The Sublime and the Traumatic: Nature, Race, and the Transition to American Modernity


ACLS Fellowship Program



Named Award

ACLS/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Junior Faculty Fellow named award


This book lays the groundwork for what should be a centrally important discussion in critical race studies and ecocriticism: how natural experience became racialized in postbellum and modernist America. Drawing on theories of sublimity, trauma, and ecocriticism, I offer the first critical and cultural history of the racial fault line in American environmentalism that divides largely white wilderness preservation groups and the largely minority environmental justice movement to this day. Understanding sublimity and trauma as two racially marked outcomes of the same fundamental experience--a potent moment in which the human and natural merge--my analysis both denaturalizes race and racializes nature, insisting on their definitional entanglement in American environmental and social history.