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Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics Hardcover – 13 Mar 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (13 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674024346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674024342
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,384,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Thought for the day? All humanists should immediately receive remedial math and science lessons.

Doings in the present? Thinking about ecology, matter, Buddhism, philosophy, aesthetics, Romantic to contemporary literature, art, music.

Where? The University of California, Davis.

Is my new book about Darwin? Yes.

Born? London, UK, 1968.

Educated? Oxford.

Jobs? Oxford, Princeton, New York University, University of Colorado at Boulder, UC Davis.

Misspent youth? Spectrum, Love, Land of Oz, Rage, Earth, Sound Factory (them were the days).

This involved music? Senser, psychedelic dance metal heads.

What other music have I done without regret? Experimental noise improvisation with my Argentinian friend Miguel Galperin; playing with Mike Snyder in my band Rubyliquid. All I have left is Logic...

Enjoy it when: people like my purple house.

Product Description


Rigorous and unsettling, Timothy Morton's book is a vividly
realized critique of the political and ethical meanings of "place" and
"space." Steeped in philosophical and literary history, Ecology without
Nature is a profoundly convinced and convincing intervention, calling as it
does for a more intellectually robust and politically supple
environmentalism, one much better suited to the realities of
twenty-first-century life. A more thoughtful reflection on the future of
dwelling together in a vulnerable world would be hard to find. -- David L. Clark, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

About the Author

Timothy Morton is Professor of Literature and Environment, University of California, Davis.

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8 of 19 people found the following review helpful By L. S. Smith on 5 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
Was keen to get stuck in to this, the concepts deeply interest me. However, it's one of the most hard to read books I've come across. Not because the concepts are especially difficult, but it seems to be written by a Professor for fellow Professors in Professor language and it is just such a hard to read book. You have to be very determined to get through it.
I was also a bit flummoxed to find that it focussed on art in a way that the reviews and title just don't manage to convey. I was expecting a radical approach to ecology and surprisingly found much on art and its relevance to ecology. Possibly my mistake.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
In Praise of Slow Reading 7 May 2013
By Christopher Schaberg - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was lucky enough to be a student in one of Timothy Morton's graduate seminars at UC Davis in 2003 when he began working on Ecology without Nature, and it was simply a thrill to meander along with Prof. Morton through such a maze of literary, cultural, and philosophical texts--all to undo our most basic and, well, 'natural' conceptions of what Nature is (and isn't).

The seminar was nothing short of an adventure, and this spirit of adventure is reflected in the book that it became. And yet it's an adventure that involves a lot of doubling back and dispelling of illusions along the way. In other words, the maze quality remains: it is a book for slow readers, for a kind of patient searching that opens up many unexpected paths as you go. The method of Ecology without Nature is subtle and profound: Morton builds a vocabulary for reading ecologically, at the same time that he relentlessly strips Nature of its aura--or at the very least, Morton reveals how and why that aura came to be in the first place.

This book is key reading for anyone interested in matters of environment, ecology, aesthetics, nature writing, and even travel writing. It provides both an eclectic history of a trans-disciplinary motif, and it also makes convincing arguments for why we might do well to be wary of this motif (i.e., Nature with a big N).

Ecology without Nature is sort of a trick title: it's not so much a eulogy as a wager, or a question posed about what happens when we think about 'ecology' without the baggage of 'Nature'. (The answer, or a really a set of interlinked answers, appears in Morton's passionately written prequel, The Ecological Thought.)
39 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Post-modernism rediscovers sin 23 Jan. 2013
By David Williams - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To read Timothy Morton's "Ecology Without Nature" is to be slapped in the face, not with the content of his argument but with the style of his writing. Although for some reason he begins denying that his is a postmodern book written in postmodern prose, the opposite is evident to anyone who flips through and tries to work through the dense undergrowth of his prose. It comes as no surprise that he rejects association with the po-mo crowd but embraces deconstruction and Derrida, as if these had nothing to do with each other. Such contradiction runs rampant through the text, not hidden at all but celebrated as if establishing the deconstruction-ness of it all. And, as if to justify the writing style, Morton also cannot resist dropping the name of every philosopher he tripped (sic) over in grad school, those familiar and those unknown.
Perhaps we deserve this, but do we need it? Morton says yes, that Ecological writing, which he refers to with the neologism "ecomimesis," is too grounded in the romantic assumption that we humans can somehow, perhaps through literature, identify with the otherness we call "nature," thus Morton's critique of the "ecomimetic illusion of immediacy" what he also refers to as the "beautiful soul syndrome." His text is more a negative attack on the assumptions of romantic nature writers than the construction of an alternative. What is deconstruction if not a universal acid that deconstructs even its own efforts? So how could he create anything of any use, other than as a critique of the romantic assumptions running rampant?
In this, I am sympathetic to his argument even as I am repelled by his condescending voice. I see it, to some extent, in the tradition of William Cronon's critique of the idea of wilderness as far too romantic.
Yet why write in a voice that creates a wall between the text and the reader, since the point of writing is to communicate? Like any po-mo deconstructionist, Morton loves to throw around the word "commodity." Perhaps this is what such language is, the commodity of the graduate school and the tenure-track professor trying to establish his (or her) credentials in the hierarchical aristocracy of academia, entrance into which requires the possession of such a tongue?
I can imagine grad students trying to prove themselves worthy poring over the complexities inherent in every other sentence like medieval supplicants trying to approach the mysteries of the mass chanted in a Latin they did not know. It is a symbol of a world which seems full of knowing and mystery and wonder inside of which the holy of holies hides, revealed only to the inner sanctum of the priesthood.
Thus, we get a paragraph that begins "Ecomimetic ekphrasis sits in an oblique relation to the text," as indeed does the intelligent reader. What to make of: "This jetztzeit or nowness is an intense signifying atmosphere that erupts out of the `homogeneous empty time' of official reality, even when the ideological machinery is running smoothly."
Despite the modern and post-modern feel of his ramblings, what Morton cannot completely hide is his rediscovery of the pre-modern religious idea of "sin." No, not sex, but the reality that we are all trapped in this illusion of a text from which we cannot escape. That every attempt to get from "I" to "Thou" fails because we cannot escape ourselves. Hence Emily Dickinson:

How adequate unto itself
Its properties shall be
Itself unto itself and none
Shall make discovery

Adventure most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be -
Attended by a single hound
Its own identity.

That we cannot escape from ourselves into some blessed other we call Nature, the heart of the book, is thus an ancient tale retold many times, and in much clearer style. Back in the 60s, Norman O Brown said quite clearly, "The Fall is into language." Outside of the text is not, as Derrida said, nothing, but a void which to us is holy terror, not grace. Morton has brought us stumbling full circle back to the Old Testament: "In the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom."
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
So I'm inclined to follow folks like Haraway, Alaimo 21 May 2015
By paullloydsargent - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Spoiler alert: as with so much Object Oriented Ontology-centric (OOO) output over the past decade or so, we're all just stardust. I dunno--that's not quite fair. I think the new materialists are on to something, it just seems to me to be much older than it is "new" and questions of ethics and, say, "uneven development" (from [urban] political ecology) or inequity in environmental risk and toxic burden (well examined in enviro justice lit) are not mere philosophical debates where I live: the still-oozing birthplace of the petrochemical industry and the Superfund site. So I'm inclined to follow folks like Haraway, Alaimo, Bateson, Braun, Parikka, and (albeit a mishmash of methods by) others who name names and point fingers. I mean, we can basically name the top 100 companies that have left us with the toxic morass that passes for "landscape" in the 21st century--and that's long before we even get to "debating" climate change. Looking for a way to talk about "nature" as separate from the cultural is not a new project within academia (or, in my little corner of the debate, art)--despite even my own desire to escape into "wilderness" at every turn, even after millennia of everyone from Aristotle to Ruskin to J.B. Jackson, Spirn, Bateson, Cronon, Harvey, Haraway, Parikka, et al have collapsed that bnary for at least the past 30,000 years.

I guess OOO just leaves me cold at the end of each text I encounter and I have to agree with Ursula Heise's critique of Morton (not of 'Ecology,' to be clear, but from her review of 'Hyperobjects,' yet I still find it fitting): his "seamless transition from the subatomic the cosmological realm of the extremely large without any discussion of the fact that theoretical physicists have found it very difficult to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity theory" is messy, discomfiting, at best. At worst, these just feel like thought games to me and, well, when I can quite literally (that is, not at all metaphorically) step out of my house and scoop up a glass of Bateson's "ecology of bad ideas," I can't help but feel--at the elemental level? at the level of cellular mutation?--an urgency missing from Morton's thoughtful but ultimately not "Silent Spring"/"Limits to Growth" enough text. But maybe I'm just a downer.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Timothy Morton opens the door for reimagining the doors we ... 4 Nov. 2014
By Jordan Wright - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Timothy Morton opens the door for reimagining the doors we could/might/can imagine through. I do not care if that makes any sense.
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