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The Integral Ecologies of Jean Giono’s Provence

Authors: Robert Briwa*, Angelo State University
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: literary geographies, place identity, integral ecology, geohumanities, myth
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Myths imbue places and regions with taken-for-granted meanings that alleviate fear and guide everyday behavior. Responding to recent calls within geography to re-examine myth, I use perspectives from literary geographies to interrogate selected works by French author Jean Giono (1895-1970) to position him as a literary mythmaker. Giono develops two interrelated myths. First, Giono develops a place-myth of Provence. This place-myth is derivative of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Provençal literary traditions, notably the literary Félibrige movement, which sought to consolidate a shared Provençal cultural, literary, and regional identity. Giono deepens and expands on regional themes promoted by the Félibrige, including an awareness of Mediterranean rural lifeways; a distinct Provençal linguistic identity; and connections to a deep Greco-Roman heritage. Furthermore, Giono’s work geographically extends the scope of these themes through his focus on the interior hill country and mountain landscapes of Provence. Second, literary scholars recognize how Giono possesses a deep ecological awareness but debate its precise characteristics and often frame it in opposition to his regional rootedness. I conduct close readings of Giono’s selected works to propose that his ecological awareness is more accurately reflected through the twentieth and twenty-first myth of integral ecology, exemplified by Pope Francis’s 2015 Encyclical Laudato Si’. Shared tenets of this integral ecology include goals of rectifying socio-environmental and existential crises; restoring dignity to the excluded; and protecting vulnerable landscapes and lifeways. In Giono’s Provence, integral ecology and regional identity are inseparable.

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