"The Earth Is the Common Home of All": The Idea of Ecological Sustainability and Environmental Concern in Susan Fenimore Cooper's 'Rural Hours'

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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'
Stream: Cultural Sustainability
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: “The Earth is the Common Home of All”,


Prof. Li-Ru Lu

Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature
Graduate Institute of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Huafan University

Taipei County, Taiwan

I come from Taipei, Taiwan. Majoring in English and American Literatures, I obtained my doctorate degree in National Taiwan University. My Research interests include early American literature, ecological criticism, Engliah and American nature writings. Currently I am a full-time associate professor in Huafan University, and I have taught in Huafan for seven years. During the past seven years in Huafan,I wrote a book entitled “Writing the Wilderness Environment: The Discourse of Wilderness Preservation in the Texts of American Environmental Writers”(188 pages, published by Bookman Publishing Company in 2005) and sixteen journal papers, such as“Hector St. John de Crevecoeur as Early American Natural History Writer”(published by a journal entitled 'Tamkang Review' in 2007), “William Cullen Bryant as Early American Environmental Writer”(published by a journal entitled 'Humanitas Taiwanica' in 2005), “The‘Invention’of National Park in America: The American Wilderness, Nationalism, and Imperialism" (published by 'Huafan Journal of Humanities' in 2005), “Toward American National Literature: Walt Whitman’s Establishment of New Poetics and National Identity in 'Leaves of Grass'”(published by 'Soochow Journal of Foreign Languages and Cultures' in 2004), and so forth. My specialized fields are eco-criticism, early American environmental writings, the culture and discourse of national park, and Amrican cultural nationalism.

Ref: S08P0025