Rhetoric of containment in the nature writing of a political activist

Håkan Sandgren

    Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragSammanfattning (abstract)


    The nature writing of Swedish author/biologist Stefan Edman (1946-) is shaped by a mainstream political agenda. Simultaneously it gives voice to aesthetic and spiritual reflections on nature's processes and on environmental change. This paper focuses on how Edman's texts function, through rhetoric, scientific clarification and ethical positioning, as both an integral part of an established political context, and as a reflective and critical instance, addressing environmental issues.

    Edman has for several years upheld a position at the center of Swedish politics; apart from being one of the major nature writers of this and the last century, he is the author of governmental investigations, and closely associated to the Social Democratic Party and one of the originators behind "the green welfare state" during Prime Minister Goran Persson's reign (1996-2006). In this paper analyses are made of Edman's nature writing and his work is  contextualized with the intent to demonstrate the specific political significance of the texts' different modes, with particular attention taken to the key concepts 'limited resources' and 'sustainable development'.

    It is interesting to note that the Social Democrats are the political platform Edman have chosen to forward his message. The effects of this is that the public areas in which he acts as a writer are closely associated with a political power that eagerly supported (e.g.) the industrial exploitation of forests. This complex relationship is based on a merging of, rather than a collision of, two discourses â€" the ethical stance of nature writing, and a political discourse that calls for change of the existing social structures. To some extent, this merging of discourses is uniquely Swedish due to the fact that the Social Democratic Party during much of the 1900s and the first years of the 2000s were basically monopolistic in their exercise of power. For the environmental writer Edman this meant he had to work inside of the given power structures, and utter his criticism of the prevailing environmental agenda within the (then) governing party.

    Stefan Edman is also active in 'the Fraternity Movement', a Christian formation closely connected to the Social Democrats. His Christian faith finds its way into his texts as a spiritual feeling and awareness. The awareness relies on the Christian idea of a certain human responsibility for the earth, but also in the Reformed churches often radical political agenda in the Northern European secular societies. The type of nature writing created in connection to these religious and political manifestations is challenging 'recognizing the need to transform society's way of life' but yet not so challenging or questioning that they may be perceived as problematic in relation to political power.

    The texts of Edman that I will pay attention to in this paper are drawn from his later work and provide examples of how he is using rhetoric and multimodal effects to combine environmental expertise with political activism and spiritual experience. 'Gläntor'[Glades] of 1997 takes as its starting point the Swede as a forest dweller and the importance of the forest glade as a natural room for contemplation and of being a place where ecological richness is given space to thrive. 'Västerut' [Westbound] (2000) has a similar theme, while 'Solvarv' [Solar Cycle] (1993) is based on seasonal wanderings and thus contemplates nature's circular processes. I will further explore into texts which more explicitly describe the spiritual experiences made by the protagonist on nature walks, such as 'Förundran' [Amazement] (2006), 'Darwin och Vår Herre' [Darwin and our Lord] (2009) 'Jorden och själens överlevnad' [The Earth and the Survival of the Soul] (2008) and the essay 'Guds hjärtslag i skapelsen' [God's heartbeat heard in the creation] in the anthology 'Gå med Gud' (1999).

    The theoretical basis of my paper includes Ursula Heise' 'Sense of Place and Sense of Planet' and Satterfield and Slovic (eds.) 'What is Nature Worth', as well as models of discursive analysis.



    StatusPublicerad - 2013
    EvenemangASLE Tenth Biennial Conference, University of Kansas, Lawrence, May 28 - June 1, 2013 -
    Varaktighet: 1980-jan.-01 → …


    KonferensASLE Tenth Biennial Conference, University of Kansas, Lawrence, May 28 - June 1, 2013
    Period80-01-01 → …

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