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Writing Nature in Cold War American Literature

Sarah Daw

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First book-length ecocritical study of Cold War American literature

Compelling analyses of the function and representation of Nature in a wide range of Cold War fiction and poetry by authors including Paul Bowles, J. D. Salinger, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Mary McCarthy reveals the prevalence of portrayals of Nature as an infinite, interdependent system in American literature written between 1945 and 1971.

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Introduction: Ecocriticism and the Mid-Twentieth Century

Chapter 1. Attaining fana in Paul Bowles’s Infinite Landscapes

Chapter 2. Nature and the Nuclear Southwest: Peggy Pond Church and J. Robert Oppenheimer

Chapter 3. The Influence of Chinese and Japanese Literature on J. D. Salinger’s Philosophy of Nature

Chapter 4. The Beat Ecologies of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac

Chapter 5. Bifurcated Nature in Mary McCarthy’s Birds of America

Conclusion: ‘Know that the Earth will Madonna the Bomb’

About the Author

Sarah Daw is currently Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at the Department of English at University of Bristol. She has a chapter, ‘The “dark ecology” of the Bomb: Writing the Nuclear as a part of “Nature” in Cold War American Literature’ in Dark Nature: Anti-Pastoral Essays in American Literature and Culture, ed. Richard J. Schneider (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) Series: Ecocritical Theory and Practice.


Writing Nature in Cold War American Literature redraws ecocritical thinking. The atomic age, it argues, changed ways of seeing 'Nature'. Throughout, Daw weaves delicate, though challenging, analyses of how 'ecological thought' is at play across a number of Cold War American writers not usually discussed by ecocritics.

- Nick Selby, University of East Anglia

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