Posts Tagged ‘good nature writing’

Wright or Wrong: “Good” Nature Writing

Whilst reading “Mabel Osgood Wright on Nature, Gender, Outdoor Life and Fiction,” something that is made very clear for good nature writing is an emphasis on truth.  She values authors to stick specifically to their experiences and refrain from embellishing. Elaborating beyond the truthful experience leads to falsehoods which misleads the reader and cheapens the work and its value. I don’t agree with her notion of what good nature writing it because in class I have been personally affected by more mystical/embellished writing than what Wright would deem of “literary merit.” Wright assesses historical writing on nature were “mere inventories, and the values given were of food and meat, not loveliness” (155). In my opinion, adhering to Wright’s guidelines of “good nature writing” would bolster this notion of viewing nature more as a commodity versus taking it in the sublime sense. The reality of today is that nature is most commonly used as a commodity, and in order to view nature as otherwise, one must think outside the usual realm of reality. In order to achieve this thought process, one must in a a way, be able to dismiss the confines of reality and alter their perception of nature. Once this is accomplished, we are then able to switch our perspectives and admire the “loveliness” afforded by nature rather than the superficial values of “meat and food.” Wright acknowledges the “natural world affords an appropriate vehicle for fiction and that fiction conveys truth of its own” (155). However, she destroys this notion by following it with the “question of literary merit” (155).  To me, the concept of literary merit is a work from which cultural or aesthetic value can be derived. Under these requirements, a work does not have to be purely fact in order to be valuable. Wright claims “throughout all time natural history has been a setting for mythology, overdrawn conclusions and errors of observation” (155). Mythology is works of fiction but they still have great cultural value in that they have morals to the story and are meant to teach a lesson and increase human knowledge. These works would not have survived thousands of years if they did not have some sort of merit to them.  Works of fiction may deviate from the truth but that brings in the philosophical question of “what is truth?” If one person perceives nature in a way which another does not, does that make their claims falsehoods? I feel Wright is focusing too much on small facts and whether or not they are truthful, and as a result, missed the overarching message within works containing nature.

Mazel, David (ed). A Century of Early Ecocriticism. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 26-47, 87-100, 113-147, 154-162. pub. University of Georgia Press 2001


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