By Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, founding president of ASLE (1992-1995) and former Editor of ISLE (1995-2020)
ASLE has lost one of its founding leaders and great supporters. From 1965 to 1995, Glen Love taught in the English Department at the University of Oregon, where he specialized in American literature and began developing new courses in Northwest literature, Western American literature, and literature and environment in the 1970s. He was a pioneer in the field of ecocriticism. Glen died on May 8th, 2022, in Eugene, Oregon, following a fall.
Glen and his wife Rhoda Love (a biologist) published Ecological Crisis: Readings for Survival (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970) during the year of the first Earth Day, laying the groundwork for the field of ecocomposition, which would develop in the 1990s. Glen’s expertise in American regional literature led to a monograph on Oregon author Don Berry and to the collections Northwest Perspectives: Essays on the Culture of the Pacific Northwest (University of Washington Press, 1979), New Americans: The Westerner and the Modern Experience in the American Novel (Bucknell University Press, 1982), The World Begins Here: An Anthology of Oregon Short Fiction (Oregon State University Press, 1993), and Fishing the Northwest: An Angler’s Reader (Oregon State University Press, 2000). He published Babbit: An American Life (Twayne’s Masterwork Studies, 1993), a study of Sinclair Lewis’s classic novel. In 1999, he curated a special edition of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio for the Oxford World’s Classics series. Colleagues in the field of ecocriticism may know him best for Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology, and the Environment (University of Virginia Press, 2003), a book in which he argues eloquently for the “practical” value of literary studies, seeking to evoke “a discourse that aims to test ideas against the workings of physical reality, to join humanistic thinking to the empirical spirit of the sciences, to apply our nominal concern for ‘the environment’ to the sort of work we do in the real world as teachers, scholars, and citizens of a place and a planet” (7).
Glen also published dozens of important articles and reviews. His first foray into ecocriticism was “Ecology and Arcadia: The Environmental Movement and the Myth of Nature in American Literature,” which appeared in Colorado Quarterly in Autumn 1972. His influential later articles included “Revaluing Nature: Toward an Ecological Criticism” (Western American Literature, Fall 1990) and “Et in Arcadia Ego: Pastoral Theory Meets Ecocriticism” (Western American Literature, Fall 1992). “Revaluing Nature,” which was based on his 1989 Past President’s Address at the Western Literature Association Conference, was reprinted in Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm’s 1996 volume The Ecocriticism Reader. In this landmark article, Glen asserts: “The most important function of literature today is to redirect human consciousness to a full consideration of its place in a threatened natural world” (Ecocriticism Reader 237). This visionary statement, published two years before the founding of ASLE, helped to inspire ASLE’s early leaders to create the organization that has now institutionalized ecocriticism throughout much of the world. Glen was writing at a time when environmental literature was, as he put it, “ignored or denigrated by most contemporary criticism” (237), but his persistence and passion contributed vital momentum during the early years of the ecocritical movement. After the article was published, he told me several times that he wished he had written “The most important function of literary criticism today is to redirect human consciousness….” He was an ardent believer in the power of literary and cultural studies to change the course of history. ASLE named Glen an honorary member in 2005 when the University of Oregon hosted the organization’s biennial conference.
Glen joined the editorial board of ISLE in 1995 when I took on the position as editor. He continued as a board member until I retired as editor in 2020. Several times a year he would write encouraging notes to me, responding to specific articles that had appeared in ISLE and commenting enthusiastically on the growth of the field. In his final note to me, in April 2018, he wrote, “Congratulations on the latest issue of ISLE. So many good new ideas and new approaches to old ideas.” And when I visited Glen and Rhoda in their apartment in an assistant living center in Eugene in April 2021, Glen was still full of excitement about the continuing growth and vitality of ecocriticism, eager to learn about the latest books and articles.
ASLE has lost one of its guiding lights, but Glen Love’s passion for the natural world and the literature and scholarship that explore human relationships with the planet will live on in the work of ASLE and its members and kindred spirits.