Back to nature: location, identity, and 'naturalization'
As with other ideological representations, particular cultural constructions of landscape, environment, wild(er)ness, and Nature perform the work of empowering some members of human society while simultaneously disempowering others. Similarly, representations of specific geographic locations---even those that would be portrayed as "wild" or "natural"---like representations of race, gender, and class, are never neutral; they themselves create and perpetuate particular meanings. By examining the enduring and persistent, but nevertheless unstable, conception of Nature as the site in U.S. popular culture for (re)invention of the self, this thesis interrogates the representational relationship between Nature and social identities.Ideas of who and what is "natural" rely on a foundational conception of Nature. If the differences between human beings are seen to be "natural," then they are beyond question, permanent and fixed. It is the object of this thesis to elucidate the ways in which both social identities and ideas about Nature are, in fact, never "natural," but ideologically-constructed products whose representations reflect and attempt to contain particular structures of values and interests. Because the concept of Nature is itself contingent, subject to change, it is the work of representation to "fix" its meaning as well as the would-be "natural" identities of certain subjects. Thus, the two sets of representations are mutually constitutive: each requires the other to effect its significatory power.Through close readings of a number of modern and contemporary U.S. popular texts, this thesis shows how issues of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and their intersections shape and are shaped by cultural perceptions of Nature. Part One revisits the well-known convention of Nature as proving ground for hegemonic manhood. Part Two explores the consequences that this overdetermination of Nature as the domain of hegemonic masculinity has had for those socially situated as Other in U.S. society.
- English