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Writing Nature in Cold War American Literature$

Sarah Daw

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474430029

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474430029.001.0001

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Introduction: Ecocriticism and the Mid-Twentieth Century

Introduction: Ecocriticism and the Mid-Twentieth Century

(p.1) Introduction: Ecocriticism and the Mid-Twentieth Century
Writing Nature in Cold War American Literature

Sarah Daw

Edinburgh University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This introductory chapter begins by contextualising the study, discussing the representation of Nature in early Cold War American culture and the emergence of modern environmentalism from 1945. The chapter also outlines the book’s argument that whilst the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) is understandably viewed as a watershed moment in terms of raising environmental consciousness in America, Silent Spring should also be considered as part of a developing trend of ecological portrayals of Nature in American literature written after 1945. This opening chapter also situates the book’s argument within the field of Cold War literary studies and introduces the book’s ecocritical methodology, including its sustained engagement with Timothy Morton’s ideas of ‘the mesh’ and ‘the ecological thought’ as outlined in The Ecological Thought (2010).

Keywords:   Ecocritical, Silent Spring, Cold War, Environmentalism, Timothy Morton

Ahead of his 2016 Reith Lectures, Professor Stephen Hawking gave a damning assessment of the survival chances of the human race. He warned ‘we face a number of threats to our survival from nuclear war, catastrophic global warming, and genetically engineered viruses’, before adding the grim prediction that: ‘although the chance of a disaster on planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, becoming a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years’.1 Hawking’s comments mirror recent thinking within the environmental humanities concerning the advent of the ‘Anthropocene’ – the geological period in which humans have come ‘to play a decisive, if largely incalculable, role in the planet’s ecology and geology’.2 There is a growing consensus that we have arrived at a point where humans will almost certainly be the architects of our own destruction. Or perhaps we arrived at that moment in a previous epoch. In June 1961, the natural scientist Rachel Carson wrote that she had finally settled upon an opening sentence for Silent Spring (1962). The book would begin, she wrote to her friend and confidante Dorothy Freeman, with the declaration: ‘This is a book about man’s war against nature, and because man is part of nature it is also and inevitably a book about man’s war against himself’.3 Carson, who was to become, like Hawking, one of the most widely recognised scientific figures of her generation, was writing about the massive environmental threat posed to humans and ecosystems alike by the increasingly widespread use of organophosphate and organochloride chemicals in the post-war (p.2) period. Despite the differences in the mode of delivery of the perceived threat to the human, by the human, Carson’s and Hawking’s statements both evoke the location of the Anthropocene, which, as Timothy Clark notes, ‘brings to an unavoidable point of stress the question of the nature of Nature and of the human’.4

Hawking’s comments highlight the Cold War and Climate Change as two significant phases in the creation of the Anthropocene, further drawing together the contemporary moment and the mid-century period in which Carson was writing. The ecocritic Timothy Morton lists the following as the key moments in the Anthropocene’s development: ‘1784, soot, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, plutonium’.5,6 With three out of five of Morton’s list directly linked to nuclear capabilities originating in and after 1945, the Cold War and nuclear proliferation feature as heavily in Morton’s list as they do in Hawking’s prediction. Morton further fortifies this link between the first use of nuclear weapons and contemporary environmentalism by choosing J. Robert Oppenheimer’s famous statement upon witnessing the first atomic bomb blasts, ‘I am become death, shatterer of worlds’, as the epigraph for Hyperobject: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World – his 2013 book from which the above quotations are taken.7 However, despite these overt references to the Cold War as a significant moment in ecocritical thought, ecocriticism has spent far more energy addressing the questions that Climate Change raises about the human’s relationship to ‘Nature’ than it has engaging with the Cold War as a ‘point of stress’ in the development of this relationship over the course of the twentieth century. This book will suggest that the Cold War caused a seismic shift in the collective American understanding of the nation’s relationship to the environment. It reveals that, despite a persistent media narrative of human ‘mastery’ over ‘Nature’, American writers and scientists alike were rapidly rewriting the position of humanity in relation to the environment in increasingly ecological terms.8 This, often radical, reconsideration of ‘Nature’ forms a significant and compelling component of Cold War literature.

Carson’s statement that ‘man’s war against nature’ is a ‘war against himself’ suggests an ecological association between humans and their environment, a point further strengthened by her description of ‘man’ as a ‘part of nature’. However, her interdependent, ecological (p.3) vision of the human relationship to Nature is a far cry from the dominant presentation of the natural world in the American media during the early Cold War years. For instance, in an unpublished 1962 letter sent to the New Yorker following the publication of Carson’s Silent Spring, an anonymous reader advised caution about the uptake of Carson’s work:

We can live without birds and animals, but, as the current market slump shows, we cannot live without business. As for insects, isn’t it just like a woman to be scared to death of a few little bugs! As long as we have the H-bomb everything will be O.K.9

The writer’s hubristic dismissal of environmental concerns is a neat demonstration of the attitude to Nature that dominated hegemonic American cultural discourse during the Cold War years. Man – for it was nearly always ‘man’ – was perceived to have conquered Nature in creating the atomic bomb and, as a concept, Nature was habitually characterised as obsolete, vanquished and passé. Such an attitude is clear in the periodical press of the time; print culture was busy promoting American science in the years following the dropping of the nuclear bombs, simultaneously mythologising scientists as ‘Modern Prometheans’ and touting them as the country’s new ‘political and ethical guides’.10

This collective media endorsement of Cold War science was often couched in the language of conquest. The rhetoric of President Harry Truman in his September 1945 address to Congress in support of the National Science Foundation illustrates this, with the President asserting that ‘vast scientific fields remain to be conquered in the same way’ as America was perceived to have ‘conquered’ in the development of the nuclear bomb.11 But what were American scientists conquering? The implicit answer was almost always Nature. For instance, the science writer David Dietz painted the following picture of the Cold War scientist: ‘he visions mankind marching down the ages, with comprehension of the universe growing greater and greater, his mastery of nature and of himself ever increasing’.12 Elsewhere, Truman explicitly frames the development of the nuclear bomb as man ‘harnessing’ the power of Nature; in an August 1945 Life magazine article titled ‘The Manhattan Project: Scientists Have (p.4) Harnessed Nature’s Basic Force’, for example, he describes nuclear power as man ‘harnessing’ the ‘forces of solar energy’.13

Peter Middleton discusses the valorisation of atomic science by the American media and establishment at length in Physics Envy: American Poetry and Science in the Cold War and After (2015). Middleton recounts atomic scientist Hans Bethe describing the atom as the ‘hero of the day’ in the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima, and details the process by which the adulation of nuclear physics, precipitated by the detonation of the nuclear bomb, had led nuclear science to become synonymous with American global supremacy. As Middleton exposes, the pervasive celebration of nuclear science in the national media after 1945 had a multidimensional impact on mid-century society, with consequences ranging from the resurrection of the periodical Scientific American to the development of the notion that to be an American citizen was of itself ‘to be scientific’.14 The idea that the ‘scientific’ American had finally conquered Nature was not uniformly accepted, but dissenting voices were often intentionally marginalised.15 For instance, Rachel Carson could not gain publisher interest in the project that would become Silent Spring for nearly twenty years, due to the powerful draw of the media narrative of America’s atomic success.16

The acceptance of a connection between the development of atomic weapons and the obsolescence of Nature is also implicitly evident within literary criticism of the period. In fact, discussion of the role and representation of Nature is largely absent from Cold War literary criticism.17 There is, however, a brief moment of recognition in Alan Nadel’s field-defining study Containment Culture: American Narratives, Postmodernism, and the Atomic Age (1995). In a short section on the concept of the ‘dual nature of nuclear fuel’, Nadel reveals that the US State Department deliberately depicted nuclear fuel as possessing a ‘dual nature’ with respect to its two functions: as atomic energy used for peaceful purposes, and as atomic weaponry. Nadel highlights this rhetoric in his argument that ‘nuclear fuel has no nature at all; it is no more natural than it is naturally dual’. He goes on to state: ‘For the energy of the atom to become fuel, “unnatural” acts must be performed; nature must be violated and its power spent in some exterior way’.18 His analysis therefore contains an implicit depiction of Nature as something (p.5) ‘Over There’, which is separate from both the human, and from nuclear energy.19 However, the following chapters will show that a number of Cold War writers portray nuclear science as a part of an infinitely expansive, ecological vision of Nature. This book interrogates the Cold War as a particular ‘point of stress’ in the evolution of American literary representations of ‘the nature of Nature and of the human’. It finds that despite the prevalence of media descriptions of humanity having achieved ‘mastery’ of Nature through the development of nuclear weapons, Carson, and many other Cold War writers, depicted the human as a component within an infinite and interdependent system of Nature.20 My five chapters will explore the influences behind these emergent portrayals of ecology in literature written between 1945 and 1971, as well as reflecting upon the implications that Cold War literary depictions of ecology have for contemporary ecocritical theory.

The Cold War is a covert presence in much recent ecocriticism, as the above extract from Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects exemplifies. In this same theoretical text, Morton notes that: ‘“The actual earth,” as Thoreau puts it, now contains throughout its circumference a thin layer of radioactive materials, deposited since 1945’.21 Morton’s juxtaposition of Thoreau’s writing of Nature with the environmental legacy of the Nuclear Age also gestures towards the disproportionate influence that historically situated literary movements such as American Transcendentalism and British Romanticism have had on contemporary environmental writing and criticism. An earlier generation of American literary ecocritics leaned heavily on the British Romantics and American Transcendentalists for their key literary objects, and guiding frameworks. In addition, Morton’s own early work, which I will draw on in my methodology, disproportionally analytically engages with the work of Henry David Thoreau and with British Romantic writing.22 However, while Lawrence Buell’s The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (1995) is predicated on the assumption that Thoreau’s work continues to exert a defining influence on the writing and theorisation of American Nature at the end of the twentieth century, Buell also qualifies his presentation of the merits of a continued reliance on Thoreau, writing that a ‘more radical critic’ would ‘favor more than I do the prospect of a complete, ground-up (p.6) reconstruction of western values in terms of some other paradigm – perhaps Taoism, or some Native American culture’.23 Buell therefore signals that there is a need for something more ‘radical’ than a continued reliance on Thoreau to be the primary influence behind the writing of Nature at the close of the twentieth century.

The ‘deep ecology’ movement of the late 1980s and 1990s enthusiastically promoted the turn towards the inclusion of non-Euro-American philosophies within American environmental thought that Buell references in The Environmental Imagination.24 This move was, in turn, rightly critiqued by postcolonial ecocritics, as this Introduction will go on to describe in greater detail. However, the shift from a reliance on Thoreau and others in the tradition of eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century environmental writing, and towards a greater reliance on non-Euro-American philosophies, began to occur within mid-twentieth-century American literary depictions of Nature. Many years before the emergence of the ‘deep ecology’ movement, mid-century American writers began to draw heavily on a range of non-Euro-American philosophies in order to reimagine the human relationship to the natural world after 1945. The chapters in this book will mine the influences behind the ecological presentations of Nature that it identifies in a variety of Cold War texts, revealing that at mid-century, American writers were drawing far more on non-Euro-American texts and worldviews when re-inscribing Nature than they were on the legacy of Transcendentalism.

In this way, Writing Nature in Cold War American Literature exposes that the influences on which a number of mid-century writers drew in order to respond to the new nuclear environment were both culturally and globally diverse. However, it is significant to note that these widespread attempts to understand the changes brought on by the nuclear moment through recourse to non-Euro-American philosophical traditions were not confined to writers, as Oppenheimer’s decision to quote the words of The Bhagavad Gita when witnessing the first detonation of an atomic bomb evidences. Oppenheimer turned to Hindu mysticism, Paul Bowles to Sufism, and Peggy Pond Church to the Pueblo Native American worldview that she was exposed to in her region of northern New Mexico. J. D. Salinger and the Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac (p.7) reached for some of the many contemporary, Americanised translations of ancient Chinese and Japanese Taoist and Buddhist texts that were widely available in the American literary marketplace at mid-century. Somewhat differently, Mary McCarthy sought to radically reorient literary depictions of Nature in reaction to a rising environmental consciousness in America, which she viewed to be an incomplete response to the changing status of the natural world in the mid-twentieth century. Her theorisation of Nature draws heavily on the work of the French philosopher Simone Weil – an influence that led her to form a complex environmentalism, and to critique the place of Nature in twentieth-century American society and culture. In this regard, significant parallels will be drawn between McCarthy’s thinking and Carson’s – both writers’ work displays a sophisticated understanding of the separation between the cultural work of the idea of Nature and what they understood to be its ecological reality.

This book seeks to highlight the pronounced turn towards a diverse range of non-Euro-American philosophies in the work of a number of white American writers between the mid-1940s and early 1970s, and to expose the extent that this turn directly impacted upon these writers’ literary depictions of Nature.25 In doing so, it will not shy away from the colonialism, Orientalism and tendency toward universalism, that are inherent within white American writers’ appropriations of ideas from Sufi theology, Native American philosophy, and translated Taoist and Zen Buddhist literature. The acts of cultural appropriation practised by the mid-century American writers on whom this book will focus thankfully appear increasingly problematic and archaic within the context of contemporary ecocriticism; although, as has been noted, comparable engagements with non-Euro-American philosophies were a significant aspect of the deep ecology movement that dominated American ecocriticism in the final decades of the twentieth century. This study has no desire to contribute to the whiteness of the ecocritical field, or to endorse cultural appropriation as a valid approach in the development of American ecological thought. However, the acts of cultural appropriation undertaken by the white writers on whom this book concentrates, which were inevitably governed and enabled by their white-skin privilege, nevertheless (p.8) significantly contributed to the evolution of the writing of Nature at mid-century and beyond. For this reason, they do demand critical attention. In investigating this pervasive trope, I will concentrate analysis on the specific texts through which these writers gained access to a range of non-Euro-American philosophical and spiritual ideas. The sources used by the writers examined in this study were often among the most Americanised and inauthentic translations and interpretations that were available in the American literary marketplace, and as such it must be continually emphasised that the interpretations of the philosophies and spiritualities discussed should not be taken as in any way representative of the cultures and traditions from which they derive. Indeed, they very often constitute highly racist and Orientalist interpretations of the traditions from which they are drawn, and must be recognised as such. However, as none of the writers, save for McCarthy in the case of Simone Weil, read the philosophies to which they were drawn in their original languages, analysis will necessarily concentrate exclusively on the particular translations from which the writers covered gained access to these ideas.

In examining the degree to which depictions of ecology at mid-century appropriate globally diverse philosophies, this book will actively engage with the substantial criticisms of American Environmentalism that were first raised by Ramachandra Guha in his important 1989 intervention ‘Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique’. Guha condemns the universalising tendency of American environmentalism, and particularly targets the at-the-time emergent movement of ‘deep ecology’.26 He argues that the ‘deep ecology’ movement ‘lumped together’ a number of different Eastern philosophies – Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism – in order to aid the creation of a universal deep ecology, and that deep ecology resultantly reductively depicts these disparate traditions as holding comparable, biocentric views of Nature.27 Guha describes this appropriation of Eastern thought in the service of a fundamentally Euro-American ecological agenda as functioning in the following way:

At one level, the task is to recover those dissenting voices within the Judeo-Christian tradition, at another, to suggest that religious traditions (p.9) in other cultures are, in contrast, dominantly, if not exclusively, ‘biocentric’ in their orientation. This coupling of (ancient) Eastern and (modern) ecological wisdom seemingly helps consolidate the claim that deep ecology is a philosophy of universal significance.28

In an example of this tendency, Guha cites Michael Cohen’s characterisation of John Muir as ‘a Taoist of the [American] West’. The superficial appropriation of Eastern thought that Cohen displays through this construction is also found in the work of Jack Kerouac and J. D. Salinger in the chapters that follow. This book aims to explore the impact that white American writers’ appropriations of non-Euro-American philosophies had on the development of increasingly ecological literary depictions of Nature at mid-century, while in no way endorsing the Orientalism and cultural appropriation that postcolonial ecocriticism has shown to be inherent in such practices.29 Accordingly, this study will continue to emphasise that the appropriation of non-Euro-American philosophies by American writers was solely influential and impactful within the context of American literary depictions of Nature, and will not portray their influence as in any way a part of the creation of a global or universal environmental narrative. While postcolonial analysis is not the focus of this study, the following chapters will continue to stress the ‘monolithic, simplistic’ and Orientalist character of white American writers’ representations of non-Euro-American philosophies and spiritualities at mid-century – all tropes that Guha identifies in later American ecocritical writing.30

In the years since Guha’s 1989 intervention, a number of his criticisms of Western ecocriticism have been answered by the rise of ecocriticism that focuses on the interrelations between capitalism and ecology, including the recent work of Jason W. Moore.31 Guha’s critique of the pursuit of a universalising global narrative in US ecocriticism has also been restated and developed within the growing field of postcolonial ecocriticism.32 Ecocritics from this school such as Elizabeth DeLoughrey and Rob Nixon have reiterated Guha’s criticism of these universalising tendencies, and have particularly levelled this criticism at the recent field-wide turn from the local to the ‘global’; DeLoughrey, for instance, describes an ongoing ‘postcolonial wariness about globalizing narratives in (p.10) which ecocritical expertise emanates from a “first-world” center and is exported to the peripheries/colonies as a second wave’.33,34 Positive steps towards redressing this universalism are visible in the various calls for the inclusion of more globally diverse critical voices that have come from within the field. Scott Slovic and Joni Adamson wrote in 2011 that recent developments in ecocriticism indicate the emergence of ‘a new third wave of ecocriticism, which recognizes ethnic and national particularities and yet transcends ethnic and national boundaries’, and Slovic’s recent co-edited collections also attest to the desire to present a more globally representative ecocriticism.35 However, despite the emergence of notable recent studies including Serpil Oppermann’s edited volume New International Voices in Ecocriticism (2015) and Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Jill Didur and Anthony Carrigan’s Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities: Postcolonial Approaches (2015), change in this regard has been relatively slow, with a problematic US-centrism still undeniably persisting across the field.

As the ecocritic Elizabeth DeLoughrey has noted, ‘the legacy of the Cold War has not, strangely enough, been a major concern for US ecocriticism’. However, she continues to argue that the Cold War ‘certainly has played a vital role in the contemporary understanding of ecology and ecocriticism itself’.36 Twentieth-century texts have not figured anywhere near as predominantly within the field of ecocriticism as one might expect, given that this period contains the origins of the modern environmental movement. However, recent years have seen the emergence of the field of ‘Green Modernism’, and the number of ecocritical studies of modernist texts continues to grow exponentially.37 There have also been excellent studies by field-leading ecocritics, including Serpil Oppermann, aimed at developing an ecological postmodernism.38 By comparison, the mid-twentieth century has received very little attention, with the work of Elizabeth DeLoughrey and Cheryll Glotfelty representing notable exceptions.39

The Nuclear Age undeniably catalysed a period of considerable environmental change, and this book contends that its impact upon literary configurations of Nature was similarly profound. Donald Worster writes in Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (1977) – one of the earliest ecocritical studies – ‘the Age of (p.11) Ecology began on the desert outside Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945 [sic]’.40 The relationship between the development of ecological thought and the Nuclear Age is also foregrounded in Joel Hagen’s An Entangled Bank: The Origins of Ecosystems Ecology (1992), which details the substantial role played by the Atomic Energy Commission in fostering and financing the growth of the academic field of ecosystems ecology.41 However, far more critics have dated the rise of the modern environmental movement from the publication of Carson’s Silent Spring than from the dropping of the first nuclear bombs.42 Silent Spring has been widely recognised as a tangible milestone in the development of modern environmentalism, and the publication of Carson’s groundbreaking text was unquestionably a significant moment in raising public consciousness concerning environmental issues. However, this book will argue that it is equally necessary to consider the place of Silent Spring with respect to its contemporary literary context.

Carson’s text did not arise in a vacuum. Rather, it was published at a moment when public consciousness of the significant dangers to public health posed by the radiation and fallout from nuclear weapons was growing, and had prepared the public to accept the invisible and pervasive environmental dangers of which Silent Spring warned.43 Indeed, Carson actively brings out the similarities between organophosphates and radiation throughout Silent Spring in order to place her work within what was already a significant, emergent public health narrative; she characterises the organochlorides she studied as the ‘partners of radiation’, and stresses that ‘the parallel between chemicals and radiation is exact and inescapable’.44 Elsewhere, Carson explicitly states that the dangers of organophosphates that her work identifies should have parity with the nuclear threat in American media discourse, asserting that: ‘news such as [insect resistance to the new chemical insecticides] is enough to make headlines as big as those concerning the new atomic bomb if only the significance of the matter were properly understood’.45 The following chapters will reveal that in the period between 1945 and the publication of Silent Spring in 1962, a subversive re-examination of the human relationship to its environment, precipitated by the dropping of the atomic bombs, took place within the realms of fiction and poetry. As a result, this book (p.12) asserts that Silent Spring can be understood as part of a developing trajectory of increasingly ecological depictions of Nature in post-war American literature. Whereas Silent Spring certainly deserves its reputation as a catalyst for twentieth-century environmental consciousness-raising, the claim consistently made in both ecocriticism and Cold War criticism that it represents the origin of an ecological revision of the relationship between the human and the environment is far less convincing.46 In addition, it is necessary to view Carson’s work within its literary context in order to reveal the continuities that exist between her ecological vision of Nature and those present in other early Cold War literary texts.

Silent Spring is, in equal measure, a scientific and a literary work. Carson skilfully employs recognisable American literary traditions as part of the text’s persuasive strategy; for example, in the opening chapter, ‘A Fable of Tomorrow’, she draws on both the pastoral and the gothic modes.47 This opening pastoral-gothic ‘fable’ is also inspired by the book’s epigraph, which is taken from John Keats’s ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’: ‘the sedge is wither’d on the lake,/And no birds sing’. Carson replicates the poem’s tropes of ‘withered’ vegetation and the absence of birdsong within her opening chapter in order to recreate the same uncanny effect that is present in Keats’ poem. However, in evoking this foundational text of British Romanticism as part of the book’s initial evocation of Nature, she is also crucially able to more powerfully shock her readers with the revelation that in mid-twentieth-century America, it is ‘the people’, rather than ‘witchcraft’, that have caused the environment’s haunting transformation.48

This recourse to Romantic literary tropes can appear to sit oddly alongside Carson’s evocations of the human as enmeshed within an ecological ‘web of life’, and the ecocritic Hannes Bergthaller has characterised the dual presentation of Nature in Carson’s work as a ‘bifurcation’ of the scientific and the Romantic understandings of the term.49 However, Carson’s complex manipulation of the location of the human in relation to Nature is a fundamental part of the persuasive strategy of her text. As a scientist, Carson was concerned to communicate the human’s place within, and dependence on, systems of ecology. However, she was also keenly aware of the need to foreground the scale of the damage that humans were causing to (p.13) their environment through the increasing use of chemical agents. In order to advance this latter objective, she repeatedly employs her contemporary society’s prevailing presentation of Nature as othered and conquered, as well as drawing on recognisable American literary traditions.50 This strategy can appear to produce contradictions within Carson’s overall construction of the interrelations between humanity and the environment, but it also enables her to better engage her contemporary readership. This, in turn, allows her to carefully introduce her own powerful ecological revision of the relationship between human and world. The following chapters find similar strategies employed in the work of a number of Cold War writers, from Paul Bowles to Peggy Pond Church to Mary McCarthy. Carson’s strategic ‘bifurcation’ of Nature also echoes the differentiation between a powerful and destructive cultural idea of Nature, and an appreciation of its ecological reality, which characterises Timothy Morton’s contemporary theoretical work.51 Against this context, my book argues for a revaluation of the position of Silent Spring, by drawing attention to the ecological depictions of Nature that are a significant feature of literary texts written in the years after 1945 and prior to its publication. In doing so, it will demonstrate that a diverse range of literary texts responded to the new nuclear climate with ecological portrayals of the human relationship to Nature.

The Cold War years also produced tangible environmental problems. These included the increased depletion of natural resources, the dislocation of a number of ecosystems, and the substantial build-up of toxic and radioactive pollution, which Richard Tucker describes as ‘some of the most fundamental global legacies of the years 1948–90’.52 There was also considerable crossover between the emerging environmental movement and the growing anti-nuclear movement.53 A small number of local conservation groups grew significantly during the early Cold War years, prominent among which were the Sierra Club of the Sierra Nevada and the Audubon Society.54 These groups, whose primary concerns were the prevention of localised pollution and local species and ecosystem preservation, expanded and developed significantly between 1945 and 1962.55 Rachel Carson was active in her local Audubon Society, and her fellow members provided her with a number of leads (p.14) when she began work on Silent Spring.56 The Audubon Society also published Silent Spring across two issues of its Audubon magazine, dramatically increasing the text’s exposure.57 However, as Adam Rome relates, the Audubon Society failed to take a stance against DDT until 1967, despite the fact that it had strong personal links to Carson and to Silent Spring.58

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) all also have their roots in locally based Cold War conservation groups, and yet by the end of the 1960s and the early 1970s, all had acquired international agendas.59 A significant catalyst for this change was contact with the anti-nuclear movement. A microcosm of this process can be seen in the transformation of the Sierra Club from a local club associated with a particular landscape into a national environmental movement.60 The Sierra Club began tackling international issues in the late 1960s, but would not take a position on nuclear disarmament, causing one of its most influential members, David Brower, to leave and form Friends of the Earth in 1969.61 Friends of the Earth therefore originated as an explicitly anti-nuclear environmental pressure group, which would ‘take an unbiased stance against nuclear power and nuclearism more generally’.62 After Brower’s departure, however, the Sierra Club itself moved towards an anti-nuclear position.63 Greenpeace developed out of a similar combination of anti-nuclear and pro-environmental sentiment. It was founded as part of an effort to stop American nuclear testing in Canada from causing environmental damage, and developed from a foundation in local environmentalism combined with anti-nuclear protest, into an international organisation, during the Cold War years.64 A clear trend of environmental consciousness-raising therefore emerged as a direct result of the Cold War. Given this context of a growing environmental consciousness in the United States, it is surprising that writers’ engagements with Nature remain largely neglected within Cold War literary criticism.

The growth of American conservation groups and the subsequent emergence of the modern environmental movement during the 1950s and 1960s encourages the conclusion that the Cold War precipitated a consciousness-raising concerning the effects of humans on, and the human relationship to, the environment.65 This same (p.15) turn is visible in the work of the writers who are examined in this book. However, the literary depictions of Nature that these writers expound often confound what would perhaps be predicted. Rather than presenting the fragility of Nature in an age of Cold War and nuclear threat, many chose to depict Nature as an infinite ecological system, which is even presented as the origin of nuclear weapons. The writers upon whom this study concentrates also routinely allude to the human presence being annihilated not by thermonuclear war, but by forces originating within an infinite Nature, and this literal or metaphorical annihilation is repeatedly celebrated as a positive transformation. Their literary depictions of an infinite, ecological Nature explicitly overturn dominant media representations of the natural world as ‘mastered’ or ‘harnessed’ by the ‘scientific’ American, and also nuance the accepted critical understanding of the role of Nature within Cold War literature.66 As such, this book aims to fill in the gap created by the lack of critical attention to the function of Nature in Cold War texts, and to highlight and develop the connections that exist between ecocriticism and the dawn of the Nuclear Age.

Despite the lack of interaction between the fields of ecocriticism and Cold War studies, connections have been made between nuclear criticism and contemporary ecocriticism that are instructive in the triangulation of the fields of Cold War criticism, ecocriticism and environmental history. The nuclear criticism of the 1980s and early 1990s was a relatively short-lived critical moment. However, despite its brief lifespan, it introduced a critical field dedicated to the study of the effects of the Nuclear Age on Cold War literature.67 It has also been noted to have influenced the formation of contemporary ecocriticism, as a result of the two movements’ temporal overlap, and shared focus on combining ‘theory and the protection of life on earth’.68 The perceived impact of nuclear criticism on the formation of ecocriticism also reflects the connections forged during the simultaneous emergence of environmental activism and anti-nuclear activism after the Second World War, and the environmental justice movement’s continued engagement with nuclear politics.69

The apocalyptic rhetoric shared by early ecocriticism and nuclear criticism may appear to be an additional point of convergence (p.16) between the two fields. However, whereas early ecocritics such as Lawrence Buell have argued that ‘apocalypse is the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal’, much recent ecocriticism has convincingly criticised the presence of an apocalyptic narrative within the contemporary environmental movement on the grounds that it is actively unhelpful in the promotion of environmental protection.70 The writers that this book treats did not promote apocalyptic visions of the end of life on earth – rather the reverse. Although the nuclear climate shaped their presentations of human engagements with Nature to a degree, it did not lead Cold War writers to recreate images of apocalypse. Instead, the writers analysed in the following chapters repeatedly depict the annihilation of the human within Nature as a positive thing, due to its occurrence within an infinite system of ecology.

Shortly before the disappearance of nuclear criticism, the field of Cold War literary criticism began to develop.71 Two of the most influential figures in the early theoretical development of this field are Elaine Tyler May and Alan Nadel. May’s Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (1988) exposes that the same ethos of ‘containment’ that defined Cold War foreign policy was an influential force within the domestic sphere in the Cold War USA.72 Alan Nadel’s field-defining 1995 study, Containment Culture, provides detailed analysis of the function and reach of the culture of containment that May’s work identifies. His work also highlights the unravelling of containment that followed its ideological domination, and demonstrates that its dissolution was concomitant with the ascent of postmodernism. He asserts that: ‘by the mid-1960s, the problems with the logic of containment – its blindness, its contradictions, and its duplicities – had started to be manifest in public discourse, displaying many traits that would later be associated with postmodernism’.73 Nadel’s work therefore argues that literary postmodernism is a symptom of the breakdown of the dominance of the ideology of containment, a position that has been taken up and further developed by a number of the influential Cold War critics who have succeeded him.

A strong ‘second wave’ of Cold War literary critics have presided over to the development of Nadel’s model in recent years. Three (p.17) critical studies from this period have been particularly influential on the development of this book. Daniel Cordle’s States of Suspense: The Nuclear Age, Postmodernism and United States Fiction and Prose (2008) argues for the significant presence of nuclear anxiety, or ‘nuclear states of suspense’, within Cold War fiction. These ‘states of suspense’ were created by the ‘withheld but constantly threatened destruction’ that the new potential for thermonuclear war had introduced. A chapter of States of Suspense, and another in Cordle’s recently published Late Cold War Literature and Culture: The Nuclear 1980s (2017), discuss the influence of the US environmental and anti-nuclear movements and the publication of Silent Spring on American literature written in the 1970s and 1980s. Cordle specifically identifies Silent Spring as uniquely influential in its ‘reconstruction of the idea of the human’ as ‘ecosystems that are microcosms of, and intimately connected to, larger ecosystems’.74 My work hopes to highlight the widespread presence of the ‘new ecological consciousness’ that Cordle identifies in later Cold War fiction, within a wide range of literature that pre-dates the publication of Silent Spring.75 It also aims to nuance Cordle’s characterisation of Cold War ecology as crystallised in the image of the ‘fragile planet’, by demonstrating that many early Cold War writers construct literary ecologies that are neither fragile nor planetary.76 Adam Piette’s The Literary Cold War, 1945 to Vietnam (2009) also touches on Cold War environmental concerns; for example, Piette discusses a ‘subatomic, cellular and somatic anxiety’ brought on by widespread reporting on the infiltration of Strontium 90 into the food chain.77 My work will continue to explore the fear generated by an emergent knowledge of ecological interdependence, and will highlight the increasingly ‘trans-corporeal’ location of the human within Cold War literary texts that this anxiety produced.78 In On Endings: American Postmodern Fiction and the Cold War (2011), Daniel Grausam argues that postmodern experimentation is a symptom of attempts to write about a post-Hiroshima world in which the exponential proliferation of nuclear weapons had created the possibility of thermonuclear war. Grausam’s work asserts that the new potential for thermonuclear war engenders a shift in authorial treatments of history and of time, and that it introduces a new category of ending – the ‘nuclear ending’.79 (p.18) In this book, I suggest that many Cold War writers were actively attempting to circumvent the problem of the ‘nuclear ending’, through the depiction of an infinite, ecological Nature that is projected to endure beyond humanity’s potential thermonuclear annihilation.

A marked shift within the field of Cold War literary studies has come in the form of a recent, sustained ‘global turn’, which is in the process of transforming the parameters and practices of Cold War criticism. The work of Christina Klein, Adam Piette, Paul Williams and Steven Belletto introduced a global focus to the field, and this has been built on in recent work such as Andrew Hammond’s edited collection, Global Cold War Literature: Western, Eastern and Postcolonial Perspectives (2012), Robeson Taj Frazier’s The East is Black: Cold War China in the Black Racial Imagination (2015) and Denis Jonnes’s Cold War American Literature and the Rise of Youth Culture: Children of Empire (2015). New analytical modes and areas of focus have also begun to emerge in the most recent Cold War criticism: Tyler T. Schmit’s Desegregating Desire: Race and Sexuality in Cold War American Literature (2013) departs significantly from previous analytical frameworks and opens up new areas of analysis by looking at cross-race writing and its intersection with queer identity; Peter Middleton’s Physics Envy: American Poetry and Science in the Cold War and After (2015) also opens up new ground, exploring the substantial and overlooked interactions between Cold War poetry and science writing.80 This book seeks to introduce another new site of analysis to the field, bringing ecocriticism to bear on Cold War texts for the first time in a sustained and comparative study of a range of mid-century literary texts.

The following five chapters will chart the function and representation of Nature in Cold War texts written after the first uses of nuclear weapons in 1945, and throughout the early Cold War period that followed in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, taking an end date from the publication of Mary McCarthy’s Birds of America in 1971. The writers covered all depict Nature as an infinite ecological system, often at the same time as criticising the actual and potential damage to local and global environments caused by the Cold War American ‘military-industrial complex’: Paul Bowles describes the annihilation of the American individual by the North (p.19) African desert landscape, while critiquing post-war American cultural imperialism. J. D. Salinger and the Beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac locate spiritual enlightenment and an escape from Cold War American culture within a Taoist-inspired ecological conception of Nature. The New Mexican poet Peggy Pond Church and the atomic scientist and ‘father of the atomic bomb’ J. Robert Oppenheimer both write Nature as an infinite ecology.81 Mary McCarthy critiques Cold War America’s nuclear capabilities and military involvement in Vietnam, as well as the environmental degradation that it presided over both at home and abroad, through the development of a bifurcated theorisation of Nature influenced by Simone Weil’s concept of ‘force’.

The book is structured so that for the most part a single author is treated in each chapter. This allows for the sustained exploration of each writer’s portrayal of ecology. However, one or two structural inconsistencies should be explained here. The second chapter takes as its principal subject the New Mexican poet Peggy Pond Church, a regionally well-known but canonically unrecognised writer. It uncovers the significant influence of the Pueblo Native American worldview on Church’s portrayal of Nature as an ecological system capable of inspiring and containing nuclear science. In my research on Church, I discovered biographical links between Church and a number of significant Cold War scientific figures, including J. Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr. Upon further investigation, I found notably similar depictions of ecology in Oppenheimer’s writings from the same period, when compared to those of Church. Church was familiar with Oppenheimer’s work, and cites it in her prose writing. Chapter 2 therefore explores the place of Nature in Oppenheimer’s lectures given in the 1950s and 1960s alongside Church’s work. This pairing also allows the second chapter to consider that similarly ecological portrayals of Nature exist across disciplinary boundaries. It also illustrates that although Church is a very marginal figure in terms of the literary canon, her work has a claim to greater significance through the similarities that exist between her work and that of Oppenheimer, one of the most iconic Cold War figures. The fourth chapter also covers two writers: Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Ginsberg and Kerouac developed a shared interest in American translations of Zen Buddhist and Taoist (p.20) texts, and their correspondence on this point is a major part of this chapter’s analysis. Ginsberg and Kerouac’s shared engagements with Chinese and Japanese literature and philosophy in translation also had a significant impact on both writers’ explorations of the interrelationship between humans and the environment, and the two writers are therefore treated together, with this comparative work allowing for a more wide-ranging exploration of ‘Beat’ ecology.

However, by nature of being the first book-length ecocritical study of Cold War literature, this work cannot offer a fully comprehensive survey of authorial engagements with Nature during the Cold War years. Rather, it aims to highlight the potential of this methodological approach for the field of Cold War literary criticism, and to simultaneously suggest that Cold War texts represent a rich resource for ecocritics to investigate further. Writers have been chosen solely on the basis of the magnitude of their contribution to my field of study, and the majority of the writers chosen are, to greater and lesser extents, canonical figures. This study focuses on the work of white writers in order to interrogate the specific trope of their increasing appropriation of non-Euro-American philosophical and spiritual traditions, and the influence of these acts of cultural appropriation on the writing of Nature during the early Cold War period. This trope is particularly significant in that it anticipates similar actions by white American writers during the deep ecology movement of the late 1980s and 1990s. However, in addressing this suggestive and unrecognised trope, the book does nevertheless unhelpfully contribute to the already disproportionate amount of ecocritical work on white American writers.

A growing body of ecocritical work is emerging on African American literature, although much more work in this area is still needed to address the historic whiteness of the field of ecocriticism.82 A study of the specific impact of mid-century African American writers’ engagements with non-Euro-American philosophies on the writing of Nature would be a welcome addition to the field, and would complement the analysis in this area begun by Yoshinobu Hakutani’s Cross-Cultural Visions in African American Literature: East Meets West (2011).83 Comparative studies must follow initial investigations, as the relationship between race and Nature in mid-century (p.21) literature – both of which were highly politicised during the period – remains a neglected topic within North American ecocriticism.84 This book hopes that by demonstrating the extent to which white writers’ appropriations of non-Euro-American philosophies impacted changing literary depictions of Nature, and the extent to which this largely critically overlooked trope in the work of mid-century writers pre-dates similar actions by American environmentalists during the deep ecology movement, it will highlight the need for more work to be done on the intersections between race, nature and nuclear culture in mid-twentieth-century American literature.

My ecocritical methodology is predominantly influenced by the work of Timothy Morton, who has been at the forefront of ecocriticism’s theoretical evolution. One of Morton’s key contentions is that the word ‘Nature’ impedes the development of new, ecological forms of culture, and that the ‘idea of nature’ must therefore ‘wither away’ in order to allow contemporary ecological writing and thinking to flourish.85 Morton also advocates the adoption of the term ‘ecology’ in place of ‘Nature’. Where it is necessary to use the term Nature in ecocritical work, he capitalises the word in order to enforce the problematic historical associations of the term, stating: ‘I shall sometimes use a capital N to highlight [Nature’s] ‘unnatural’ qualities, namely […] hierarchy, authority, harmony, purity, neutrality, and mystery’.86 I will adopt a similar approach, capitalising the term throughout my analysis in order to emphasise the difficulties that the term presents for ecological writing and thinking.

Morton develops his theorisation of ‘ecology’ in The Ecological Thought (2010) by introducing two new critical concepts: ‘the mesh’, and ‘dark ecology’. Both will be instrumental to my analytical methodology. Morton suggests that the term ‘mesh’ more accurately communicates an ecological structure, as it evokes ‘the interconnectedness of all living and non-living things’.87 He goes on to describe the relationship between the ‘mesh’ and a concept that he terms ‘the ecological thought’. ‘The ecological thought’ is both ‘a thought about ecology’ and ‘thinking that is ecological’, and it ‘imagines’ the interconnectedness of the mesh.88 This sprawling mesh of interconnections ‘without a definite center or edge’ is (p.22) infinite and nonlinear, and contains ‘all life forms’ and ‘all dead ones’. The mesh is also inhabited by ‘a multitude of entangled strange strangers’.89 Morton uses the term ‘strange stranger’ to refer to animal life, but also to other human life and, crucially, to the self, which is depicted as an equally unknowable part of the mesh. Many other life forms count as people in The Ecological Thought, and Morton places at the heart of his theorisation of ecology a questioning of the category of ‘person’; he writes: ‘interconnection implies separateness and difference. The mesh […] is the entanglement of all strange strangers’.90 The idea of the ‘strange stranger’ also enforces the presence of both the uncanny and the unimaginable – two core aspects of Morton’s ecocritical theory that contribute to the theorisation of Nature as inherently unknowable that his work expounds. Our encounters with other life forms, and with ourselves, are made strange by our inability to ‘know’ them/us, Morton contends. Consequently both the ‘strange stranger’ and the self remain ‘intrinsically strange’.91

In The Ecological Thought (2010), Morton also outlines the concept of ‘dark ecology’. This theorisation of ecology is defined by its infinite scale, and allows for the absorption and neutralisation of the ‘anti-ecological’ within an infinitely expansive ‘ecological thought’.92 The chapters of this book will demonstrate that Morton’s theorisation of ‘dark ecology’ consistently explicates the strategy adopted by a number of Cold War American writers as they struggled to respond to the development and deployment of the nuclear bomb. The concept of ‘dark ecology’ enforces the infinite capacity of the mesh, depicting it as able to contain even ‘anti-ecological’ concepts such as melancholy, irony and uncertainty. Morton argues that ‘rather than closing our ears and making loud noises to combat the sound of anti-ecological words, we shall absorb them and neutralize them from within’.93 ‘Dark ecology’ is therefore an ecological vision defined by its capacity to contain the negative as well as the positive; if the mesh of ecology is truly infinite or total, Morton argues, it must be able to contain everything, including that which is perceived to be evil or ‘anti-ecological’.94 ‘Dark ecology’ therefore also represents a definite break between Morton’s ecocritical theory and deep ecology; he explains that ‘in a response to deep ecology, I once called this “depthless ecology”: either unimaginably deep or (p.23) having no depth at all – we can never tell. In the end, I decided to call it dark ecology’.95 The chapters that follow exhibit comparable portrayals of ecology as infinite – or ‘dark’ – enough to contain even the ‘anti-ecological’ nuclear presence.

Another significant development in the field of ecocriticism that impacts my methodology is the move away from a focus on ‘ecomimesis’, and towards ‘ecopoesis’, a term first used by Jonathan Bate in The Song of the Earth (2000), and more recently adopted and adapted by Scott Knickerbocker.96 In Ecopoetics: The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language (2012), Knickerbocker asserts that the poets in his study ‘relate to nature as a powerful source of meaning, although none of them use language mimetically’. The acknowledgement that Nature can function in the text as a ‘powerful source of meaning’, despite the intrinsically anthropocentric structure of language, is vital to this book’s methodology. Knickerbocker argues that the artifice of literary language can contribute to ecological portrayals of the human relationship to its environment, and that the process constitutes ‘a way to relate meaningfully to the natural world’. He terms this process ‘sensuous poesis’.97 Such a premise is at the core of this book’s arguments, which foreground the capacity of literature to propose infinite and interdependent ecological structures, despite, and indeed because of, the mediating influence of literary devices including simile and metaphor.

My reading strategy will also draw upon the newest analytical framework within the field, ‘material’ ecocriticism. The recent intersection of ‘new materialism’ and ecocritical theory has led to the rise of ‘material’ ecocriticism – the theorisation of the human relationship to the environment that invokes the ‘matter’ level in order to challenge binary relationships between Nature and Culture, and between human and environment. At the ‘matter’ level, human and environment are inextricably interdependent, and are composed of the same substances and subject to the same laws; as Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin write in New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies (2012), ‘new materialism’: ‘does not privilege matter over meaning or culture over nature. It explores a monist perspective, devoid of the dualisms that have dominated the humanities (and sciences) until today, by giving special attention to matter, so neglected by dualist thought’.98 ‘Material’ ecocriticism develops (p.24) the theorisation of the human’s embedded position within the environment that Morton’s mesh introduces, as well as advocating the agential properties of matter.99

In illuminating Cold War writers’ depictions of the human relationship to Nature, my methodology will draw upon the material ecocritical reading strategies of Stacy Alaimo and Jane Bennett, in addition to the work of Morton. Alaimo’s theory of ‘trans-corporeality’, which she debuts in Bodily Natures: Science, Environment and the Material Self (2010), imagines human corporeality as ‘trans-corporeality, in which the human is always intermeshed in the more than human world’. This focus on the ‘trans-corporeal’ location of the human emphasises the movement of substances between human and environment, and refutes further the notion that the environment is ‘empty space’ somewhere ‘Over There’.100 Instead, Alaimo’s work understands human corporeality to be deeply and fundamentally interconnected with its environment at the matter level.101 Jane Bennett’s influential study Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2010) also introduces a new materialist reading strategy that she terms ‘vital materialism’. Vital materialism, which Bennett also refers to more colloquially as ‘Thing-power’, ‘draws attention to an efficacy of objects in excess of the human meanings, designs, or purposes they express or serve’. By refocusing critical attention on the ‘lively’ and agential properties of ‘vibrant matter’, Bennett argues, the ‘life/matter’ binary can be more successfully overcome. Her theorisation of ‘vibrant matter’ has in common with Alaimo’s concept of ‘trans-corporeality’ the description of the human body as comprehensively entangled with its environment at the matter level, and Bennett describes the human body-and-mind as ‘a heterogeneous compound of wonderfully vibrant, dangerously vibrant matter’.102

As has been noted, despite the substantial interactions between the anti-nuclear and environmental movements at the genesis of both, ecocriticism has had very little to do with Cold War writing, and, likewise, the rich and growing field of Cold War literary criticism contains almost no analysis of the place and function of Nature within Cold War texts. In spite of these absences, there is much that the field of ecocriticism can gain from the analysis of Cold War writers’ presentations of Nature at the dawn of the (p.25) Nuclear Age. Writing within the Anthropocene, ecocritics today face many of the same challenges that Cold War writers were grappling with some seventy years earlier. Within contemporary ecocriticism, the tension between the urgent need to communicate the harm that humans are doing to the global environment, and the simultaneous compulsion to convey an understanding of the universal and infinite dimensions of ecology, constitutes a challenge comparable to that which faced the Cold War writers whose work this book investigates. However, many Cold War writers do not resort to depicting what Daniel Cordle terms ‘the fragile planet’.103 Rather, they repeatedly portray Nature as an infinite ecological structure that is capable of containing both the human and the nuclear within its expansive dimensions – a depiction of ecology that strongly foreshadows Morton’s contemporary concept of ‘dark ecology’. The following chapters will reveal these neglected ecological portrayals of the human relationship to Nature in literature written during the early Cold War years, and explore their implications for the fields of Cold War literary criticism and ecocriticism.


(1.) Sarah Knapton, ‘Prof Stephen Hawking: disaster on planet Earth is a near certainty’, The Telegraph, 19 January 2016. Accessed 28 January 2016: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12107623/Prof-Stephen-Hawking-disaster-on-planet-Earth-is-a-near-certainty.html

(2.) Timothy Clark, Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), 1.

(3.) Rachel Carson, ‘To Dorothy Freeman’, 13 June 1961, in Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman 1952–1964, ed. Martha Freeman (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1995), 380.

(5.) Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 5.

(6.) 1784 references the invention of the steam engine by James Watt. See Paul Duke, Minutes to Midnight: History and the Anthropocene Era from 1763 (New York: Anthem, 2011), 11.

(8.) David Dietz, Atomic Energy in the Coming Era (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1945), 175.

(9.) Unpublished letter to the New Yorker, 29 June 1962, quoted in Cheryll Glotfelty, ‘Cold War, Silent Spring’, in And No Birds Sing: Rhetorical Analysis of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, ed. Craig Waddell (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000), 157–73, 157–8.

(10.) Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 267.

(11.) Harry S. Truman, ‘Special Message to the Congress Presenting a 21-Point Program for the Reconversion Period’, 6 September 1945, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1945 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961), 293.

(p.213) (12.) David Dietz, Atomic Energy in the Coming Era (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1945), 175.

(13.) Francis Sil Wickware, ‘The Manhattan Project: Its Scientists Have Harnessed the Forces of Nature’, Life (20 August 1945), 91–111, 105.

(14.) Peter Middleton, Physics Envy: American Poetry and Science in the Cold War and After (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 3, 7, 8.

(15.) Perhaps the most famous early twentieth-century dissenter is Aldo Leopold, whose A Sand County Almanac (1949) outlined a ‘land ethic’ which contested that land use ‘is right when it tended to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community’ and ‘wrong when it tends otherwise’ (Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 178, 189). Leopold’s work lends weight to this book’s foundational assertion that ecological visions of Nature are a significant and prevalent aspect of early Cold War works of literature.

(16.) Mark Hamilton Lytle, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 61.

(17.) One exception to this is found in the work of Daniel Cordle, who deals with the influence of the emergent environmental movement on Cold War literature in the years after the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring: see Cordle, ‘The Fragile Planet: Articulating Global Anxieties’, in States of Suspense: The Nuclear Age, Postmodernism and United States Fiction and Prose (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), 109–22; Daniel Cordle, ‘Dust, Winter and Refuge: Environmentalism and Nuclear Literature’, in Late Cold War Literature and Culture: The Nuclear 1980s (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 113–40.

(18.) Alan Nadel, Containment Culture: American Narratives, Postmodernism, and the Atomic Age (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 23.

(19.) Timothy Morton, Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 1.

(22.) Timothy Morton, Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 1. This is particularly true of Morton’s field-defining studies: Ecology without Nature, Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010). The privileging of texts from the British Romantic and American Transcendentalist traditions is also particularly evident in: Jonathan Bate, Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition (London: Routledge, 1991); Jonathan Bate, The Song of the Earth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000); Laurence Coupe (ed.), The Green Studies Reader: From Romanticism to Ecocriticism (London: Routledge, 2000); Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995). See also Morton, Ecology without Nature, 1, 8.

(24.) See Greg Garrad, Ecocriticism, 2nd edn (New York: Routledge, 2012), 24.

(p.214) (25.) For analysis of African American writers’ engagements with Eastern culture at mid-century, see Yoshinobu Hakutani (ed.), Cross-Cultural Visions in African American Literature: West Meets East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

(26.) Deep ecology emerged with Arne Naess’s eight-point manifesto: ‘The Deep Ecology Movement: Some Philosophical Aspects’, in Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century: Readings on the Philosophy and Practice of the New Environmentalism, ed. George Sessions (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1995), 64–84. Chief among these points that set deep ecology apart from ‘shallow’ environmentalism were a controversial advocacy for global population decrease and the recognition of Nature’s intrinsic value in isolation from its economic use-value to humans (68). The movement was also characterised by its appropriation of non-Western philosophy and spirituality: see Garrad, Ecocriticism, 24.

(27.) Ramachandra Guha, ‘Radical American Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique’, Environmental Ethics, 11(1) (Spring 1989), 71–83, 74, 76.

(28.) Ibid. 73–4.

(29.) This term will be used throughout the book with reference to Edward Said’s definition in Orientalism (London: Penguin, 2003), 3.

(31.) See Jason W. Moore, Capitalism and the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (London: Verso, 2015); Jason W. Moore, Anthropocene or Capitolocene? Nature, History and the Crisis of Capitalism (Oakland: PM Press, 2016); Jason W. Moore et al., Capitalism’s Ecologies: Culture, Power and Crisis in the 21st Century (Oakland: PM Press, 2017).

(32.) See also Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment, 2nd edn (New York: Routledge, 2015); Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey and George B. Handley, Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Jill Didur and Anthony Carrigan (eds), Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities: Postcolonial Approaches (New York: Routledge, 2015).

(33.) Elizabeth DeLoughrey, ‘Postcolonialism’, in The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, ed. Greg Garrard (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 2; Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).

(34.) DeLoughrey is critical of this global focus in Lawrence Buell, ‘Ecoglobalist Affects: The Emergence of U.S. Environmental Imagination on a Planetary Scale’, in Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature, ed. Wai-Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell (London: Princeton University Press, 2007), 227–49, and Ursula K. Heise, Sense of Place, Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); as well as of Timothy Morton’s claim to think ‘big […] as big as possible’ (The Ecological Thought, 20).

(35.) Joni Adamson and Scott Slovic, ‘The Shoulders We Stand On: An Introduction to Ethnicity and Ecocriticism’, MELUS 34(2) (Summer 2009), 5–24, 6; see (p.215) also Serpil Oppermann et al. (eds), The Future of Ecocriticism: New Horizons (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2011); Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan and Vidya Sarveswaran (eds), Ecoambiguity, Community, and Development: Toward a Politicized Ecocriticism (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014); Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan and Vidya Sarveswaran (eds), Ecocriticism and the Global South (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015).

(37.) Recent major ecocritical studies of modernist writers include Bonnie Kime Scott, In the Hollow of the Wave: Virginia Woolf and Modernist Uses of Nature (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2012); Jeffrey Mathes McCarthy, Green Modernism: Nature and the English Novel, 1900 to 1930 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); Joshua Schuster, The Ecology of Modernism: American Environments and Avant-Garde Poetics (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2015).

(38.) These include Daniel R. White, Postmodern Ecology: Communication, Evolution, and Play (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988); Serpil Oppermann, ‘Theorizing Ecocriticism: Towards a Postmodern Ecocritical Practice’, ISLE 13(2) (Summer 2006), 103–28; Michael E. Zimmermann, Contesting Earth’s Future: Radical Ecology and Postmodernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); Arran E. Gare, Postmodernism and the Environmental Crisis (London: Routledge, 1995).

(39.) See Elizabeth DeLoughrey, ‘Radiation Ecologies and the Wars of Light’, Modern Fiction Studies 55(3) (Fall 2009), 470–95; Elizabeth DeLoughrey, ‘Heliotropes: Solar Ecologies and Pacific Radiations’, in Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, ed. Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 236–52; Cheryll Glotfelty, ‘Cold War, Silent Spring’, in And No Birds Sing: Rhetorical Analysis of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, ed. Craig Waddell (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000), 157–73. Noel Sturgeon also highlights a connection between the Cold War and the rise of the environmental movement, and contends that ‘globalizing environmentalism is being used to replace Cold War rhetoric about global democracy’ (Noel Sturgeon, Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory and Political Action (New York; London: 1997), 148, 149).

(40.) Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 339.

(41.) Joel Bartholomew Hagen, An Entangled Bank: The Origins of Ecosystem Ecology (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992), 112.

(42.) See, for example, Craig Waddell (ed.), ‘The Reception of Silent Spring: An Introduction’, in And No Birds Sing: Rhetorical Analysis of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 2000), 1, 17; Cordle, States of Suspense, 15. A notable divergence from this position is found in the work of Christopher C. Sellers, who identifies the work of suburbanite litigants to organise the first public trial of DDT ‘[f]ive years before the celebrated publication’ of Silent Spring: Christopher C. Sellers, Crabgrass Crucible: Suburban Nature and the Rise of Environmentalism in Twentieth-Century America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012), 2.

(44.) See Richard P. Tucker, ‘The International Environmental Movement and the Cold War’, in The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War, ed. Richard H. Immerman and Petra Goedde (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 566; and DeLoughrey, ‘Postcolonialism’, 329.

(45.) Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1963), 169, 170.

(46.) For example, M. Jimmie Killingsworth and Jacqueline S. Palmer state that: ‘Carson’s book established rhetorical conventions that would become standard fare in the environmental debate [and] endure to this day in activist writing and Journalism alike’: M. Jimmie Killingsworth and Jacqueline S. Palmer, Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992), 65. Cold War critic Daniel Cordle argues that Silent Spring instigates a new, ecological presence within American texts: Cordle, States of Suspense, 115.

(47.) Greg Garrard writes of Carson ‘invoking the ancient tradition of the pastoral’ in the opening chapter of Silent Spring (Ecocriticism 1) and Bernice M. Murphy describes Carson casting the opening fable in ‘distinctly gothic terms’: Bernice M. Murphy, The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013), 178. See also M. Jimmie Killingsworth and Jacqueline S. Palmer, ‘Silent Spring and Science Fiction’, in And No Birds Sing: Rhetorical Analyses of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 178, and Christine Oravec, ‘An Inventional Archaeology of A Fable of Tomorrow’, in And No Birds Sing, 42–60.

(49.) Hannes Bergthaller, ‘“No More Eternal than the Hills of the Poets”: On Rachel Carson, Ecocriticism, and the Paradox of Nature’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 22(1) (Winter 2015), 9–26, 11. Although Bergthaller does not make the link in his essay, his characterisation of a bifurcation at the heart of the term ‘Nature’ is strikingly similar to that expounded by Alfred North Whitehead in The Concept of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [1920] 1964).

(52.) Richard P. Tucker, ‘The International Environmental Movement and the Cold War’, in The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War, ed. Richard H. Immerman and Petra Goedde (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 565.

(54.) Adam Rome, The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation (New York: Hill and Wang, 2013), 47–56; Michael P. Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club, 18921970 (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988); Frank Graham and Carl W. Buchheister, The Audubon Ark: A History of the National Audubon Society (New York: Knopf, 1990).

(57.) Ibid. 164.

(p.217) (59.) Julie Doyle, Mediating Climate Change (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), 23.

(61.) Benjamin Kline, First Along the River: A Brief History of the U. S. Environmental Movement (San Francisco: Acada, 1997), 87.

(62.) Paul Kevin Wapner, Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 121.

(63.) Thomas Raymond Wellock, Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 19581978 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), 92.

(64.) See Frank Zelko, Make It A Green Peace!: The Rise Of Countercultural Environmentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Rex Weyler, Greenpeace: How a Group of Journalists, Ecologists and Visionaries Changed the World (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 2004).

(67.) See Kenneth Knowles Ruthven, Nuclear Criticism (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1993). Ruthven comments on the tensions between the two fields of nuclear criticism and ecocriticism in the early 1990s, as the latter was emerging, noting environmentalists’ statements about the immediacy of the environmental threat compound: ‘our desire to forget about the nuclear’ (89).

(68.) See Paul Williams, ‘Nuclear Criticism’, The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, ed. Mark Bould et al. (New York: Routledge, 2009), 253.

(69.) See Molly Wallace, ‘Will the Apocalypse Have Been Now?: Literary Criticism in the Age of Global Risk’, in Criticism, Crisis and Contemporary Narrative, ed. Paul Crosthwaite (New York: Routledge, 2011), 21.

(70.) Buell, The Environmental Imagination, 285. See, for example, Greg Garrard, ‘The Trouble with Apocalypse’, Ecocriticism, 104–7; Sophie Nicholson-Cole and Saffron O’Neil, ‘‘Fear Won’t Do It’: Promoting Positive Engagement with Climate Change Through Visual and Iconic Representations’, Science Communication 30(3) (January 2009), 355–79.

(71.) One of the first works in this field was Paul Boyer’s interdisciplinary study By the Bomb’s Early Light (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1985). Boyer’s early work began to develop a distinctive field of Cold War studies, alongside other notable early studies including Lary May, Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989) and Thomas Schaub, American Fiction in the Cold War (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991).

(72.) Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic, 2008), 16. May argues that the Cold War foreign policy of ‘containment’ can also be applied to the ideological policing of the domestic sphere in the Cold War years, contending that ‘in the domestic version of containment, the ‘sphere of influence’ was the home’ (16).

(75.) Daniel Cordle, Late Cold War Literature and Culture: The Nuclear 1980s (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 114.

(p.218) (77.) Adam Piette, The Literary Cold War 1945 to Vietnam (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 107.

(78.) See Stacy Alaimo, Bodily Natures: Science, Environment and the Material Self (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 2.

(79.) Daniel Grausam, On Endings: American Postmodern Fiction and the Cold War (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011), 5.

(80.) See also Greg Barnhisel, Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015); Végső, Roland, The Naked Communist: Cold War Modernism and the Politics of Popular Culture (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013).

(81.) Cynthia C. Kelly (ed.), Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project (Singapore: World Scientific, 2006), 41.

(82.) Ecocritical studies of African American literature include Paul Outka, Race and Nature: From Transcendentalism to the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); Kimberly Ruffin, Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010); Karla Armbruster and Kathleen R. Wallace, ‘The Novels of Toni Morrison: Wild Wilderness Where There Was None’, in Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001), 211–30; Michael Bennett, ‘Anti-Pastoralism, Frederick Douglass, and the Nature of Slavery’, in Beyond Nature Writing, 195–210; Anissa Janine Wardi, Water and African American Memory: An Ecocritical Perspective (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2011); John Claborn, ‘From Black Marxism to Industrial Ecosystem: Racial and Ecological Crisis in William Attaway’s Blood on the Forge’, Modern Fiction Studies 55(3) (Fall 2009), 566–95; John Claborn, ‘W. E. B. Du Bois at the Grand Canyon: Double Consciousness and National Parks in Darkwater’, in The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, ed. Greg Garrard (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 118–32.

(83.) Two chapters of Hakutani’s Cross-Cultural Visions detail the impact of Richard Wright’s engagements with the Zen Buddhist translations of R. H. Blyth on his description of the human relationship to Nature: Peter Landino’s ‘Wordsworthian Nature Poetry, Ashanti Culture, and Richard Wright’s Haiku: This Other World’ (45–64), and Hakutani’s ‘Richard Wright’s Haiku, Zen, and the African “Primal Outlook Upon Life”’ (3–22).

(84.) Recent studies that do discuss race and Nature in a Cold War context include Lorna Fitzsimmons, Youngsuk Chae and Bella Adams (eds), Asian American Literature and the Environment (New York: Routledge, 2015); Joni Adamson, American Indian Literature, Ecocriticism and Environmental Justice: The Middle Place (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001).

(85.) Morton, Ecology without Nature, 1. Morton’s preoccupation with the creation of terminology has also been notably critiqued by Bergthaller, who is equally critical of David Abram’s ‘more-than-human world’, Donna Haraway’s ‘naturecultures’ and Jane Bennet’s ‘vibrant matter’ (10).

(87.) Ibid. 4, 15, 16, 28.

(88.) Ibid. 7, 15.

(p.219) (89.) Ibid. 8, 29, 15.

(90.) Ibid. 47.

(91.) Ibid. 79, 41, 42, 15.

(92.) Ibid. 16, 59.

(93.) Ibid. 16, 17, 59.

(94.) Ibid. 29, 30, 40, 59.

(95.) Ibid. 59.

(97.) Scott Knickerbocker, Ecopoetics: The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), 2.

(98.) Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin, New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2012), 85.

(99.) For more analysis of the agential properties of matter, see Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Half Way: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 66.

(102.) Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), xvi, 13, 20, viii, 13, xviii, 12–13.