Good nature writing according to Wright

After reading Mabel Osgood Wright’s essay, her critique of what she refers to as ‘good nature writing’ stems from the idea that the truth is more valuable than exaggerations when questioning literary merit, “Wright more perceptively sees a question of literary merit—and it is as a deficit writer, rather than as a purveyor of falsehoods” (155).  Wright also suggests that good nature writing should encourage people to abandon their primary households of the indoors and city life to venture out into nature to enlighten the audience to the beauties of nature.  Wright claims that by staying indoors people will not obtain the correct perspective of nature resulting in people seeing nature as “mere inventories, and the values given were of food and meat, not loveliness” (155).


Wright describes the return to the outdoors as a pilgrimage, giving it a minor religious theme of city dwellers converting to appreciating the outdoors and beauty of nature that leads to “the betterment of physical health and mental energy,” claiming that the outdoors has healing powers.


I agree with Mabel Osgood Wright’s interpretation of good nature writing and that due to this style being relatively new publishers and even audiences struggle with the writings.  The Darwinian quote by Wright, “As to the books, let them some, good, bad, and indifferent, the survival will be only for the truest, because in the end they will be found the fittest” (159) describes how good nature writing will be defined in the future as more and more books are published those that not only outlast the others but convey truth over exaggeration will define the genre.


However, Wright does not discuss the problem of the gray-area between artistic freedom of the writers and strictly staying true to the facts.  If good nature writing has fictional elements, the writer cannot be expected to be contained to facts.  There needs to be some form of entertainment otherwise there will not be any profit.  I think there shouldn’t be a fine line to distinguish between the two but there shouldn’t be over exaggerations either.


Mazel, David (ed). A Century of Early Ecocriticism. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 154-162. Pub. University of Georgia Press 2001


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kbudd on November 30, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    To be honest, I enjoyed the works of Long more than Wright, but I would be lying if I said she does not make valid points; her encouragement for writers to venture out into nature and write about their personal experiences is spot on. Write’s quote, “It is not a “going back to Nature” as it is often called…, but a stepping forward,” (157) stuck out to me because it seems to discuss the unveiling of Nature, and a challenge for writers to discover new ideas through nature.

    The issue I have with Wright’s work is how she does not discuss the importance of factual information (the issue you discuss in your concluding paragraph). I enjoy the fictionalization of nature, but the writing must remain somewhat true. This does not mean it needs to have scientific truths, or elements, as Long discusses, but writers must keep a close relationship between fiction and nature.

  2. Posted by brightgirl04 on December 1, 2011 at 12:29 am

    I like this discussion of how much truth/entertainment should be in nature writing and I also agree this gets determined in the long run by the success of certain nature books as stated in the quote above, “The survival will be only for the truest, because in the end they will be found the fittest”. I found the semester more scientific articles such as Susan Fenimore Coopers “Winter” where she details the flora and fauna of New York less interesting than Seton’s “Wild Animals I Have Known”. Fiction helps get a point across just as much as fact can.

  3. Posted by christys21 on December 1, 2011 at 1:26 am

    I agree Wright in there needed to be more truth in nature writing. In addition, as you said, people really do need to go out and experienc something themseves in order to understand it.
    Wright says nature writing neesd to be more accurate and encouraging so that people can get out of their homes and experience nature for themselves. While having more truthful writing may help in getting people out of their homes, viewing a beautiful plain or playing in the white snow would probably serve as better encouragment for someone to come out more often.

    I though her theory on more nature writing being able to more specifically define the nature field. I would have though more writing to have broadendended this field.

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