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Anthropocene Frontiers: The Place of Environment in Western Studies

Anthropocene Frontiers: The Place of Environment in Western Studies Anthropocene Frontiers e P Th lace of Environment in Western Studies Sylvan Goldberg To think of the West as “geological”— rather than, say, as pas- toral, agricultural, arid, domestic, or wilderness— is to challenge without erasing the environmental frames that have dominated western American studies. Recently the Anthropocene has brought just such a geologic imagination into the humanities. For western studies this prompts a return to the nineteenth century, in which the US West became synonymous with what Clarence King, lead- er of the Fortieth Parallel Survey, called its “impressive geological drama” (4). For King and his contemporaries— Timothy O’Sullivan, Albert Bierstadt, and Frederic Church— the imposing western land- scapes affi rmed a school of geology called catastrophism, so named for the rapid and violent rate of change through which it envisioned alterations to the earth’s surface occurring. Th e geologic imagina- tion of the Anthropocene retains this catastrophic sensibility, but sublime awe has given way to the anxieties of climate change. Th e western environment is especially prone to this increasing precarity, dependent as it has been— and continues to be— upon a complex infrastructure to maintain its livability: railroad construction, irri- gation, wildfi re management. Every summer, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Western American Literature University of Nebraska Press

Anthropocene Frontiers: The Place of Environment in Western Studies

Western American Literature , Volume 53 (1) – Jun 1, 2018

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
ISSN
0043-3462

Abstract

Anthropocene Frontiers e P Th lace of Environment in Western Studies Sylvan Goldberg To think of the West as “geological”— rather than, say, as pas- toral, agricultural, arid, domestic, or wilderness— is to challenge without erasing the environmental frames that have dominated western American studies. Recently the Anthropocene has brought just such a geologic imagination into the humanities. For western studies this prompts a return to the nineteenth century, in which the US West became synonymous with what Clarence King, lead- er of the Fortieth Parallel Survey, called its “impressive geological drama” (4). For King and his contemporaries— Timothy O’Sullivan, Albert Bierstadt, and Frederic Church— the imposing western land- scapes affi rmed a school of geology called catastrophism, so named for the rapid and violent rate of change through which it envisioned alterations to the earth’s surface occurring. Th e geologic imagina- tion of the Anthropocene retains this catastrophic sensibility, but sublime awe has given way to the anxieties of climate change. Th e western environment is especially prone to this increasing precarity, dependent as it has been— and continues to be— upon a complex infrastructure to maintain its livability: railroad construction, irri- gation, wildfi re management. Every summer,

Journal

Western American LiteratureUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Jun 1, 2018

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