The Conservation Ethics and Environmental Sustainability in Thomas Wilson Flagg’s Literary Natural History

By Li-Ru Lu.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 21, 2014 $US5.00

In the fields of nature writing, natural history, and early American literature, the name [Thomas] Wilson Flagg (1805-1884) is mostly unknown. A prolific writer in his life, Flagg composed many works about nature — such as Studies in the Field and Forest (1857), The Woods and By-Ways of New England (1872), The Birds and Seasons of New England (1875), Halcyon Days (1881) — and many articles published in periodicals. Vividly describing mid-nineteenth-century New England’s natural environment and its nonhuman inhabitants in these works, Flagg became “one of the earliest contributors to the genre” of American nature essay (Bostian 137). However, Flagg was frequently overshadowed by his contemporaries, such as Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. This essay explores Flagg’s writings to show that they possess literary value in their own right. The aim of this essay is to appraise Flagg’s writings — especially to survey Flagg’s ideas about environmental sustainability, conservation ethic, and sustainability education — in the context of literary natural history. This essay examines the following questions: How did Flagg introduce his readers to the understanding of the landscapes, flora and fauna in early New England and how did Flagg evince his love and appreciation of nature? How did Flagg express his conservation ethic and his concern for environmental sustainability? How did Flagg’s representations of the nonhuman nature introduce the ideas of environmental conservation and sustainability? In his literary natural histories, how did Flagg voice his projects of sustainability education?

Keywords: Thomas Wilson Flagg, Conservation Ethic, Environmental Sustainability

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 9, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.53-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 21, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 721.054KB)).

Li-Ru Lu

Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Li Ru Lu is an associate professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature in National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan. Her research interests are early American literature, nature writings, and ecological criticism. In the fields of research, she wrote a book entitled Writing the Wilderness Environment: The Discourse of Wilderness Preservation in the Texts of American Environmental Writers (published by Bookman Publishing Company in 2005); and plenty of journal papers, including "The Earth Is the Common Home of All” (published by the International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability in 2008), “Writing Natural History” (published by National Central University Journal of Humanities in 2008), "Uncovering New Ground for Nature Writing” (published by the International Journal of the Humanities in 2012), “Voyaging to the New World and Narrating Discovery: Peter Kalm’s Delineation of New England in Travels in North America” (published by Review of English and American Literature in 2012), and so forth.