Incorporating Biogeographic Research in Literary Analysis and Criticism


As literary critics, our primary focus has always been on analyzing the words on the page and understanding the deeper meanings and themes within a text. However, with the growing global awareness of environmental issues, it has become essential for us to also consider the ways in which a writer’s surroundings and environment can shape their work. This is where the field of biogeography, which studies the distribution of species and ecosystems, can greatly inform literary analysis and criticism.

Incorporating biogeographic research into our analysis of literature opens up a new perspective and invites us to examine the intricate relationship between human culture and the natural world. Literature has always acted as a reflection of society and has been shaped by the prevailing ideologies, politics, and cultural norms of a particular time and place. By incorporating biogeography, we can expand our understanding of the factors that influence a writer’s artistic choices.

One of the ways in which biogeography can enhance literary analysis is by closely examining the physical landscapes and habitats that writers describe in their works. As humans, our environment greatly impacts our experiences and shapes our perception of the world. Similarly, a writer’s surroundings can significantly influence their writing and the themes they explore in their works. For example, in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” the vast and treacherous Gulf Stream acts as a powerful force that informs the experiences of the old fisherman, Santiago, as he struggles against nature. By analyzing the specific geographical details and ecosystems portrayed in the story, we gain a deeper understanding of Santiago’s struggles and the themes of human struggle against a harsh and unforgiving environment.

Furthermore, biogeography allows us to explore the intersection between human activities and the natural world in literature. Many modern writers, such as Barbara Kingsolver and Margaret Atwood, have incorporated environmental concerns into their works, highlighting the ways in which human actions have disastrous consequences on the environment. Through biogeographic analysis, we can uncover the underlying messages and critiques of society that these writers are conveying through their depictions of environmental destruction.

Another crucial aspect of incorporating biogeography into literary criticism is the role of regional and cultural factors in shaping a writer’s perspective. Biogeography considers the relationship between a particular environment and the communities that inhabit it. By understanding a writer’s cultural and geographical background, we can gain insight into how their surroundings have influenced their writing and the themes and perspectives they choose to explore. For instance, the Algerian-French writer Albert Camus’ work is heavily influenced by the contrasting landscapes and cultures of the Algerian and French societies, as seen in his novel “The Stranger.” By incorporating biogeographic analysis, we can delve deeper into the cultural and regional influences on his writing and the exploration of existential themes.

In conclusion, incorporating biogeographic research in literary analysis and criticism offers a new and valuable lens through which we can understand literature. By examining the interactions between literature and the natural world, we gain a deeper understanding of the societal, cultural, and personal factors that shape a writer’s work. As literary critics, it is essential that we embrace these interdisciplinary approaches to better understand the complexities of literature and its relationship to our world.