Environmental Eros: From Ecofeminism to Eco-Queer Open Access

Whitworth, Lauran (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/ms35t920p?locale=en


Professor of environmental studies Catriona Sandilands avows, "Environmentalism needs queers" (2001). This dissertation probes the inverse of Sandilands' proclamation: do queers need environmentalism? In Environmental Eros: From Ecofeminism to Eco-queer, I examine representations of nature as a mode of political messaging. My case studies are three modern American counter-cultural movements: 1970s ecological feminism, the Radical Faeries (ca. 1979 to today), and contemporary ecosexuality. In each of these back-to-the-land efforts, sexuality and environmental ethics inform one another in ways that have yet to be fully examined in existing scholarship. Previous research has focused on how discourse of "the natural" has been deployed against marginalized groups (Gaard 1997)--for example, the supposed unnaturalness of same-sex relations, but there has been less focus on nature imagery used by these groups to further their own political projects. The latter is the focus of this dissertation, which offers new insights into environmental aesthetics in LGBTQ politics. Using my archival training and my certification in Film & Media Studies, I conduct close readings of understudied poetry, print ephemera, and experimental films produced by figures associated with these LGBTQ back-to-the-land movements. I argue that the environmental ethics of these movements have been overshadowed by the sexually liberatory nature of these political projects, which have too often been dismissed as outmoded relics of a bygone era. Instead, the dissertation demonstrates that these materials exhibit an environmental eros in the Greek sense of the word "eros," a desire for that which is greater than the self. By fostering a deeper connection with the environment, these movements challenge how we think about sexuality and reconfigure how we see ourselves in relation to both human and nonhuman others. Ultimately this project not only makes a case for the inclusion of these lesser-known movements in histories of American environmentalism, it also rethinks how sexuality, subjectivity, and the natural world are interrelated, a philosophical intervention especially relevant in our current ecological moment.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Erotic Environs. 1

Chapter 1. 25

Into the Woods: Environmental Eros and 1970s Lesbian-Feminist Aesthetics

Chapter 2. 69

'An Ecology of Spirit': The Radical Faeries and 1970s-80s Gay Pastoralism

Chapter 3. 109

'From G Spots to E Spots': Ecosexuality's Campy Environmentalism

Conclusion: Absurdity in the Anthropocene. 141

Bibliography. 161

Filmography. 174

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files