“The Earth is the Common Home of All”: The Idea of Ecological Sustainability and Environmental Concern in Susan Fenimore Cooper’s ‘Rural Hours’

By Li-Ru Lu.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Susan Fenimore Cooper was the first woman in America to publish a book of nature history writing. Her book, Rural Hours, which was published in 1850, was written with the primary purpose of promoting a sustainable relationship with nature. Warning humanity of the perils of unsustainable resource use, in Rural Hours Cooper prophetically 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.
The aim of this paper is to examine Cooper’s prophetic idea of ecological sustainability and environmental concern in Rural Hours. Focusing its emphasis on Cooper’s idea of ecological sustainability, this paper will examine the following questions in Rural Hours: How does Cooper celebrate her kinship with nonhuman nature and advocate the notion of environmental concern? How do Cooper’s representations of the relationship between human and nonhuman nature introduce the idea of ecological sustainability and thus help initiate a tradition of environmental concern for early America?

Keywords: Susan Fenimore Cooper, ‘Rural Hours’, Natural History Writing, Ecological Sustainability, Environmental Concern

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.55-60. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 652.663KB).

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.


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