Press Release Archive 2011 - 1999

Albertson College English Professor Co-edits New book of Essays on America

2002. 02. 11.

CALDWELL, ID- Susan Fenimore Cooper, America's first female nature writer, is the focus of a new book of essays co-edited by Albertson College English professor Rochelle Johnson. 'Susan Fenimore Cooper: New Essays on 'Rural Hours' and Other Works,' a compilation of essays by scholars from across the country, was published recently by the University of Georgia Press.

Susan Fenimore Cooper, a writer who lived from 1813-1894, is being reintroduced to today's audiences. Though often overshadowed by her celebrity father James Fenimore Cooper, Susan Fenimore Cooper has become recognized as both a pioneer of American nature writing and an early advocate for ecological sustainability.

She is the author of 'Rural Hours,' a popular book chronicling her thoughts about the natural world she observed in 1850 near her home in Cooperstown, N.Y. The full text of 'Rural Hours,' which pre-dated Henry David Thoreau's best-selling 'Walden' by four years, was out of print until 1998, when it was republished.

In their recent book, Johnson and co-editor Daniel Patterson have assembled a collection of detailed essays by scholars who critically examine Cooper's work from several perspectives. The essays illuminate Cooper's positions on conservation, religion and women's place in society as well as study her use of various literary devices such as the picturesque, the literary village sketch and domestic fiction.

The book is divided into four sections. The first chapter features pieces examining Cooper's work in relation to her famous literary father and their devotion to each other's careers. The second focuses on Cooper's fascination with landscape. 'Rural Hours' is the subject of the third section. The collection concludes with insights into Cooper's views on gender, domesticity and environmental philosophy compared to several contemporary women writers.

'Cooper had a very sophisticated sensibility about humans' relationship to the natural world, and was a forerunner of contemporary ideas about bioregionalism and conservation,' says Barbara Ras, executive editor at the University of Georgia Press.

Johnson and Patterson have co-edited two books and written numerous book chapters and articles on Cooper. Johnson also has two book-length manuscripts in progress and has co-edited a volume of Cooper's environmental essays due for publication later this year.

In 2001, Johnson received a $4,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Fewer than 100 scholars were selected from 800 applicants to receive the highly competitive summer stipends. She also was awarded a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council.

At Albertson College, Johnson teaches American literature from the early years to modern and special classes such as 'The Literature of Slavery.' She also frequently co-teaches "Nature and Culture," an interdisciplinary class that provides an introduction to environmental studies.

A graduate of Bates College (Me.) and Claremont Graduate University (Calif.), Johnson has served on the board and coordinated committees of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, a national scholarly organization.