The Spiritual Dimension of Nature Writing

David Landis Barnhill

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780195178722
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 The Spiritual Dimension of Nature Writing

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From 1773 to 1778, the botanist William Bartram explored the southeastern areas of North America, looking for biotic specimens. Bartram's account of the expedition epitomizes nature writing's combination of passionately pursued scientific knowledge about nature and a personal intimacy and emotional involvement with the land. This work, like so many in nature writing, overflows with an earth-focused spirituality. The range of traditions that North American nature writers have drawn from has been highly diverse. Christianity has been one source, although in widely different ways. Other common sources for nature spirituality have been the cultures of Asia and Native Americans. What is the nature that is considered sacred; and sacred in what way? In fact, “what is nature?” has become a thorny issue in both nature writing and environmental philosophy. Nature writers do not simply reflect on nature and its sacrality. They are also preoccupied with the spiritual awareness of the natural world. The social dimension of nature writing—the context of family and community, economics and politics—has also become a central part of the genre.

Keywords: William Bartram; nature writing; spirituality; nature; Christianity; Native Americans; community; sacrality; spiritual awareness; politics

Article.  12659 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies

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