American environmental literature has relied heavily on the
perspectives of European Americans, often ignoring other groups. In
Black on Earth, Kimberly Ruffin expands the reach of
ecocriticism by analyzing the ecological experiences, conceptions,
and desires seen in African American writing.
Ruffin identifies a theory of "ecological burden and beauty"
in which African American authors underscore the ecological burdens
of living within human hierarchies in the social order just as they
explore the ecological beauty of being a part of the natural order.
Blacks were ecological agents before the emergence of American
nature writing, argues Ruffin, and their perspectives are critical
to understanding the full scope of ecological thought.
Ruffin examines African American ecological insights from the
antebellum era to the twenty-first century, considering WPA slave
narratives, neo-slave poetry, novels, essays, and documentary
films, by such artists as Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Henry
Dumas, Percival Everett, Spike Lee, and Jayne Cortez. Identifying
themes of work, slavery, religion, mythology, music, and
citizenship, Black on Earth highlights the ways in which
African American writers are visionary ecological artists.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology
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