In western culture, the separation of humans from nature has contributed to a schism between the conscious reason and the unconscious dreaming psyche, or internal human "nature." Our increasing lack of intimacy with the land has led to a decreased capacity to access parts of the psyche not normally valued in a capitalist culture. In Out of the Shadow: Ecopsychology, Story, and Encounters with the Land, Rinda West uses Jung’s idea of the shadow to explore how this divorce results in alienation, projection, and often breakdown. Bringing together ideas from analytical psychology, environmental thought, and literary studies, West explores a variety of literary texts—including several by contemporary American Indian writers—to show, through a sort of geography of the psyche, how alienation from nature reflects a parallel separation from the "nature" that constitutes the unconscious.
Through her analysis of narratives that offer images of people confronting shadow, reconnecting with nature, and growing psychologically and ethically, West reveals that when characters enter into relationship with the natural world, they are better able to confront and reclaim shadow. By writing "from the shadows," West argues that contemporary writers are exploring ways of being human that have the potential for creating more just and honorable relationships with nature, and more sustainable communities.
For ecocritics, conservation activists, scholars and students of environmental studies and American Indian studies, and ecopsychologists, Out of the Shadow offers hope for humans wishing to reconcile with themselves, with nature, and with community.
"In Out of the Shadow: Ecopsychology, Story andEncounters with the Land, Rinda West suggests that the recovery of connection with nature may be tied to a rediscovery of the numinous. Together, these may nourish and grow from new attempts to restore wildness to the land and to psyche. If you want to know what ritual is about, how it isolates and bridges people, communities and cultures and its power to bring about war and peace, healing and harmony with the earth, this is the book to read. Her grasp of story, oral tradition and song weaves one through the stories of cultures past and present and dreams those that may become.
"In Out of the Shadow, Rinda West weaves together vast knowledge of ecopsychology, environmental philosophy, ecocriticism, and Native American literature to offer a major contribution to environmental studies in general, not only to the field of environmental literature. West's message about the importance of understanding the language of story and the psychology of renewal is profoundly important at this time in history, as we come to terms with global capitalism and the legacy of colonialism.
Rinda West, Professor Emerita of English at Oakton Community College, is a landscape designer specializing in native plants for city gardens.