"The Earth Is the Common Home of All": The Idea of Ecological Sustainability and Environmental Concern in Susan Fenimore Cooper's 'Rural Hours'
Susan Fenimore Cooper is a mid-nineteenth-century American natural history writer who composes 'Rural Hour,' a book about New England natural history. On the whole, the major purpose of Cooper's 'Rural Hour' is to advocate a sustainable relationship with nature. Frequently warning humans against becoming so comfortable on earth that they use its resources unsustainably, Cooper in 'Rural Hours' asserts that “the earth is the common home of all.” Through her natural historical discourse, Cooper advocates a sustainable balance between human culture and its natural surroundings. In this paper, there are two principal parts. In the first part, the paper will discuss the context and definition of natural history and then it will establish Cooper as a typical natural history writer. In the second part, the paper shall closely analyze Cooper’s natural history writing, 'Rural Hour', and carefully examine the following questions: what are the status and function of American natural history writings during the early national period? How does Cooper describe the impressive natural resources in America and document the natural history of an evanescent wild environment and its nonhuman inhabitants in New England? If natural history writing is regarded as both science and belles letters, how do Cooper’s representations of the relationship between human and nonhuman nature introduce the idea of ecological sustainability and thus help introduce a tradition of environmental concern in American culture? How do Cooper’s 'Rural Hour' initiate a pattern of proto-ecological sensibility into American environmental history?
Keywords: Susan Fenimore Cooper, Natural History Writing, Ecological Sustainability, Environmental Concern, 'Rural Hours'
Prof. Li-Ru Lu
Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature