see the incorporation of decolonial theory and indigenous knowledges as a second emerging theoretical direction in queer ecopoetics. One might say that decolonial ecocriticism seeks to unsettle normative and Western-centric ideas about environmental consciousness. Unlike Eurocentric critiques of modernity, decolonial theory emerged out of political thought in the Global South (Mignolo xi–xii). Today, decolonial theory is sited outside of the West and also within it, as in the case of indigenous critiques of settler colonialism, for example, and also black diasporic studies critiques of nationalist discourses within black studies.7 As Walter Mignolo argues, decolonial thought begins with the premise that European modernity’s hidden agenda is coloniality (xxi); what Mignolo names “the colonial matrix of power” renders racialized bodies disposable and exerts itself not only on subjectivity, economy, race, gender, and sexuality, but on nature itself. Ecofeminists have emphasized in particular how gender and sexual oppression have been constitutive of Western coloniality. In the late 1990s, as part of a project to queer ecofeminism, Greta Gaard built on the work of Val Plumwood and Sedgwick to critique colonial compulsory heterosexuality. Gaard argues that Western coloniality pits rational thought against the natural and the erotic, enacting “colonial erotophobia” (129). On Gaard’s account, European colonizers appealed to Christianity to justify the subjugation of animals and nature, Native peoples and perceived racial others, women, and, crucially, queers and queer sexualities (122–23). A key aspect of coloniality was the suppression of indigenous sexual practices deemed to be deviant. Thus, decolonization is closely and necessarily tied to the project of queer liberation. Scholars of queer ecopoetics are also beginning to think along decolonial ecofeminist lines. In her new book on Mexican American literature, Priscilla Solis Ybarra suggests that writings by or inspired by lesbian Chicana feminists Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa exemplify what she names “goodlife” writing—decolonial environmental writing that rejects the Western dichotomization of the human and the natural and which incorporates indigenous knowledges that predate, and have persisted in spite of, colonization (15). Chicana feminist writings are particularly good models for today’s decolonial ecocritics, Ybarra suggests, because they have long sought to transcend colonial possession and control of their bodies, sexualities, and the land by insisting on multiple and intersectional conceptions of identity (23). A related decolonial approach that resonates with ecofeminism in its resistance to Western devaluation and destruction of nature is indigenous cosmopolitics. A global environmental justice approach, indigenous cosmopolitics recognizes the rights and unique world experiences of all species and things (Adamson 148). One such approach is the 2006 case of the Peruvian activists and indigenous peoples who opposed the building of a mine on the basis of its threat to the right to existence of Ausangate mountain (de la Cadena, cited by Adamson 148). In a related case, after 140 years of advocacy, in March 2017 the New Zealand Māori tribe saw the Whanganui river, which the tribe considers an ancestor, awarded the same legal rights as a person by the New Zealand government (Roy). Days later, in India the Ganges and Yamuna rivers were also granted legal personhood status (Daley). Anthropologist Marisol de la Cadena, translating the indigenous Andean term tirakuna, offers the term “earth-being” for Ausangate mountain and other nonhuman beings like the New Zealand and Indian rivers “who participate in the lives of those who call themselves runakuna, people” and “actively partake in modern institutions that cannot know, let alone recognize, [them]” (xxiv). While the cosmopolitical argument for the person status of earth-beings may model a politics of resistance, it is not inherently feminist or queer. Even so, decolonial cosmopolitics can articulate how ideas about gender and sexuality among indigenous peoples have influenced environmental relations historically and also shape responses to environmental crises today. This approach goes farther than ecofeminism by not only pointing out how colonization has led to the subjugation of indigenous women and sexualities, but by striving to reconstruct indigenous feminisms that reflect an understanding of how, prior to colonization especially, women and LGBTTQ+ people played important social and cultural roles in indigenous communities.8 Cosmopolitics also looks at how environmental crisis creates greater vulnerability for earth-beings alongside Native women and LGBTTQ+ people, while at the same time imagining how women’s and queer agency in indigenous cultures might inform environmental activism going forward. A recent model for this type of approach is that of the Standing Rock Water Protectors, a Native women-led group that sought to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from being constructed on unceded Lakota tribal lands and threatening Lake Oahe along with culturally significant sites. Some Water Protectors highlighted how the construction of pipelines such as DAPL often lead to a greater incidence of sexual violence against Native women in the areas (Gillette). At the same time, Water Protectors emphasized their own agency and power as members of a matrilineal society, leading the charge in resisting police repression, leading ceremonies, and helping run the Sacred Stone Camp (Bengal)—an ecopoetics practice if there ever was one. Perhaps it is no surprise that feminist poets have already begun to respond to the Water Protectors. In her recent book WHEREAS (2017), for example, Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier incorporates language from an interview with self-identified mother, teacher, and Lakota Water Protector Waniya Locke (94–96). In this cluster, Huebert performs a related queer decolonial ecopoetics in his reading of the “equine eros” of Chickasaw poet Linda Hogan’s and Muscogee Creek poet Joy Harjo’s work. He takes as his starting point the idea that Native studies and queer theory are poised to join forces in confronting settler coloniality. Like the earlier ecofeminists, Huebert argues that the term queer might be understood as that which has the potential to undermine the straightness mandated by Western sexuality. For Huebert, in Hogan’s and Harjo’s poems queer decoloniality occurs at the site of the human–horse encounter. In addition to reading what he names Hogan’s “poetics of multispecies affinity,” Huebert applies a decolonial cosmopolitical lens in his reading of the figure of the mustang in Hogan—a breed that, as he explains, was introduced to the Americas by Spanish colonizers, later escaped and flourished in the wild, only to eventually be recaptured and slaughtered in large numbers. In Harjo, Huebert reads the ways in which human–horse eroticism transgresses the normative bounds of the species divide, despite the dominant culture’s “species panic” around cross-species sexual encounters. As Huebert writes, “Reading the poetics of equine eros through the lens of settler colonialism opens a seam into an erotic and affective world that persists beyond and in spite of settler logics of white human supremacy, rigid species taxonomies, and Western regimes of linear progress.” “Messy ecologies,” Trans* Poetics, and Writing Against Cure There are, of course, trajectories in queer ecopoetics that are not reflected in this cluster. Elsewhere, for example, poets and critics are making connections between ecopoetics and such fields as trans theory and queer disability studies to rethink queer ecology. In his book Dear Herculine (2014), Aaron Apps problematizes the notion of healthy nature from his perspective as an intersex person, foregrounding instead the “messy ecologies” that constitute the embodied experiences of queers, often defined by uncomfortable proximity and vulnerable exposure. Cody-Rose Clevidence’s Beast Feast (2014) traces a frenzied techno-natural world whose capacity for shapeshifting—across genders, across human/nonhuman boundaries—is matched only by the beastly transfigurations of the market economy that voraciously feeds off its flesh. Seemingly in conversation with both Apps’s and Clevidence’s projects, Petra Kuppers’s PearlStitch (2016) explores how for disabled queers ecological interrelation can heighten experiences of precarity, and touch can threaten harm or offer healing. Trans disabled poet–critic Eli Clare’s recent book Brilliant Imperfection (2017) provides a critical framework with which to approach these projects. Through creative-critical meditations on the concept of “body-mind” along with that of ecological restoration, Clare challenges pervasive and widely embraced ideologies of cure. And, in their essay on how transgender/trans* theory may crucially contribute to the project of decentering and querying humanism and its deadly anthropocentrism, Eva Hayward and Jami Weinstein propose that trans* “is not a thing or a being, it is rather the process through which thingness and beingness are constituted. In its prefixial state, trans* is prepositionally oriented—marking the with, through, of, in, and across that make life possible” (196). Seen this way, a trans* ecopoetics is a crucial nexus not only for queering ecology but also for realizing dwelling as a relational endeavor undertaken in concert and in friction with human and nonhuman others. While full consideration of these lines of inquiry is beyond the scope of this introduction, we hope that other scholars will take them up moving forward. As Ensor’s, Mortimer-Sandilands’s, and Huebert’s articles show, poetry, queer theory, and ecocriticism together challenge us to rethink relationality in those liminal zones that have been said to demarcate everything from persons, species, and nations to sex and gender. While exposing the subject-centric, heterocentric, colonial, and gender oppressive logics of the often violent lines we draw between forms of life—the constructed borders that produce una herida abierta, as Anzaldúa termed it—queer ecopoetics exposes “the other” to be a fiction that forecloses possibilities for community, yet also insists on the complexity and reality of our differences. In this context, one of ecological proximity and precarity, queer ecopoetics imagines new possibilities for attachment, kinship, and care. Footnotes 1 For more on queer ecocriticism’s ambitious critical agenda today, see Mortimer-Sandilands, “Whose there is there there? Queer Directions and Ecocritical Orientations.” 2 For details on the lawsuits, see https://www.earthguardians.org/. For more on anxiety about childrearing in an age of climate catastrophe, see Ostrander. 3 For more on queer kinship, see Haraway and Sedgwick. 4 For a queer antiracist perspective, see, for example, Mel Y. Chen, “Lead’s Racial Matters.” 5 More recently, Victoria Pitts-Taylor discusses how across many fields of study the dualism between the social and the biological is being replaced by notions of the “biocultural.” See Pitts-Taylor, “Mattering: Feminism, Science, and Corporeal Politics.” 6 For an expanded critique of new materialism, see Ahmed, “Imaginary Prohibitions.” Ahmed argues that pointing to feminism’s antibiologism is a reductionist rhetorical move that neglects entire histories of feminist criticism that have been engaged with the biological and material, including the sciences, all along. 7 More than a decade ago, black diasporic studies began to investigate intersections between black studies and queer studies. See, for example, Rinaldo Walcott. 8 As Native studies scholars point out, in tribes that recognized LGBTTQ+ people, queer people were often free to pursue tribal roles to which they were inclined, even if those responsibilities were not traditionally associated with their biological sex, or to pursue both traditionally masculine and feminine roles (15). See Vinyeta, Whyte, and Lynn, p. 15. Works Cited Adamson Joni. “Indigenous Literatures, Multinaturalism, and Avatar: The Emergence of Indigenous Cosmopolitics.” American Literary History 24, no. 1 ( 2012 ): 143 – 62 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Ahmed Sara. “Imaginary Prohibitions: Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the ‘New Materialism.’” European Journal of Women’s Studies 15 , no. 1 ( 2008 ): 23 – 39 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Alaimo Stacy , Hekman Susan J. , eds. “Introduction: Emerging Models of Materiality in Feminist Theory.” Material Feminisms. Indiana UP , 2008 . 1 – 19 . 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Henry Holt and Company , 1969 . Gaard Greta. “Toward a Queer Ecofeminism.” Hypatia 12 , no. 1 ( 1997 ): 114 – 37 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Gillette Cedar Wilkie. “Pipeline Expansion Means Increased Violence against Tribal Women.” Huffpost, 10 Oct. 2016 . Halberstam J . In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives . New York UP , 2005 . Halberstam J The Queer Art of Failure . Duke UP , 2011 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Haraway Donna. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene . Duke UP , 2016 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hayward Eva , Weinstein Jami . “Introduction: Tranimalities in the Age of Trans* Life.” Tranimalities, special issue of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 2 , no. 2 ( 2015 ): 195 – 208 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Hume Angela , Osborne Gillian . “Ecopoetics as Expanded Critical Practice: An Introduction.” Ecopoetics: Essays in the Field . Ed. Hume Angela , Osborne Gillian . U of Iowa P , 2018 . 1 – 16 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Krakauer Jon. Into the Wild . Anchor Books , 1997 . Kuppers Petra. PearlStitch . Spuyten Duyvil Publishing , 2016 . Long Solider Layli. WHEREAS . Graywolf Press , 2017 . Lorde Audre. The Cancer Journals: Special Edition . Aunt Lute Books , 1980 . Love Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History . Harvard UP , 2007 . Mignolo Walter D. The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options . Duke UP , 2011 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Mortimer-Sandilands Catriona. “Whose there is there there? Queer Directions and Ecocritical Orientations,” Ecozon@ 1, no. 1 ( 2010 ): 63 – 69 . Mortimer-Sandilands Catriona , Erickson Bruce . “Introduction: A Genealogy of Queer Ecologies.” Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire . Ed. Mortimer-Sandilands Catriona , Erickson Bruce . Indiana UP , 2010 . 1 – 47 . Morton Timothy. Ecology without Nature . Harvard UP , 2007 . Muñoz José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity . New York UP , 2009 . O’Hara Frank. “To the Harbormaster.” The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara . U of California P , 1995 . Ostrander Madeline. “How Do You Decide to Have a Baby When Climate Change is Remaking Life on Earth?” The Nation , 24 Mar. 2016 . Pitts-Taylor Victoria. “Mattering: Feminism, Science, and Corporeal Politics.” Mattering: Feminism, Science, and Materialism . Ed. Pitts-Taylor Victoria . New York UP , 2016 . 1 – 20 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Rigby Catherine E. “Earth, World, Text: On the (Im)possibility of Ecopoiesis.” New Literary History 35 , no. 3 ( 2004 ): 427 – 42 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Rowlandson Mary . The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. Ed. Neal Salisbury . Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1997 . Roy Eleanor Ainge. “New Zealand River Granted Same Legal Rights as Human Being.” The Guardian , 16 Mar. 2017 . Sedgwick Eve. K . Epistemology of the Closet . 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Duke UP , 2005 . 90 – 105 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and EnvironmentOxford University Press

Published: Apr 24, 2018

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