Navigation Menu+

beautiful soul syndrome

Posted on May 12, 2015 in News | 0 comments
Tagged on: , , , ,

Timothy Morton • Beautiful Souls Syndrome



Timothy Morton’s Ecology Without Nature’s blog


[…] Ecomimesis is a pressure point, crystallizing a vast and complex ideological

network of beliefs, practices, and processes in and around the

idea of the natural world. It is extraordinarily common, both in nature

writing and in ecological criticism. Consider Lawrence Buell’s The Environmental

Imagination: ” The grove of second-growth pine trees that

sway at this moment of writing, with their blue-yellow-green fiveneedle

clusters above spiky circles of atrophied lower limbs.” Or

James McKusick: “As I write these words, I peer out of the window of

my study across open fields and gnarled trees crusted with ice. Beyond

those trees I see cars and trucks dashing along a busy interstate

highway past dirty piles of melting snow that still remain from last

week’s snowstorm. This is the city of Baltimore, where I live.” For

ecological criticism to be properly critical, it must get a purchase on

ecomimesis. Ecomimesis is a mixture of excursus and exemplum. Excursus

is a ” tale, or interpolated anecdote, which follows the exposition

and illustrates or amplifies some point in it.” Exemplum also known as

paradigma or paradiegesis is ” an example cited, either true or feigned;

[an] illustrative story.” What then, of the specific features of

ecomimesis ? Paradiegesis specifically implies narrative. But first some

remarks about the descriptive properties of ecomimesis are in order.


Ecomimesis involves a poetics of ambience. Ambience denotes a

sense of a circumambient, or surrounding, world. It suggests something

material and physical, though somewhat intangible, as if space itself

had a material aspect-an idea that should not, after Einstein, appear

strange . Ambience derives from the Latin ambo, “on both sides .”

Ambient poetics could apply as easily to music, sculpture, or performance

art as it could to writing. Ambience, that which surrounds on both

sides, can refer to the margins of a page, the silence before and after

music, the frame and walls around a picture, the decorative spaces of a

building (parergon), including niches for sculpture-a word that was

later taken up in ecological language.  Ambience includes more than a

particular version of it, the nature rendered by ecomimes is. In the realm

of music, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony is ambient, as is Vaughan

Williams’s Fifth Symphony; but so are the works of Brian Eno (and explicitly

so). Eno’s own case for ambience employs ideas that are commonly

associated with artifice rather than with nature, such as the notion

that music could be like perfume or a “tint.” But as we have seen,

ecomimesis is not necessarily on the side of nature.


I choose the word ambience in part to make strange the idea of environment,

which is all too often associated with a particular view of nature .

Am bience has a very long history in Western philosophy and literature.

Leo Spitzer has tr aced the jagge d evolution of the senses of

“ambience ” from the time of the pre-Socratic philosophers to Heidegger

and beyond. Throughout this history the environment has

been associated with a surrounding atmosphere, more or less palpable,

yet ethereal and subtle. It is the job of ecomimesis to convey this sense

of atmosphere. […]


from Timothy Morton’s Ecology without Nature • Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics,

Harvard University Press • Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England 2007 (page 33-34)

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *