In the beginning, a small group of scholars at a 1992 meeting of the Western Literature Association at the University of Nevada–Reno founded the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE). One, Cheryll Glotfelty, America’s first Professor of Literature and the Environment, went on to edit, with Harold Fromm, The Ecocriticism Reader, which defined ecocriticism as “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” (Glotfelty and Fromm 1996, xviii). It would be, like feminist and Marxist criticism, a politicized reading practice that would challenge ecocidal attitudes and promote “an earth-centred approach to literary studies.” Its twenty-five essays examined American nature writing, Native American literature, ecofeminist “herstory,” and environmental philosophy. The characteristics of ecocriticism risked metropolitan condescension due to its focus on the literature of western America as opposed to the civilized East; its admiration for nonfictional writing about wild places rather than self-referential postmodern concoctions; some ecofeminists’ emphasis on the intrinsic environmental virtues of women rather than the social construction of gender; ecocriticism’s frank engagement with spirituality; and—worst of all—its seeming hostility to human-centered literary theories emanating from “old Europe.” A common response to early ecocriticism was sniffy dismissal of “backpacker critics” entranced by...

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