Landscapes of the New Ecological West: Writing and Seeing Beyond the Wilderness Plot
As a popular idea and ideology the “New West” has directed the cultural and economic development of western North America for over a century. If the American West was first defined and developed by a westward-moving, land-grabbing and land-breaking pastoral frontier, the New West redefined and redeveloped the western landscape with its imperial earthworks of industrial agriculture, hydrology, forestry, mining and urbanization. Historians identify for critique a contradictory “wilderness plot” behind New West development. On the one hand, the New West devalues wilderness as worthless wasteland and plots to extract its wealth of natural resources with little concern for sustainable land use; on the other, it plots to preserve wilderness from land use in appreciation of its inherent moral and aesthetic value. Focus on this double-edged plot divides critical attention into either/or–environmentalist versus industrialist–thinking, and it occludes awareness of western North America’s complex landscape ecology. This illustrated talk introduces audiences to the new ecological west–its potentially sustainable mosaic of aboriginal territories, industrial grids, urban satellites, minority enclaves and cultures of habitat–that contemporary landscape writers and photographers are currently framing into view.
Dianne Chisholm completed her doctoral degree at Oxford University and is currently Professor of English Literature in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. She teaches and researches in the areas of environmental philosophy and literature, American modernism and modernity, and cultural theory and practice.
Her recent publications include Queer Constellations: Subcultural Space in the Wake of the City, and a special issue on Deleuze and Guattari's Ecophilosophy for Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, as well as many articles and chapters in her respective areas of specialization.
She is a third-generation Albertan and, in her leisure time, a dedicated mountaineer.
About the Paget/Hoy Speaker Series
Housed in the Department of English in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Calgary, the Paget/Hoy Speaker Series was established in 1992 by Carolynn Hoy and the late J. Robert Paget to enhance the intellectual experience of the local community and the U of C by bringing distinguished speakers to Calgary. Over the years, the series has brought to the city Sid Marty, Rosemary Sullivan, Carol Shields, Jane Urquhart, J. Hillis Miller, Brad Fraser and the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, John Steffler.