Literature as cultural ecology: a cultural ecological study on Emerson and Whitman

Öz This article is intended to find out how a cultural ecological reading is possible for the selected poems of Emerson and Whitman who are considered as the leading figures of the nineteenth century American Renaissance, the artistic spirit which has flourished between the 1830s-1860s in the wake of the Romantic movement. Transcendentalism in America, as a projection of English Romanticism and Christian Unitarianism interprets the organic interaction in-between man, nature and God. Giving the earliest examples of Transcendentalist nature-writing, Emerson and Whitman are open for a cultural-ecological reading because cultural ecology as a new direction in ecocriticism, brings together ecology and aesthetics, nature and man, environment and literature, language and culture in other words human and non-human universes. As an inter-disciplinary theory developing in a dynamic way, cultural ecology, according to Zapf, “can be described as the interrelation of three major discursive functions such as the ‘culture-critical meta-discourse,’ ‘an imaginative counter-discourse,’ and a ‘reintegrative inter-discourse’” (2016: 96). In the first model, the artistic work is analyzed to reveal the workings of an oppressive ideological structure and dogmatic values of the society whereas the second one points out the representations of otherness and marginalization within a text and finally last one tries to exemplify the co-evolution of both models in searching for the “transformative role of literature” within “eco-semiotic” discourse. In that sense, this article intends to find out how the poetic examples of Emerson and Whitman fit into the triadic model of cultural ecology. The argument proceeds through the illustration of Zapf’s triadic model in Emerson’s “Hamatreya,” and Whitman’s “The Splendid, Silent Sun.


BATE, J. (2000). The Song of the Earth, Cambridge. Mass., Harvard University Press.

BUELL, L., HEISE U., K., & THORNBER, K. (2011). Introduction: Literature and Environment. The Annual Review of Environment and Resources, No 36. 417-440, Literature and Environment | Annual Review of Environment and Resources (annualreviews. org) [Accessed Date: 02.02.2021].

CİVELEKOĞLU, F. (2013). Ancient Greek Tragedy and the Ecology of Culture. JASSS. 6(6), [Accessed Date: 10.12.2020].

DENİZARSLANI, Y. (2014). A Contemporary Review on Sense of Place and Border in the Nineteenth Century Narratives of American Expansionism, IJLA, 2(1).

DUNNING, K. (2013). From Environmental Poetry to Eco-poetry. www. from Environmental Poetry to Ecopoetry - PDF Free Download ( [Accessed Date: 10.01.2021].

EMERSON, R. W. (1844a). The Nature, Essays: Chp I. Emerson - Nature--Web Text (Vcu.Edu) [Accessed Date: 14.12.2020].

EMERSON, R. W. (1844b) The Poet, Essays: Second Series. emerson - Essays - The Poet ( [Accessed Date: 10.12.2020].

EMERSON, R. W. (1846). “Hamatreya” Hamatreya by Ralph Waldo Emerson | Poetry Foundation [Accessed Date: 10.12.2020].

GLOTFELTY, C. & Fromm, E. eds., (1996). The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

IOVINO, S. & OPPERMANN, S. (2012). Material Ecocriticism: Materiality, Agency, and Models of Narrativity. Ecozon. 3(1). [Accessed Date: 10.12.2020].

• KILLINGSWORTH, M. J. (2004). Walt Whitman and the Earth: A Study in Ecopoetics. Walt Whitman and the Earth: A Study in Ecopoetics (Criticism) - The Walt Whitman Archive [Accessed Date: 10.12.2020].

“manifest destiny” (2019). HISTORY. Manifest Destiny - Definition, Facts & Significance - HISTORY [Accessed Date: 10.12.2020].

NIETZCHE, F. (1883). The Will to Power, The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Will to Power, Book I and II, by Friedrich Nietzsche. [Accessed Date: 10.12.2020].

ROBINSON, A. (2011). In Theory Bakhtin: Dialogism, Polyphony and Heteroglossia. CEASEFIRE. In Theory Bakhtin: Dialogism, Polyphony and Heteroglossia | Ceasefire Magazine [Accessed Date: 12.06.2020].

RUECKERT, W. (1978). Literature and Ecology: AN EXPERIMENT IN ECOCRITICISM, William Rueckert’s Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism | Environment & Society Portal ( [Accessed Date:20.03.2021].

SCIGAJ, L. M. (1996). Contemporary Ecological and Environmental Poetry, ISLE. Vol 3. No 2. www.jstor.

org [Accessed Date: 12.06.2020]. .

SHUCARD, A. (1988). American Poetry, Boston: Twayne Publishers.

STRANG, E. (2013). Habitude: Ecology of Poetry as (Im) possible Interconnection. (PDF) Habitude: Ecological Poetry As (Im)Possible (Inter)Connection | Em Strang - [Accessed Date: 12.03.2021].

THOREAU, H., D. (1854). Walden: Where I Lived and What I Lived For. 2015, The Project Gutenberg eBook of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau [Accessed Date: 12.03.2021].

WHITMAN, W., (1865), “Give Me the Splendid, Silent Sun,” 130. Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun. Whitman, Walt. 1900. Leaves of Grass ( [Accessed Date:21.01.2021].

ZAPF, H. (2016). Literature as Cultural Ecology, Bloomsbury Academic 2016,. Bloomsbury Collections - Literature as Cultural Ecology - Sustainable Texts [Accessed March 2021].

Kaynak Göster

APA Mulazimoglu Erkal, M . (2021). Literature as cultural ecology: a cultural ecological study on Emerson and Whitman . Journal of Awareness , 6 (2) , 95-104 . DOI: 10.26809/joa.6.2.01