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Book review: STRANGE ECOLOGY Timothy Morton, The Ecological Thought, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 2010; 160pp, £29.95 hardcover.
Now and again a book is written that messes with your head. Timothy Morton, Professor of Literature and Environment at the University of California (Davis), has fast made a name for himself as an out-of-the-box thinker.1 His Ecology without nature (2007) challenged readers to forget 'nature' - not, you understand, in the name of a brave new biotechnologised world in which capital entirely swallows-up the natural, but for another cause. The book attracted attention well beyond Morton's disciplinary home-base. In this 'prequel', as he styles it, Morton once again plays the role of 'the irritating Columbo-style guy at the back of the room . . . who asks the unanswerable question[s]' (pi 15). Is he irritating, revelatory, or something else? It depends on where the reader is coming from, needless to say. Morton here writes for 'people who aren't members of the in-crowd of specialists familiar with the language of theory' because, he continues, '[hjumanities scholars have some very good and important ideas, if only they would let others read them' (p 1 3). Though the dust jacket refers to 'disciplines ranging from critical theory to Romanticism to cultural geography' (are any of these 'disciplines'? ... no matter), the contents suggest a broader intended readership, including earth, biomedical, environmental, engineering and life scientists.