ПОД- СЕКЦИЯ 1. Литературоведение


Sukhenko Inna

PhD, Candidate of Philology

Dnipropetrovsk National University named after O. Honchar



The dominant ideology in the history of western civilisation has conceptualised society as separate from and superior to the physical environment, but ecocriticism attempts to reconceptualise this value-hierarchical dualism of culture versus nature. Ecologically informed criticism highlights interrelationships between the two realms, ultimately leading to an understanding of natural environments and human cultures as constantly influencing and constructing each other [1, p. 4]. Therefore, an ecological approach to literary and cultural studies faces the paradox that ‘nature’ is both a cultural/discursive construction and a grounding/prediscursive ‘reality’ [2, p. 90].

While attempting to distinguish the national specificity of Canadian ecocriticism it makes sense to look at the principles of ecofeminism theory and environmental issues that can provide an appropriate theoretical background for ecoliterary analyses in the Canadian context.

The Canadian narrative tradition reveals the fact that the Canadian environmental history consider the crucial role of the Nature conceptualized as Female. This situation shapes the attitude to the Nature as female object to be transformed and to people (men) as the agents of such transformations.

Merchant states that an allusion to Eve as the virgin land to be subdued, as fallen nature to be redeemed through reclamation, and as a fruitful garden to be harvested and enjoyed are central to the particular ways in which northern American lands were developed. The extraction of resources from ”nature’s bosom”, the penetration of ”her womb” by science and technology, and ”the seduction” of female land be male agriculture reinforced the expansion [4, p. 54] .

The image of Nature as female is deeply and fully represented in the Canadian narrative tradition, and even more – it functions as ideology for the North American discourse. Even in the 1960-70-s Canadian authors (A. Monro, M. Gallant, J. Metcalf etc) depicted Nature (the Earth) as a female whose productivity could help to force the world’s development as well as the progress of the human race. As the Nature is a female to the Human who ”subdues it with the plow” [4, p. 55], so the Wilderness becomes female to the male explorer, frontiersman and pioneer who tame it with an ax, a trap, a gun, and the Wilderness calms down and vanishes before the advancing civilized human. Under such circumstances the explotation of the external nature (environment) is closely connected to the taming of internal nature which impacts the Canadian’s self-identification.

The opposition such as male/female and civilization/nature corresponds directly to and naturalise race, gender and nature oppressions [6, p. 42]. O’Brien states that in the context of Canadian narrative tradition and due to the specific background of Canadian multicultural system it is Canadian identity that includes the idea of emancipation of Canadian colony from its British mother country and represents the separation between Anglophone and Francophone Canadian cultures as well as Canadian indigenous population’s culture. Under such circumstances it is evident to clarify the distinguished feature of Canadian identity, defining the special Canadian sensitivity to American imperialism [5, p. 28].

The specificity of Canadian ecocriticism deals with both social and ecological concerns, that can help to demonstrate that within the diverse field of ecocriticism, theories of ecofeminism and environmental writing operate as appropriate discourses for analysing how ideological models of gender, ethnicity and nature are historically and systemically linked with institutionalised practices such as gender domination, racial discrimination, and environmental exploitation in the Canadian context [2, p. 93].

With its roots in the early 1970s, ecological feminism appeared while combining the key concepts of these new society’s development tendencies – feminist and environmental movements, by implementing this combination on theory as well as practice, which enable ecofeminism to established itself within philosophical discourse and sociopolitical activism.

Ecological feminism basically aims to eliminate sexism and naturism but ultimately constitutes a movement that calls for an end to all forms of oppression. Although they agree on the interlocking structure of the domination of women and nature, ecofeminists are far from representing a monolithic, homogenous ideology or unitary mindset. The diversity of ecofeminist theory and practice can be summarised by identifying two constitutive directions: the spiritual-essentialist position within ecofeminism tends to stress an elemental connection between the Women and the ”Nature”, whereas the social-constructivist position accounts for this connection by emphasising its historical and contextual basis [2, p. 93].

Plumwood states that the first version “feminism of uncritical reversal” [6, p. 34] since it does not redefine or reconstruct the oppositional and hierarchical structure of the male/female and culture/nature dualisms, but simply reverses it by valorising the previously inferior categories (women/nature) and subordinating the formerly superior ones (men/culture). The essentialist position within ecofeminist thought leans toward biological determinism or universalism, whereas the constructivist perspective denies the possibility of seeing the body as entirely socially/discursively/performatively produced and therefore distances itself from radical social constructionism or poststructuralist accounts [2, p. 94].

 In this aspect it is a “critical ecological feminism” [6, p. 34] that challenges the system of value-hierarchical dualisms by assessing its cultural construction and works towards a more egalitarian worldview in respect of gender as well as human/nonhuman relationships. The conclusion of critical ecofeminism “that both women and men are part of both nature and culture” serves as a critical counterbalance to its strategy of “an active, deliberate and reflective positioning of women with nature against a destructive and dualising form of culture” [2, p. 94]. However, a similar approach is articulated by King who rejects the view that women are closer to the nature, but suggests that they can make the conscious choice to use the woman/nature connection as a vantage point for creating an alternative culture and politics that opposes the patriarchal, anti-ecological worldview [3, p. 23].

 Thus, the Canadian culture context encourages the mutual interaction of ecocritical and feminism approaches which enables to shape the specific Canadian deeply-rooted alliance of ecological and feminism criticism derived from their principles of the dual oppression of women and nature, focusing its analysis on “the gendered character of nature/culture dualism“ [6, p. 43].

Hartmann states that this process mainly involves discarding the female characters’ civilised existence or cultural identity and exploring their ”wild nature”, which reveals their ecological identity as “natural woman, state of nature”. In the Canadian context this situation reveals the contradiction dealing with the idea that the woman/nature association is regarded as an opposed one to male culture and as a result – Canadian ecofeminism gets the features of ”the spiritual-essentialist branch of ecofeminism” [2, p. 100]. Nevertheless, the female’s new level of self-awareness also represents the social-constructivist direction which helps to find out how notions of the ”Nature” and the ”Natural” are connected with gender and nationality which deals with the specificity about how gender-determined characteristics and national differences are concerned to the environmental issues with their further representation in the narration.

Plumwood states that the successive transgression between the boundaries of self/other and human/nonhuman challenges the system of value-hierarchical dualisms and imagines a model of interdependence between nature and human culture. This vision enables to comprehend that both women and men are part of both nature and culture which regards a ”critical ecofeminist” standpoint and serves as a counterbalance to the protagonist’s “active, deliberate and reflective positioning of female with nature” [6, p. 39].

Due to the ideas, represented by scholars Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin in their The Empire Writes Back (1989) [1], the Canadian ecofeminism can be characterized as one that gets some critical reconsideration in the aspect of postcolonial theoretical principles studies by pointing out that Canadian writers mostly tend to reveal “an analogy between the relationships of men and women and those of the imperial power and the colony” [2, p. 99]. In this aspect studying the specificity of Canadian ecofeminism represented successfully in the Canadian narration tradition deals with the comprehension that the role of “nature can be understood in the framework of national politics, of Canada’s conception of its own victimhood” [5, p. 34].

So, the common critique of ecofeminists proceeds on the assumption that there are connections between the oppression of women in the patriarchal society and the exploitation of nonhuman nature in the western anthropocentric worldview. Within ecofeminist thought, the domination and degradation of the nonhuman environment is regarded as a feminist issue while, conversely, sexism and various other forms of social oppression and discrimination are seen as inseparable from the environmental debate. Most ecofeminist theories are furthermore founded upon the recognition that sexism and naturism (i.e. the domination of nonhuman nature) are interconnected with other mutually reinforcing systems of oppression such as racism, classism, speciesism, (neo)colonialism and imperialism, forming oppressions, that can be characterised by value-hierarchical dualisms [3, p. 20].

In conclusion, the specificity of ecocritical studies in the Canadian literary studies deals not only with the development of ecocritical ideas in the whole North American context, but also with all those premises, deeply-rooted in the Canadian narration tradition, that enable the ecofeminism theories and principles to be applied within narration studies. This specific vision on the narration makes ecofeminism a significant and growing branch of ecocritical studies in their Canadian context. The specific Canadian variant of ecofeminism, shaped under the influence of postcolonial tradition, can be regarded as a amalgamation of ecological and feminist literary criticism and philosophical viewpoints which enables literary critics and scholars to find out and research how the nature is depicted in the narration and the ways in which embodiments of nature are metaphorically and conceptually linked with representations of gender, posed by ecocritical reconsiderations that the national consciousness and the national identity – the Canadian one in our situation – can be comprehended as one that is closely connected with the environment.


  1. Armbruster K., Wallace K. Introduction: Why Go Beyond Nature Writing, and Where To? // Beyond Nature Writing: Expanding the Boundaries of Ecocriticism. – Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 2001. – P. 1-25.
  2. Hartmann S. B. Feminist and Postcolonial Perspectives on Ecocriticism in a Canadian Context: toward a ‘Situated’ Literary Theory and Practice of Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice // Nature, Culture and Literature, Volume 3 : Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies : Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism / ed by Gersdorf C., Mayer S. – Amsterdam, NLD: Rodopi, 2006. – P. 89-109.
  3. King Y. The Ecology of Feminism and the Feminism of Ecology // Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism / Ed. by Plant J. – Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1989. – P. 18-28.
  4. Merchant C. Eve: Nature and Narrative // Canadian Environmental History / Ed. By D. F. Duke. – Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc., 2006. – P. 43-69.
  5. O’Brien S. Nature’s Nation, National Natures? Reading Ecocriticism in a Canadian Context // Much with Nature: Ecocritical Essays on Canadian Writing. Special issue of Canadian Poetry – Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1998. – P. 17-41.
  6. Plumwood V. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London and New York: Routledge. – 112 p.