Zack Vernon's new book, Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies, is now officially under contract with LSU Press
Congratulations to Zack Vernon! His new book, Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies, is now officially under contract with LSU Press, the top publisher in the field of Southern Studies.
In her introduction to the groundbreaking 1996 collection The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, Cheryll Glotfelty argues that in order for literary studies to remain relevant, the field must address contemporary environmental issues: “In view of the discrepancy between current events and the preoccupations of the literary profession, the claim that literary scholarship has responded to contemporary pressures becomes difficult to defend” (xvi). In the intervening twenty years, we have witnessed ever-worsening disruptions to global ecosystems, including climate change, carbon and chemical emissions, the loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, air toxification, and severe floods and droughts. It is now more important than ever for scholars across academia to examine the cultural effects of this increasingly post-natural world. Since 1996, many subfields of literary studies have explored environmental issues through the publication of books and articles as well as through conferences and activist organizations. Southern studies, however, remains largely behind the curve, thus prompting Jay Watson, in his keynote manifesto at the 2014 Society for the Study of Southern Literature Conference, to advocate for the greening of the field. While some significant ecocritical research has recently been conducted in southern studies, only a very small percentage of overall publications engage with ecocriticism or, more broadly, environmental studies.
Ecocriticism and the Future of Southern Studies is the first book-length collection of scholarship that applies interdisciplinary environmental studies research to analyses of the U.S. South. In charting new directions for ecocritical approaches to southern studies, I have assembled rigorous, theoretically engaged essays that will appeal to multiple audiences and open new avenues of critical inquiry across disciplines. To this end, these essays address a broad range of topics related to the South and both its built and natural environments. Subtopics covered by the collection’s chapters include pressing issues in environmental studies, such as animal studies, ecofeminism, posthumanism, bioregionalism, ecological disability and queer studies, ecosexuality, circum-Caribbean and transnational plantation cultures, large-scale damming initiatives like the TVA, environmental activism and environmental justice, global climate change, natural and/or human-induced disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Deepwater Horizon, ecological apocalypticism, foodways and food studies, Southern Agrarianism, racial politics of waste management, the extraction of coal, oil, and gas, the ecological sublime, eco-tourism, and the Anthropocene.
All of the essays in this collection demonstrate how effectively environmental studies can contribute to southern studies, and vice versa. Together these two fields form a new academic community engaged in groundbreaking conversations. The greening of southern studies and the southernization of environmental studies can catalyze alternative ways of seeing the region and its places and spaces, ultimately inspiring regional and environmental sensitivities that open new intellectual terrain, while also generating additional directions for activists who understand the overlaps between environmental and social justice in the region.