Western American Literature Publishes Environmental Literature Article by Matthew Sivils
Dr. Sivils recently penned two articles devoted to works of environmental literature.
Sivils, Matthew Wynn. “Doctor Bat’s Ass: Buffon, American Degeneracy, and Cooper’s The Prairie.” Western American Literature 44.4 (2010): 343-361.
Sivils argues that James Fenimore Cooper wrote his third Leather-Stocking novel, The Prairie (1827) in part as a rebuttal to the influential French naturalist, George-Louis Leclerc, Count de Buffon’s theory of American degeneracy, which asserted that the American climate and lush vegetation created an environment that reduced the size and vitality of its mammals, including humans. Sivils contends that Cooper refutes Buffon by constructing his own contradictory myth of an American natural world populated not with Buffon’s diminutive weaklings but with formidable animals and people who reside in a harsh, dry American prairie. Additionally, by satirizing European modes of biological inquiry via the comic character of Dr. Bat, The Prairie serves as Cooper’s own contradictory volume of natural and social history.
Additional Recent Publications
Sivils, Matthew Wynn. “Ernest Thompson Seton, the Pathetic Fallacy, and Paul L. Errington’s Of Predation and Life.” Notes on Contemporary Literature 40.1 (2010): 2-4.
In this piece, Sivils examines the influence of Ernest Thompson Seton’s (1860-1946) animal fiction on former Iowa State biologist, Paul L. Errington’s (1902-1962) book Of Predation and Life (1967).