American nature writing characteristically embodies an appreciative, lyrical evocation of the natural world. But often, too, green-disposed authors have been moved to dramatize diverse, anthropogenic perils to environmental health. John Gatta freshly reveals how this dark yet graced and hopeful strain of environmental literature enlarges upon a jeremiad tradition of prophecy inherited from Puritan New England. Across successive historical periods, such expression has assumed a rich variety of American form--as creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, or film documentary. In the spirit of ancient Hebrew prophecy, jeremiads—unlike diatribes--reach beyond effusions of doom and gloom toward the prospect of change through a conversion of heart. Accordingly, the new climate fiction and much other writing steeped in what Gatta terms this “Green Jeremiad” tradition not only warn of material threats to life’s flourishing, but may also look to stir spiritual understanding and renewal.
John Gatta is professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut and University of the South, Sewanee.
Chapter 1. Ancient Jeremiah’s New World Progeny
Chapter 2. Toward the Jeremiad Bloom of Silent Spring
Chapter 3. From the Blustery Dawn of Earth Day to Earth First!
Chapter 4 Prophesying the End of Nature
Chapter 5. Saving Truths of the New “CliFi” Jeremiad
I read John Gatta’s inspirational and informative study with pleasure and excitement. He is onto something of great value here, as he looks for what he calls ‘transformative grace” in certain key texts. He identifies a significant, if not central, American tradition, the Green Jeremiad, and he tracks it lovingly, rightly seeing a testimony of faith in each of these works: faith in the readers who come to these pages with expectation, with moral attentiveness, alert to the possibilities of change. This is a deeply serious and important book.
A jeremiad is, in fact, hard to write: it can easily turn brittle and shrill. John Gatta has, uniquely I think, understood and appreciated this form, and this book hence offers a sweeping sense of how so many have tried to communicate the bad news about our earth's future.
John Gatta possesses a unique and important voice of lamentation, addressing a sobering subject in a lucid, compelling, and even graceful way. A distinguished scholar of American literature, Gatta models the imagination, moral integrity, and faithful assurance we need if we are to face and resolve the environmental crises that threaten our planet, and thus life itself.
Praised be the writer whose literary imagination stirs us to care about the natural world now being pulled to pieces before our eyes! In this engrossing book, John Gatta examines the history and power of America’s “Green Jeremiad,” the works of fiction and non-fiction which stirs us to grieve humanity’s collective assault upon the living world and to imagine – and fight for – the restoration and protection of as much as we possibly can.