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Iowa State University

Ecotones

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“The Base, Cursed Thing”: Panther Attacks, Ecotones, And Antebellum American Fiction, Matthew Sivils Jan 2010

“The Base, Cursed Thing”: Panther Attacks, Ecotones, And Antebellum American Fiction, Matthew Sivils

English Publications

The panther attack scenes found in the fiction of Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810), James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), and Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835-1921) portray these animals as literary monsters indicative of a developing American environmental anxiety. Drawing on a selection of recent critical studies dealing with both antebellum American fiction and ecocriticism, I suggest that these scenes reveal, especially through their depiction of panther attacks in what ecologists now refer to as anthropogenic ecotones (human-made environmental edges), the beginnings of an American cultural recognition of environmental degradation. Ultimately these panther attack scenes prefigure an American environmental ethic, revealing an instructive early ...