This special issue of Anglia covers a new direction within Anglo-American literary and cultural studies, which has come to the fore since the 1990s and has been known under the name of Ecocriticism or Literary Ecology. To some extent, this new research paradigm is related to postmodernism, but at the same time its assumptions are at odds with some long-cherished premises of postmodern theory. By entering a dialogue with ecology, literary studies deliberately turn their attention to the relationship of literature to nature and of the text to the extratextual world, which had been largely neglected or merely considered from an ideological aspect in recent cultural studies. To reflect on culture's relationship to nature was considered politically questionable and epistemologically naive in the pansemiotic universe of poststructuralism in which every apparent reference to nature was deciphered as a linguistic-cultural construct that served only to hide the sociopolitical interests and ideologies from which it originated. Yet while it is true that in the course of history, nature has frequently been misused as an ideological instrument and a vehicle of power and manipulation – such as for the justification of supposedly ‘natural’ hierarchies of gender, class, race, ethnicity and so forth – this makes it all the more necessary to explore, in appropriately informed and complex ways, the significance and possible meanings of the concept of ‘nature’ within the spheres of culture. It is the aim of ecologically inspired literary and cultural studies, as they are demonstrated in the essays of the present special issue, to focus on the interaction and interrelatedness of culture and nature without neglecting the inescapable linguistic and discursive mediatedness of that interrelationship.
© Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 2006