CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background to the Study Ecocriticism is a term used for the observation and study of the relationship between literature and the earth’s environment. It takes the interdisciplinary point of view by analysing the works of authors, researchers and poets in the context of environmental issues and nature. Since the scope, purpose and methodology are intertwined, it seems a bit challenging to have all ecocritics agree to this. However, some of them also propose the solutions to the current environmental issues. The term ecocriticism was coined in the late 1970s by combining ‘criticism’ with shortened form of ‘ecology’, the science that investigates the interrelations of all forms of plants and animal life with each other and with their physical habitats. ‘Eco-criticism,’ also called environmental criticism or green studies, designates the critical writings which explore the relations between literature and the biological and physical environment, conducted with an acute awareness of the damage being wrought on that environment by human activities (Abrams and Harpham, 96). Representation of the natural environment has always been the workings of literature. In the twentieth century, the warnings by scientists and conservationist increased; two especially influenced books were Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac (1949), drawing attention to the ominous degradation of the environment, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), concerning the devastation inflicted by newly developed chemical pesticides on wildlife, both on land and in water. As time went on, there was a widespread feeling that the earth was in an environmental crisis, brought about by man through his industrial chemical pollution of the ‘biosphere’ – the thin layer of the earth, water, air and life as a whole. This devastation is caused by the depletion of forests and of natural resources, the relentless extinction of plants and animal species, and the exploitation of the human population that threatened the capacity of the earth to sustain it.
Ecocriticism, therefore, makes environmental issues its focus, it became entrenched in the 1990s with the publication of The Eco-criticism Reader and Environmental Imagination (Lawrence Bull, 56). The approach has its basis on the environmental philosophy that makes nature and ecological issues its concern. Consequently, ecocriticism discourse explores the relationship between literature and the environment. Environmental literature includes all writings about nature as well as other environmentally-induced interests. It is without any doubt that nature writing developed from the respect for the natural world and its centrality to human life. Nature is the totality of the processes of beings in the world, the entire earth and its ecological changes; what goes around comes around (David Hilbert, 87). Scholars agree that not just one approach can be adopted to tackle questions of the environment, in order to address issues that affect it in a holistic manner. Colin Irvine is especially bothered that issues about land did not gain much space in the theoretical curriculum of literature. He asserts in his book, The Outlook that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of the land (Irvine, 261). He foregrounds ecological principles in literature by likening the relationship between the reader and the text to that of man and his environment. Some scholars believe that eco-literature first evolved in the United State of America, as mankind’s response to the perilous deterioration of the earth as a result of human activities. Although environmental degradation is said to precipitate eco-literature, this literary form could be said to be as old as human existence. Gogoi posit that the human world and the physical environment are closely interlinked and that one is shaped by the other and therefore, the study of the representation of human-nature relationship is literature (1).