Ecological Imaginings: Anne's Reading Notes/Resources
Reading for Ecological Imaginings, Fall 2012
Allen, Paula Gunn. "Kochinnenako in Academe: Three Approaches to Interpreting a Keres Indian Tale." The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 222-24 (on the political implications of narrative structure):
* tribal habit of mind toward equilibrium of all factors
* even distribution of value among all elements in a field
* no single element foregrounded...no heroes, no villains
* no chorus, no "setting"...no minor characters...
* foreground slips along from one focal point to another until
all the pertinent elements in the ritual conversation have had their say...
* focus of the action shifts...there is no "point of view"....
"The tendency to equal distribution of value among all elements in a field, whether the field is social, spiritual, or aesthetic (and the distinction is moot when tribal materials are under discussion), is an integral part of tribal consciousness and is reflected in tribal social and aesthetic systems all over the Americas. In this structural framework, no single element is foregrounded, leaving the others to supply "background". Thus, properly speaking, there are no heroes, no villains, no chorus, no setting (in the sense of inert ground against which dramas are played out). There are no minor characters, and foreground slips from one focal point to another until all the pertinent elements in the ritual conversation have had their say."
"Perceptual modes...are more resemblant of open-field perception than of foreground-background perceptions....Traditional peoples perceive their world in a unified-field fashion that is far from the single-focus perception that generally characterizes Western masculinist monotheistic modes of perception."
Bennett, Michael and David Teague. The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1999.
ecocriticism--mutually constructing relationship between culture and environment--slow to survey urban terrain, esp. in literary studies, where focus has been nature writing, American pastoralism and literary ecology, w/ some Marxist env'l theory focusing on "urban nature"; self-limiting conceptions of nature, culture and env't in many ecocritical projects by excluding urban places; objective to remind city dwellers of their placement w/in ecosystems, w/ focus on urban nature writing, city parks, urban "wilderness," ecofeminism and the city, and theorizing urban space--always aware of sociopolitical determinants of all landscapes, adapting en'vl prespective to analyze urban life
literature of conservation demonizes the city, but urban studies saw growth of cities as analogous to principles of plant ecology: successional stages of struggle for space, food, light; rhetorical image of city as overextended organism,more env'ly friendly than suburbs (sociable, walkable, cosmopolitan, spontaneous, diverse); "postscarcity" acknowledges difference between scarcity as acknowledging/respecting "natural" limits, and as socially manufactured; North-South equity debate among global environmentalist; fund'l split bewteen deep ecology and social ecology
Audre Lorde's poem "Outside": "all things natural are strange..." (and she is unnatural, and outsider)
nature writer and social critic
Berry, Thomas. The Dream of the Earth. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988.
The deepest crises experienced by any society are those moments of change when the story becomes inadequate for meeting the survival demands of the present sitatuion. Such, i seems to me, is the situation we must deal with in this late twentieth century. We are confused at present because our historical situation has changed so profoundly. Our story, too, has changed. We no longer know its meaning or how to benefit from its guidance....Our story not only interprets the past, it also guides and inspires our shaping of the future (xi).
...we have changed the topography and even the geological structure of the planet, structures and functions that have taken hundreds of millions and even billions of years to bring into existence. Such an order of change in its nature and in its order of magnitude has never before entered either into earth history or into human consciousness. These events...require a new historical vision to guide and inspire a new creative period...in the functioning of the earth itself, for our world is a world of historical realism...the world of time and history and emergent evolutionary processes...already this renewal of the earth is in process...we are beginning to move beyond democracy to biocracy, to the participation of the larger life community in our human decision-making processes (xiii).
The essays in this book are written against the background of this new historical vision...of an intimate earth community...of all the geological, biological, and human components. Only in recent itmes has such a vision become possible. We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die. The time has come to lower our voices....Our human destiny is integral with the destiny of the earth (xiv).
We ourselves, with our distinctive capacities for reflexive thinking, are the most recent wonder of the universe, a special mode of reflecting this larger curvature of the universe (xv).
"Returning to Our Native Place" (1-5)
...the ultimate custody of the earth belongs to the earth...we need not a human answer to an earth problem, but an earth answer....The earth will solve its problems...if we will let the earth function in its own ways. We need only listen to what the earth is telling us (35).
"The Ecological Age"
...pondering the role of the human within the life systems of the earth....tends to become paralyzing....Our difficulty is that we are just emerging from a technological entrancement...the human mind ha been placed within the narrowest confines....A countermovement is taking place within a more comprehensive vision....We see ourselves now as a functional expression of the very world (36-38).
What is happening is ... a radical change in our mode of consciousness....Our challenge is to create a new langauge, even a new sense of what it is to be human....to transcend our species isolation (42).
A primary allegiance to this larger community is needed....This larger vision ... directly concerns the hardest, most absolute reality there is: the reality of the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat (43).
Much of our trouble during these past two centuries has been caused by our limited, our microphase, modes of thought....Now we begin to recognize that what is good in its microphase reality can be deadly in its macrophase development .... any particular activity must find its place within the larger pattern....This change of scale is one of the most significant aspects in the change of consciousness that is needed (43-44).
...this new age takes us back to certain basic aspects of the universe...governing principles ...have controlled the entire evolutionary process....differentiation, subjectivity, and communion.... we live in a universe, a single, if multi-form energy event (44-46).
Our problem is, of course, the problem of recognizing the primary of the natural world and its spontaneous functioning in all that we do .... this is the ultimate leson in physics, biology and all the sciences, as it is the ultimate wisdom of tribal peoples and the fundamental teaching of the great civilizations (48-49).
"Economics as a Religious Issue"
One way is to begin with the religious quest for justice....Another way...is to begin with the present economy and inquire into its deeper implications....the deficit involved in the closing down of the basic life system of the planet...economics of the earth community in its comprehensive dimensions (70-72).
...there is an economics of the earth as a functional community (74).
This is ...planetary socialism (79).
...the ultimate sources for this mode of economic activity may be found int he religious-cultural context from hwich our present economy emerged (80).
...real and sustainable progress...must be a continuing enhancement of life for the entire planetary community (82).
....the existing religious traditions are too distant from our new sense of the universe to be adequate to the task that is before us ....the traditional religions...cannot presently do what needs to be done....the earth is the larger context... as the primary self-nourishign, self-governing and self-fulfilling community (87).
The American College in the Ecological Age (89-108)
The American college may be considered a continuum, at the human level, of the self-education processes of the earth itself...I...designate earth as ... the primary college....What is really needed is a functional cosmology...Human education is primarily the activation of the possibilities of the planet...
The planet out of its own spontaneities has...taught itself the arts of life in the vast variety of their manifestations....The human...is genetically mandated to invent a second level...a cultural realm...
This integration of the human with an organic functional world...must be a pervasive life experience....formal education must be transformed so that it can provide an integrating context for the total life functioning....College should be a center for creating the more encompassing visions....The entire college project can be seen as that of enabling the student to understand the immense story of the universe and the role of teh student increating hte next phase of the story....
A set of core courses could be indicated as the practical fulfillment of these suggestions. A first course...would present the sequence of evolutionary phases of this functional cosmology, the formation of the galactic systems...of the earth within the solar system; the emergence of life....A second course...could be...on the various phases of human cultural development....A third course might deal with the period of the great classical cultures....A fourth course...might be...the study of the scientific-technological phase of human development....A fifth course could deal with the emerging ecological age....A sixth course could be a course on the origin and identification of values....differentiation...subjectivity...communion...
...the first college to announce that its entire program is grounded in the dynamics of the earth as a self-emerging, self-sustaining, self-educating, self-governing, self-healing, and self-fulfilling community of all the living and nonliving beings of the planet should have an extraordinary future....Within this context the American college could understand in some depth its role in creating a future worthy of that larger universal community of beings out of which the human component emerged and in which the human community finds its proper fulfillment.
"The New Story" (123-137)
It's all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story ...is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story....
The story of the universe is the story of the emergence of a galactic system in which each new level of expression emerges through the urgency of self-transcendence...until humans appear as the moment in which the unfolding universe becomes conscious of itself....
It is clear that the primordial intention of the universe is to produce variety in all things....with each historical age and each cultural form, there is need to create a reality for which..there is no adequate model. This is...a difficulty for which there is no complete answer, but only a striving toward. At each moment we must simply be what we are, opening onto a larger life....
There is need for a program to aid the young to identify themselves in the comprehensive dimensions of space and time....all our human affairs....have their meaning precisely insofar as they enhance this emerging world of subjective intercommunion....the scientific community and the religious community have a common basis....the basic mood of the future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through the earth. If the dynamics of the universe...brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere...there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ...our relation to this stupendous process...
"Bioregions: The Context for Reinhabiting the Earth"
"The Historical Role of the American Indian"
These resources of the original peoples of this continent are...the basic resources that emerge from the depths of the earth process itself....The destinies of the Indian are inseparble from the destinies of the American earth....and in the end so will we deal with ourselves. The fate of the continent, the fate of the Indian, and our own fate are finally identical.
"The Dream of the Earth: Our Way into the Future" (194-215)
The human is...a dimension of the earth...The shaping of our human mode of being depends on the support and guidance of this comprehensive order of things....spontaneity as the guiding force of the universe can be thought of as the mysterious impulse whereby the primordial fireball flared forth in its enormous energy, a fireball that contained in itself all that would ever emerge into being....What enabled the formless energies to emerge into such a fantastic variety of expression...?
....the dream comes about precisely through ... uninhabited spontaneities ...we might say: In the beginning was the dream. Through the dream all things were made, and without the dream nothing was made that has been made...What primordial source could, with no model for guidance, imagine such a fantastic world as that in which we live....?
the universe in its emergence is neither determined nor random, but creative...
the human..is genetically coded toward...self-formation..a high privilege...also significant responsibility....
If our daytime experience is needed for awakening to the phenomenal world, our nighttime experience is needed for communion with those numinous powers from which the daylight forms themselves come into being....the dream vision can be destructive as well as creative....our entire modern world is itself inspired...by a distorted dream experience, perhaps by the most powerful dream that has ever taken possession of human imagination. Our sense of progress...is a pure dream vision....
The new cultural coding that we need must emerge from the source of all such codes, from...."dream"...an intuitive, nonrational process that occurs when we awaken to the numinous powers ever present in the phenomenal wold about us...In relation to the earth, we have been autistic for centuries....
"The Cosmology of Peace"
Birkel, Michael. A Near Sympathy: The Timeless Quaker Wisdom of John Woolman. 2003.
John Woolman hoped to persuade readers that his ideas on economic justice and simplicity are reasonable and true, but his writings are more than an appeal to reason alone. They are also an invitation to spiritual growth, to a change of heart. John Woolman invited readers to use not only their capacity to reason but also their ability to imagine. The imagination can be a spiritual practice that opens the way to an inward transformation that redeems us from the selfish spirit. John Woolman describes a scene and asks his readers to picture themselves there. More than mere visualization, it also is a matter of opening themselves up to the inward responses that are evoked by the scene they are picturing in their minds. Those inward responses may open the way to a perception of truth readers had not realized before, and that realization of truth may inspire a commitment to action.
Imagination opens the way to perceiving how those who bear the burden of injustice feel. It is an invitation to identify with them and to be in solidarity with them. This practice of imagination reaches what John Woolman calls the "pure witness" within people. This interior witness is of divine origin. It verifies the truth of those feelings and perceptions. It says, "Yes, this is true." As a result people are moved to love those whom their wider culture prefers to regard as unlovable. It convinces people of the need for justice.
The imaginative skills John Woolman advocates require us to sit attentively with the other reality we are trying to embrace with compassion through our imagination. This process takes time and practice. We might contrast this with media advertisements in our day. While they may look imaginative at one level, they do not invite us to exercise sustained attention... (pp 20-21).
Buell, Lawrence. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Malden, MA: Blackwell. 2005.
Preface: "environmental" approximates better than "eco" the hybridity of the subject--
fusions of "natural" and "constructed" elements and increasingly heterogeneous foci,
esp. metro and toxified landscapes and issues of env'l equity
1) Emergence of Env'l Criticism
own lit ed re: "setting" as one of lit's 4 basic building blocks (plot, character, theme…), w/ perfunctory attention to locale in texts
Welty's demure apology for "Place in Fiction" (1970)
obvious difference between ecocriticsm and emergent discourses of the silenced/disempowered: what plausible identitarian claims in this context?
self-evidently no human can speak as environment, nature, nonhuman
@ most can speak from standpoint of being ecologically/environmentally embedded, as part of "the biotic community"
speaking eccentrically becomes quixotic, presumptuous; ecocritic not individuated or extricated from social institutions
main difference between first- and second-wave env'l criticism: absorbed this sociocentric perspective
"narrative scholarship" of John Elder et.al, rejecting standard modes of critical argument
quest for adequate models of inquiry: concourse of discrepant practices, no paradigm-defining statement like Said's Orientalism
like feminism: gathers itself around a commitment to environmentally from whatever critical vantage point
ecotheory evolving toward increasing acknowledgement of ecocultural complexity after initial too narrow focus;
evolving congeries of ecofeminism has been one catalyst
more issue- than method- or paradigm-driven; "ecocriticism" implies
non-existent methodological holism, connotes "natural" rather than "built" environment,
more "ecology" than aesthetic, ethical, sociopolitical practice
"ecocriticism" suffices if used in mindfulness of etymology, metaphorical stretch: oikos, household:
study of biological interrelationships and flow of energy through organisms and inorganic matter,
stretched to cover energy-exchange and interconnection in other realms,
from techno-based communication systems to ecology of thinking/composition
map of ecocriticism might begin w/ nature-based nationalism of Leo Marx, Machine in the Garden and Raymond Williams, the Country and the City
"starting point proper" Meeker's The comedy of Survival; then push to ally w/ env'l sciences
palimpsest rather than waves: loose-hanging "discourse coalition," of
" semi-fortuitously braided story-lines, each encapsulating "complex disciplinary debates"
increasing variety, w/ assumed certitudes placed under question
brilliance, panache of Bruno Latour, ethnographer of scientific practices who defines science's authority contextually
his neologism "factish" (collage of "fact" and "fetish"): "types of action that do not fall into the comminatory choice between fact and belief
second-wave ecocriticism questions organicist models: natural and built env'ts long since ll mixed up
social ecocriticsm takes urban, degraded landscapes seriously
trade's commitment to nature protection ethic revised to accommodate claims of env'l justice, "environmentalism of the poor"
mature env'l aesthetics, ethics, politics must take into account interpenetration of metropolis and outback, anthropocentric and biocentric concerns
both first- and second-wave agendas understand personhood as defined by env'l entanglement, the environment-constructed body:
"being doesn't stop at the border of the skin"; "You could cut off my had, and I would still live….You could take out my eyes, and I would still live…Take away the sun, and I die. Take away the plants and animals, and I die. So why should I think my body is more a part of me than the sun and the earth?"
skittishness @ modernization's aggressive, accelerating, inequitable transformations of "natural" into "constructed" space common denominator for both waves of ecocriticism, its equivalent to queer studies: "to unsettle normative thinking about env'l status quo"
insistence on environmentally interjects the disruptive "anxiety" element that "cannot deregulated away by any of the function systems" (economics, law, etc)
once thought helpful to specify subspecies of "env'l text," w/ nonhuman environment as active presence;
now think inclusively of environmentally as property of any text--all human artifacts bear such traces, in composition, embodiment, reception
ecocriticism most useful when it recovers env'l character, orientation of works whose
conscious, foregrounded interests lie elsewhere (ex: landscape semiotics in Jane Austen's fiction,
including dependence of elegant lifestyle on slave labor in Antigua….)
first-wave's preferred canon has been reframed:
ecocentric consciousness requires a a historical consciousness attentive to the coevolution of material social and natural systems--
and so includes, in principle, any text whatsoever
wide-open movement still sorting out its premises and powers, increasingly world-wide in its alliances
2) World, Text and Ecocritic
env't can be figured as that which constitutes the discourse that constitutes it
most suggestive attempt is Angus Fletcher's theory of the "environment-poem,"
which gets the reader to enter into the poem as if it were the reader's environment of living
poem itself taken as a world:
a special kind of natural ensemble, presented the aggregate relations of all participants,
dramatizing an elastic structure of en'vl belonging that decenters human control,
expresses existence of creatures, showing how their belonging/not belonging occurs
strategy of converting subjective place-evocation into a shareable representation of environmentally w/out bounds not limited to poetry
(consider environmental-poetics of Va Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, et. al)
ne lus ultra of environment-poetics in narrative invents entire world: Milton, Dante, Whitman, utopian-> science/speculative fiction
no genre (potentially) matches up w/ planetary level of thinking "environment" better than scifi
failures show us how hard it is to imagine a plausible other/future world--stuck w/ what we've got
LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven: fictive dreaming as paradox of eco-apocalyptic discourse: dreaming to render the dream-scenario impotent
cf. Yamashita's Through the Arc of the Rain Forest: whimsical romp, Brazilians soap opera, w/ cornucopia of characters in parodistic boom-and-bust rape-of-the- Amazon plot --> revenge of the ecosystem/eco-apocalypse inverts trade's morally earnest speculative fiction
both novels cautionary metareflections on potential hubris of scifi reinventing the world:
artistic license knows no limit--extravagant pleasure, haunted by the actual, as brake, conscience
also contrast between trad'l place-centeredness and postmodern displacement of mobile, quick-cut, transcontinental peripatetics
3) Space, Place, and Imagination
space connotes geometrical or topographical abstraction, whereas place is "space to which meaning has been ascribed," "centers of felt value"....(world history a history of space becoming place)
cont env'l critcism: place promised a "politics of resistance" agains the "spatial colonizations" of modernism...but place-attachment is problematic: sentimental env'l determinism, reciprocal w/ culture, nested in space, biased to the centripetal, neglects importance of roaming ethnography, foraging; even "the goal of place-conscious and place-sensitive culture need not dictate a place-bound, stationary lifestyle of monogamous relationship to just one place"; also "non-places are the real measure of our time": in supermodernity ppl are born, die in clincial settings, and like spending the time inbetween in offices, malls, transport...we welcome trade-offs between place-attentuation and place-stewardship
5-dimensional phenomenology of subjective place-attachment--concentric cirlces of diminishingly strong emotional identificaiton: home, workplace, travel; plus imagined spaces, and the temporal dimensions of memory places; cf. also sociology of place, as extrinci artifact, socially produced by social position and canonical maps
env'l writing intervenes in standard conceptions of spatial approtionment by challenging assumptions re: border and scale: reimagining localized places, reconceptualizing place @ the bioregional level in critique of provincial and nation-state borders, and experimenting in imagining planetary belonging
"sustainability"--more prudent, self-sufficient use of nat'l resources--is hard to pin down as an ethical position; requires guesswork re: what future generaitons will be like and is contrary to known fact that nature does not remain stable
techno-optimism; pragmatic incrementalism; epiphanies against a background of enclosure/foreshorteneed spatial vantage point ("The Monkey Garden" in The House on Mango Street, book hooks' listening to bird, watching trees form her small NYC apt)
sense of vulnerability and flux in modern bioregionalism differs from earlier perceptino fo stabity and porosity of local cutlura arrangements: increasing sense that regions are permeable to shock waves extending worldwide; local cannot shut itsel foff from translocal forces (see double-tracked structure of Richard Powers' Gain)
on continuu of thinking globally, from Lovelock's durable planet "Gaia" to Beck's permanently destablized environment of "the risk society" are earth-mappings of disparate array of env'l watchdog and protection organizations--but ecocrit has not really gone "planetary" or global; as space and mobility expand, placeness thins out (in Butler's diptyrch,emplacement is a trap); can we construct new "platial "identities" through intarction w/ other places? "multivocal" and "multilocal"? (see double consciousness of Walcott's intertwining poem Omeros--centered yet migratory, global, world-historical; is able to imagine placeness in multi-scalar terms: local, national, regional, transhemispheric, topographically, historically, cuturally, because of vulnerabiity and porosity of postcolonial conditions)
4) Ethics and Politics of Env'l Criticism
first wave ecocriticism's most contrarian move: pursuit of an "aesthetics of relinquishment";
self-consciously resisting anthropocentrism, eliminating human figures from imagined worlds
(drew on Darwin's natural process that doesn't care for human survival; Leopold's holistic env'l ethics that ascribed rights to nonhuman life forms; and modern continental philosophy, from Heidegger on, re: deep ecology)
all ecocentric thinking define human identity not as free-standing but in terms of its relationship with the physical environment: intractable like-it-or-not interdependence; Naess on deep ecology (vs. "shallow" modest incremental reform efforts designed to enhance amenities for those already well off) as bringing to consciousness "the relational, total field-image of organisms as knots in the biospherical net or field of intrinsic relations"; corrective to modern underrepresentation of degree to which humanness is ecosystemically imbricated;
urging to think against anthropocentrism is a new Copernican revolution @ the planetary level: world no longer revolving around "us"--> reconstructive ecotheology (of Thomas Berry et.al)
appropriate ethic of env'l activism: not identity or unity but solidarity: not just affirmation
of difference but sensitivity to difference between positioning w/ and as the other
double paradox of "nature" andocentrically construted a male domain (vs. female-coded domestic space),
yet symbolically coded as female, arena of potential domination
("womanizing of nature and naturalizing of women")
Stacy Alaimo's arresting counterproposal to re-signify "nature" as "undomesticated feminist space"
ecofeminists led initiative to push env'l criticism toward equity of socially marginalized (now most dynamic movement w/ env'l criticism)
canon of texts in Env'l Justice Reader: Rachel Carson, Karen Tei Yamashita (2nd novel re: LA), Simon Ortiz, Linda Hogan, Ana Castillo
question of relation between env'l justice and env'l racism, problems of "ecological refugees' (land-based people displaced from their home communities)
narrative of deep ecology--> ecofeminism--> env'l justice has sidestepped animal and other nonhuman rights,
and range of other local-global discourses (lib'l green reform; anticapitalist critiques of consumerism…)
5) Env'l Criticism's Future
serious attention to new domains of inquiry, but no radical shift in critical methodology
environmentality indispensable to how one reads
Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2001.
env'l cricis not merely economic, political, but imaginative, hingeing on a "state of mind"
human transformation of physical nature have made "natural" and "human-built" realms increasingly indistinguishable; nature has "ended," no pristine physical enviornments remain; second nature dominates the first, now an "organic machine"; nature-culture distinction is anthropogenic, deriving from transition from nomadism to settlement; understand natural and wild as managed and unmanaged
on the "environmental unconscious": embeddedness in spatio-physical context as constitutive of identity, a "beyond" affecting what's "within" the body, an "ecological identity"
"toxic discourse" key instance of rhetoric/ethics of imagined endangerment, most distinctive ground condition of present-day environmental reflection, in Silent Spring
"place attachement" as resource: place sense and connectedness in ever more placeless world
flaneur as means of reinhabitory vision in urban writing: perceiving metropolis as ecocultural habitat, imagining relational personhood instead of self-protective autonomy
cf. Wendell Berry and Gwendolyn Brooks re: voluntary submission to limits, possibilities of place-constrained, community-accountable imagination, w/ Jane Addams' resistence to being determined by others' power
parallel ethics of land stewardship and critiques of property in Faulkner and Leopold: reimagining hunting as quest for env'l understanding, connectedness
shift in thinking of ocean as inexhaustible resource to endangered global commons (Moby-Dick)
getting past dichotomy of anthropocentric vs. nonanthropocentric persuasions-- in Mahasweta Davi's Bengali novella, trans. Spivak, "Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha," investigative journalist visits remote immiserated village of indigenous people--one of most trenchant, challenging fictions of env'l justice, in which subsistence economy is dependent on imperiled local resources--as all ecocatastrophe writing, story's apocalypticism aims to disconfirm itself, communicates misery against insistnece on impossibility of doing so--unsparingly self-critical dissection of efficacy of all institutionalized reform: doomsday unnecessary but culturally inevitable: cultural traditionalists inernalize plague, famine in self-disemabling ways
cf.Gowdy's The White Bone, culture of endangered nonuman tribe reconstructed form the inside--bold attempt to imagine how elephants think and feel: epistemologically pretentious, yet puts pressure on own anthropomorphism by pressing disanalogy: not reader-friendly, no facile empathy: strenous meditation on challenge of making good on extensionist project; fictive thought-experiment, taking up challenge of fathoming animal minds w/ research, poetic license, and tunnel-vision ferocity against human poachers (cf. Pterodactyl which marginalizes the suffering of the non-human); cf. amusing passage in Passage to India: "in our Father's house are many mansions...not one shall be turned away...be he black or white...Consider, with all reverence, the monkeys....and the jackals?....he admitted that the mercy of God, being infinite, may well embrace all mammals. And the wasps? He became uneasy during the descent to wasps...And oranges, cactuses, crystals and mud? and the bacteria inside....No, no, this is going too far. We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing"--embarrassments of western moral extensionism: ingrained speciesism, ethnocentric self-deception: principled relativism ony goes so far
arduous challenge to find modern literary work that embraces env'l justice w/out excluding ecological ethics: Moby-Dick links exploitation of men to wanton slaughter of whales, strangely analogous to people; Blake, Burns, Coleridge link concern for animal life w/ that of the rural poor, mutual victims of oppression--Rime of the Ancient Mariner; but only more recent work begin to frame self-consciously the relationship between claims of envi'l justice and nonanthropocentric ethics; see Linda Hogan's Solar Storms (1995), re settler culture aggression against indigenous peoples and nonhumans--two sides of the same pathology of resource extraction; Power (1998) more explicit meditation on competition between/(in)adequacy of competing institutionalized conceptions of env'l ethics: NAm woman tried in court and by native tribunal for killed endangered species; neither procedure arrives @ truth; both env'l justice and nonanthro ethics are both formulistic, both cultures entangled in own protocols; generically sentimental close, but strong ecofeminist critique of both systems, in gynocentric ethics of care: advantage of env'l imagination, narrative over argument, in widening circles of identification/
belonging; unfathomable behavior framed as antinominian chutzpah she doesn't understand--no blueprint, but critique of code, drama of practice
Watershed Aesthetics: most imp't icon/defining gestalt of contemporary bioregionalism; problematics are semantic (is "drainage basin" in Europe); borders are contestable; not natural units for defining range/dispersal of plant/animal species; doesn't correlate w/ groundwater patterns, aquifers--but we are in the midst of a renaissance of env'l conscious watershed writing, which began w/ Mary Austin's The Ford; see Ellen Meloy's Raven's Exile (specter of env'l contamination by Las Vegas toilets); cocoon-like antasies of self-containment fail to grasp cmplexity, extent of imbrication of cultures/environments; "watershed" refers to series of zones connecting local communities w/ larger stretches of continent--challenges parochialism of jurisdictional borders; interdepndencies rinclude the whole planet; impossibility of cordoning off country from city; potent if not all-sufficient enviornmentalist icon, w/ rivercourses as signatures of metropolitan character
Campbell, SueEllen. "The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet." The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1996. 124-136:
...the most comprehensive and most important shared premise of post-structuralist and ecological theory. Both criticize the traditional sense of a separate, independent, authoritative center of value or meaning; both substitute the idea of networks.
One often-cited source for this idea is the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Suassure, who argued that meaning in language is created by relationship (by similarity, continguity, difference, and so on), rather than by a direct connection between a word and what it means. Theory takes this argument and broadens it to apply to all kinds of structures and meanngs....the concept of intertexuality also depends on the sense of networks....no text contains all of its own meaning.
With the questioning of stable centers in physics, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and literary criticism, not surprisingly, we also find theory re-examining the idea of the human being as a coherent and self-contained self....Here Frued is important...and Marx...and the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan....
In ecology, the replacement of centers with networks is closely connected with...the complicity of the human observer...As Arne Naess says, "Organisms are knots in the biospherical net or field of intrinsic relations"....
Perhaps the most important idea that follows form this premise is that human beings are no longer the center of value or meaning...."From the biosphere's perspective, the whole point of Homo sapiens is their armpits, aswarm with 24.1 billion bacteria"...
...ecology insist that we pay attention not to th eway things have meaning for us, but to the way the rest of the world--the nonhuman part--exists apart from us and our languages. It's central to this insistence that we remember..."that the world is much greater and older than normal human perception of it....that the human is a participant as well as a perceiver in the ancient continuum of bears and forests." The systems of meaning that matter are ecosystems....
theory is right...that what we are depends on all kinds of influences outside ourselves, that we are part of vast networks, texts written by larger and stronger forces. But surely one of the most important of these forces is the rest of the natural world....
According to theory...we begin to experience ourselves as separate...from our mothers' bodies..at the moment we enter into the network of language....At the core of our sense of self, then, is our feeling of loss.and the desire for unity that is born of loss....Ecologists also see an experience of lost unity and a desire to regain it as central to our human nature. They are more likely, though, to see it as coming from our separation from the natural world....Desire, for ecology, goes beyond the human.
....theory helps me to step back from myself, to think about desire...But it is in nature writing--perhaps almost as much as in the wilderness itself--that I learn to recognize the shape and force of my own desire to be at home on the earth.
Cohen, Michael. “Blues in Green: Ecocriticism Under Critique.” Environmental History 9, 1 (January 2004): 9-36.
ecocriticism needs to ...combat two positions,
i) that culture can be a refuge from nature, and 2) that nature is merely a cultural construction...
the ecocritic's reading list rarely includes urban historians...
Ecocritics are partial to narratives that include a great deal of first person story-telling...
field study is integral and essential to understanding literary and aesthetic representations of landscapemany ecocritical essays lack focus, because the argument is by sequence...accumulative rather than analytic
"the praise-song school" (ex: John Elder): to seek and find hope and comfort
much narrative scholarship is not sharply analytic but gracefully meditative --
look @ landscapes as scenes for reconciliation
progressive view of literary history: parable of development of finer environmental consciousness
dangers of travelogue, journalistic, testimonials to "the kind of life worth living," sermonizing
forgetting that the critical task requires open inquiry, not a pre-arranged interior cognitive decor
modes of reading texts and biological systems collapsed into a single activity
denial of real contesting positions
future more analytic methods: focus on place and region, adduce science, critique global paradigms
AISLE's shift from the literary language of wilderness culture (motto: "I'd rather be hiking")
to the public language of environmental issues--we need better writing in Environmental Impact Statements!
the most important single literary genre: the letter to a govenmental agency
ecocritical practice has been local (looking inward), is becoming more global (looking outward)
Caucus for Diversity: increasing interest in social justice issues
limiting uncritical acceptance of the pastoral tradition and the discourse of wilderness
much of American nature writing built on the model of the conversion narrative
all theories of representation are about human strategies, therefore "anthropocentric"
Leo Marx, 1999: "Ecocentrists are the Puritans of today's environmental movement,"
"critical of anyone-whether an environmentalist or a despoiler-who assumes that the chief
reason for protecting the environment is its usefulness to human beings.
E.O. Wilson: 'No intellectual vice is more crippling...than defiantly self-indulgent anthropocentrism"
move away from preservationist to stewardship outlook
Glen Love moving from agressive anti-anthropocentrism to explore what it means to be human
(result of re-biologizing of human nature, and the marginalization of trad'l users of the nat'l world)
essentialized, priority of nature over culture an unstable grounding for the future
how be more analytic w/out being less political efficacious?
trad'l theories of representation under attack, as narrow, priviledged
goal is to facilitate clearer thinking, better writing about human transactions with environments
Cook, Barbara J, Ed. Women Writing Nature: A Feminist View. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008.
women both associated w/ nature and seeking to distance selves from it
slippery roots of ecofeminism: Francois d'Eaubonne, Carolyn Merchant?
plurality of voices, positions: Modernist writers traveling to southwest, littoral writing of Lindgergh, Carson, philosophical musings of Kathleen Dean Moore re: env'l ethic of care; agency of women's "animalness" (TTWms, Susan Zwinger); Louise Gluck on the feminine in the natural world; key tenet parallel between domination of nature and women: Octavia Butler and Jean Hegland's calls for egalitarian partnership ethic; Margaret Atwood as apocalyptic visionary, w/ Oryx and Crake expanding definition of ecofeminism; Anzaldua rewriting oppressive myths to defend the natural world; Joan Maloof's 9 keys to writing about nature (to save the world)
Dillard, Annie. The Annie Dillard Reader. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
From The Book of Luke: Let us rest the material view and consider, just consider, that the weft of materials admits of a very few, faint, unlikely gaps. People are, after all, still disappearing, still roping robes on themselves, still braving the work of prayer, insisting they hear something, even fighting and still dying for it. The impulse to a spiritual view persists....
I had an idea for religious ideas. They were the first ideas I ever encountered. They made other ideas seem mean.
Eagen, Timothy. Nature Deficit Disorder, The New York Times (March 29, 2012).
nature deficit disorder, coined by the writer Richard Louv in a 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods".... certain behavioral problems could be caused by the sharp decline in how little time children now spend outdoors .... behind every screen-dominant upbringing is an overly cautious parent...we want to protect our kids from “out there” variables.
Ellsworth, Elizabeth. Teaching Positions
[In making Shoah, Lanzman] presumes viewers are capable of re-reading their knowledges and histories, and thereby re-reading their futures. He presumes viewers are capable of participating in the ongoing, immediate, situated, and consequential labor of cultural production (134).
Engelhardt, Elizabeth S. D. The Tangled Roots of Feminism, Environmentalism, and Appalachian Literature. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003.
What is Ecological Feminism?...a philosophy, formal or informal, in which:
* Humans are not conceived of as separate from and superior to the world around them...humans and nonhumans together are part of the total ecology....
* the nonhuman world ["the watching and listening world"] has agency...the ability to consider and to act...
* activism must consider long-term sustainability for the community...enviromantal as well as social...
* particular effects on and roles for women in activism without erasing differences
...closely related to much ecological, evnirnomental, feminist and environmental feminist activism. Yet...differs...argues that race matters, gender matters, class matters, and that all of us have complicated identites...closer to the environmental justice movement in its anti-essentialism than it is to some ecofeminism (3-4).
Although I not claiming an original uniqueness for Appalachia, its stark divisions betwen classes, highly charged and constructed discussions of race, and peopled wilderness are particualrly illuminating (8).
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. 2nd edition. New York: Routledge, 2012.
Silent Spring, founding text of modern environmentalism, begins w/ poetic parable, relies on literary genres of pastoral and apocaypse, draws analogy between pollution and radioactive fallout
provisional definitions: earth-centred approach to literary studies, avowedly political (like feminist, Marxist approaches), tied to "green" moral agenda, w/ a broad cultural scope; widest definition: study of interelation of human and non-human
rhetorical presentation of nature, using tropes of pollution, pastoral, wilderness, apocalypse, dwelling (georgic and indigenous), animals (redefining human), futures...
theological-moral origin of "pollution"--> "defilement"; tactical value of rhetoric of purity/toxicity
"dark ecology"; Chris Jordan's photographs
range of positions: cornucopians (resources dynamic, scarcity an economic phenomenon, remedied by entrepeneurs), environmentalists (concerned about env'l issues, but value trad'l beliefs and wish to maintain their standard of living; "shallow environmentalists" compromise w/ ruling socio-economic order; technocratic, managerial approach; "green consumerism," "greenwashing"), deep ecologists (recognize instrinsic, not instrumental, value of nature; replaces dualistic separation w/ monistic identification; is eco-, not human-centered--misanthropic?), ecofeminism (identifies common logic of domination over nature/woman; alienated differentiation and denied dependency of hyperseparation; increased emphasis on environmental justice); social ecology and eco-Marxism (scarcity created by capitalism; dialectic sees second nature evolving from first); Heideggerian ecophilosophy (being->clearing/disclosing) [??]
Pastoral: rooted in idea of nature (rejected by ecologists in '40s) as stable, enduring counterpoint to disruptive energy/change of human societies cf. postequilibrium ecology now prominent, which sees anture as never constant
Wilderness: most potent construction of nature in New World environmentalism (cf. Old World domesticity of the pastoral), w/ wildness epitomized in the untrammeled American West, represented in rhapsody or jeremiad
Apocalypse: "single most powerful master metaphor in contemporary env'l imagination," w/ Malthus as forerunner (and "carrying capacity" --given political, military and economic mediations--objectively meaningless); long-term dangers of hyperbole: embarrassment of failed prophecy; cf. Terry Gilliams 1995 film, Twelve Monkeys
Dwelling: cf. georgic literature of farming (Berry, Berger and Sale's bioregionalism) w/ (questionable) primitive 'authentic' models of the "ecological Indian," constrained by animistic belief systems, based on now-outmoded notions of harmony, balance
Animals: Betham's utilitarianism-> Singer's animal liberation -> Midgely's animal "welfarism"; great insight of animal studies is that uniqueness is not unique; difference is everywhere; Derrida's "The animal that therefore I am" ("l'animot"); Haraway's When Species Meet--being one becoming with many; critters dwelling among interpenetrating naturecultures; ex. Animal Planet documentary Cell Dogs--shelter dogs trained for release by prison inmates, w/ both species modeling nonviolent, nonoptional, self-rewarding obedience to authority earned in relation to the other; Berger's "Why Look @ Animals?" (they return the gaze, as both like and different); typology of crude/critical forms of "rhetoric of animality"; Herzog's 2005 film Grizzly Man; Gowdy's The White Bone individualizes elephants, liberating them from metonymic, metaphorical or fabular enclosure"--but millennial religion and New Age overotones = crude anthropomorphism; cf. Christopher Nicolson's 2009 historical novel, The Elephant Keeper, sophisticated narrative experiment w/ our own assumptions re: kindship/difference from elephants; 4th voyage in Swift's Gulliver's Travels to land of the Houyhnhnms--epigrapm to Atwood's Oryx and Crake (2003); allomorphism ("allo" = "other"): avowal of wondrous strangeness of animals; see Les Murray's (interspecies) Translations from the Natural World, w/ every poem a testment to impossibility of the representational work it undertakes, exploring other sensory lifeworlds, disclosing nonequation of word and thing, poem and place--inevitably failed poems gesturing towards numinous unity-in-diversity; 3 levels of biodiversity: between/win ecosystems/habitats, of species, and genetic variation w/in species--increasingly ecological/systems-orientated perspective reframes local conversation in language of global bioversity (yet cf. Shiva's critique of the neocolonialism of biopiracy)
Futures: 3 inflections of the earth, as globe, biosphere, Gaia --> novel constructions of human animal and whole Earth offer adequate metaphors for novelty of our predicament; much ecocriticism takes for granted the task to overcome anthropocentrism; hybridized, dialectic reading practices; need to challenge deep-grained notion of "nature's wisdom" and harmony w/ postequilibirum ecology, acknowledging contingency, ndetermnacy, increaing scope/extent of our liability; poetics of responsibility recognizes inflections, standards as our own, not that of a "natural order"; most startling, significant insight is interconnection of naturalcultural realm, including painfuly demanding interdependence; no "bad weather," no "saving the planet"--need better less anthropocentric metaphors
Garrard, Greg, Ed. Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Cultural Studies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Ecocriticism has been preoccupied with pedagogy since its inception. Teaching undergraduates environmental theories and literatures is the central kind of 'activism' to which busy humanities academics can aspire, and arguably the most effective too (1).
In 1995...Patrick Murphy envisaged a 'Trickster Midwife' teacher who 'teaches by story, paradox, and questioning' drawing together Mikhail Bakhtin's dialogism with feminist consciousness-raising. By contrast, mainstream ecocritical pedagogy tended to sound prescriptive and didactic....A quarter of the essays in Ecofemnist Liteary Criticism (1998)...address pedagogical questions (2).
The specific contemporary challenges for ecocritical pedagogy can be broken down into ways of dealing with scale, coping with interdisciplinarity, and developign strategies for non-literary media (3).
As David Orr has obseved, all educaiton is already environmental....The point of ecocritical pedagogy is to make its existing environmentality explicit and, above all, sustainable (9).
Timonty Morton, "Practising Deconstruction in the Age of Ecological Emergcy," 156-167.
Deconstruction is relentlessly ecological...something leaks from the dump back into the town, because boundaires are never rigid and thin. Inside the thinking process, inside the meaning process, are the traces of exteriority that these processes struggle to exclude. ...'There is no outside-text' means that there is no 'away'. (159)
Ecological awareness and deconstruction amount to the same thing: there is no away any more....Deconstruction is the name of the intellectual exercise that shows students the intimacy with strangers that defines their (ecological) existence, but to bring it home to people, you really have to teach them to meditate....training yourself to hold your mind quite lightly, caring yet open at the same time...allowing concepts to unwind of their accord by paying them no mind, coming into a 'present' that is shifty and ambiguous and full of information....By teaching meditation ... you make deconstruction experiental...you introduce some air and openness into ecological thinking ....what the Dalai Lama calls inner disarmament. It's terribly important to slow down....Deconstruction means being ready to be wrong. There is a humility in that and a high tolerance for ambiguity. These are good traits for humans to manifest to other life forms right now. Meditation shares deconstruction's openness towards...the strange stranger....any entity whose arrival we can't predict, whose being is fundamentally uncanny and unfathomable...There is a strange strangeness in every life form on Earth, quite literally: we share their DNA...yet we aren't them (160-161).
Life is non-identical to itself. Ecology is the encounter with this non-identity, and ecological ethics is at the very least allowing the non-identical to exist. So is meditation. You have a strange thought; you let it be....Meditation teaches you to be ready to be wrong....A simple exercise is to ask the class to take off their shoes....Another simple exercise is to teach walking meditation...No particualr insight is gained in either of these exercises. That's the whole reason to do them...trying to teach students how to care for the environment...involves noticing things that they may not have noticed before (162).
To repeat: you are not trying to perform cleverness....Instead, you are trying to allow your students to fall in love with reality....reality is open, unspeakable, beyond concept. Deconstruction is a way to strip your mind of prejudices....Experiential contemplative practices are marvelous ways to begin to teach close reading....Derrida's one big piece of advice: 'decelerate'. Derrida advocated 'slow reading', a careful, painstaking attention to things that saw their faults and their strengths, their crinkly, worn edges and their smooth, well-worn surface. How to see things in their uniqueness and determinacy. An envirionmentally sensitive way of reading....mindfulness meditation...is how you learn to... see beyond your self-imposed view (163).
The process is compared to letting a glass full of dirty water settle. At some point your mind becomes very clear. You also experience a lot of well-being and basic friendliness towards yourself and others...left to its own devices, your mind and your nervous system are basically pretty well meaning. A strong feeling of being attuned to your environment takes place...Beyond this, however, you develp some kind of courage to be welcoming to strangeness (164).
The essence of deconstruction is realising you don't have to believe everything you think. At the same time you realise that you are stuck in your reality. There is some kind of ironic gap between the openness and the stuckness....You can be friendly, yet open...There is more room in your mind for ambiguity and compassion. You have taken your first step toward ecology without Nature (165).
Gottlieb, Robert. Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
trad' env'l history identified two approaches; preservation of (nonhuman) wildness and conservation/ efficient management of (socially utilized) resources
prevailing view challenged by more socially rooted en'l history in '70s & '80s: urban, industrial issues (modes of transportation, use of technology, land, hazardous materials, problems of pollution, waste): environmentalism not exclusively nature-centered, but joining of ecological and social issues, though contradictory discourses remained, in long-standing separation of ecological from social, divide over focus and interpretation of proper arena of action, and over human activity: focus on consumption eliminates role of producer, inside the experience
seeking a "global ethic of place," focusing on all the places we inhabit and share, linking local and global politics, w/ social and ecological joining in a common exercise, constructing a common, "unbounded" vision; env'l issues are ubiquitous: all social relationships involve impications for the biosphere
Griffin, Susan. The Eros of Everyday Life: Essays on Ecology, Gender and Society. New York: Anchor, 1996.
as one generation followed another...women became more natural in our bodies...more intimate with our own nature. Which was also a greater intimacy with nature itself....
It is possible to imagine a collaborative intelligence shaping form, event, circumstance, consequence, life....
The higher a man rises on the social and political ladder the more he is shielded from evidence of human embeddedness in the earth...
With ecology...the ground we walk upon reappears....With this shift in perspective the environment is no longer simply what surrounds us. It is no different from us. We are environment....there is no longer any foreground or background. Nothing can be called surrounding. There is no center, no above, no below...no perspective is valued above any other (45).
"The Eros of Everyday Life": "the individual self is...a fleeting meeting-ground of intricately woven relations, its nature is profoundly participatory, but is, for that, no less endowed with distintiveness, particularity (Joanna Macy)....
gravity is a kind of eros. The great mass of the earth curving space and time around it, the greater mass of the sun drawing the earth in an even circular motion, balanced between fusion and a solitary direction.....to exist in a state of communion is to be aware of the nature of existence. This is where ecology and social justice come together, with the knowlege that life is held in common....
Just as the reader is protected by the supposition that fiction is not true, so too the author of fiction is shielded by this idea. Stories can be told that otherwise could not....
(Thomas Nagel on the difference between knowledge and acknowledgement): "acknowledgement [is] what happens to knowledge...when it becomes officially sanctioned, when it is made part of the public cognitive scene."
Heise, Ursula. “Greening English: Recent Introductions to Ecocriticism.” Contemporary Literature 47, 2 (2006): 289–298.
review of first book-length intros to the field (by Garrard and Buehl)
signals institutional and intellectual integration of env'l approaches as recognized research area
its extraordinary belatedness as institutional presence:
slow translation of environmental concern into literary studies, after political projects had wildly diversified
lacks a paradigm-defining statement like Said's Orientalism for postcolonial studies
Garrard's rhetorical approach (genres of pastoral, apacalypse, etc.)
both see shift from deep-ecological to social-ecological focus, and to globally expanded ecocritical imagination, but define challenges differently
Garrard: redefinition of challenge between science and green cultural studies
(early pastoral ideology derived from misunderstanding of ecology as harmonious, self-generating balance,
rather than dynamic, changing, often out-of-balance)
post-modern ecology does not claim that "nature knows best"
earth-orientated system of will have to acknowlege continingency and indeterminacy @ a fundamental level
cf. "poetics of authenticity" (assumes fixed eternal standard) w/ "poetics of responsibility"
(recognizes standards as ours, demarcation of culture from nature)
how does fuller understanding of nat'l phenomena provide perspective distinctive from cultural/social context?
Buehl: no methodological originality yet:
how might concerns re: nonhuman world reshape study of texts not explicitly about nature
established a permanent concern: "environmentality" as a trace in all texts
(including those whose conscious concern lies elsewhere)
boundary between natural and human-made habitats not clearcut,
but urgency of threat to the nonhuman weakens when focus shifts to humanly engineered environments
almost total elision of other linguistic, cultural traditions than English & American
shortfall in internationalist perspectives
** Heise, Ursula. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global. New York: Oxford, 2008.
in complex evolving theoretical notions of "globalization," "globalism" and "globality," central importance of what role attachments to different kinds of spaces might play: "imagined communities" seen as denying, oppressing differences w/in and between nations
search for countermodels of nation-based concepts of identity: hybridity, creolization, mestizaje, migration, borderlands, diaspora, nomadism, exile, deterritorialization seen as resisting natinal hegemonies, w/ disabling/potentialy empowering marginality, viewing dominant culture from outside, skeptical re: local rootedness, validating identity defined in relation to a multiplicity of places (see James Clifford's Routes, w/ migration @ the core of cultural identity)
transnationalism/critical internationalism/cosmopolitanism--all ways of imagining forms of belonging beyond the local or national--met w/ countercritiques that emphasize national/local modes as ways of resisting imperialism of globalization: conceptual impasse/theoretical stalemate
given excessive investment in the local, urgency of developing an ideal of "eco-cosmopolitanism, or environmental world citizenship; ecologically oreinted thinking needs to come to terms w/ central insight of current theories of globalization: that increasing connectedness of societies entails deterritorialization: the emergence of new forms of culture not anchored in place
how envision ecologically based advocacy on behalf of the nonhuman world, and greater socioenvironmental justice, formulated not in terms of ties to local places, but in terms of whole-planet territories and systems
aesthetic form most appropriate for articulating such a vision is interactive collage or montage (Blue Planet superseded by Google Earth, multiple databases, GPS, imaging techniques; John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar; David Brin's novel Earth; John Cage's poem "Overpopulation and Art"; Baumgarten's faux documentary Der Ursprung der Nacht; Karen Tei Yamashita's Through the Arc of the Rainforest)
important way of imagining global connectedness is idea of a coming "world risk society" (w/ consideration of how variables shape different cultural asessments of risk); Ulrich Beck's "Cosmopolitian Manifesto" postulates emergence of new transnational forms of soidarity on basis of shared risk exposure; cf. novels in which perception of risk (of chemical exposure, of Chernobyl, of global warming) shapes narrative forms
env'l thought can engage in changing realities by incorporating recent theory of globalization/cosmopolitanism and study of risk perception
begins w/ LeGuin's 1971 short story, "Vaster than Empires and More Slow," demonstrating ambivalence towards global connectedness
long persistence of rhetoric of place in U.S. environmentalism (Wendell Berry's Jeffersonian agrarianism, Berg and Dasmann's bioregionalism; current emphasis on minority communities, traditions, and env'l justice/rights), due to ambivalence re: our rootlessness; ideals of local autonomy, self-sufficiency, "situated knowledges" take pre-modern societies as models, has other conceptual and political difficulties, including a failure to question the assumption that identity is rooted in the local, in "the ethic of proximity"
deterriorialization of local knowledge opens up new avenues into ecological consciousness
what is crucial is not sense of place but sense of planet, how networks shape daily routines, how cultural practices are imbricated in larger patterns (wathc weather, bird migration patterns)
draw on theories of cosmopolitanism: modes of awareness beyond the local & national
eco-cosmopolitanism would acknowledge the varieites of enviornmentalism ("post materialist values," deep-ecological valuation of nature for its own sake, vs. "environmentalism of the poor" that works for survival of affected communities)
cosmopolitanism allows indiv'ls to think beyond their own cultural boundaries to a range of other sociocultural frameworks, but is circumscribed by human social experience
eco-cosmopolitansim reaches toward the "more-than-human world," connectedness w/ both animal and inanimate networks of influence and exchange; no easy template for making difficult choices, but an attempt to envision a planetary "imagined community" of both human and nonhuman kinds
a focus on the local can block an understanding of larger salient connections (SimEarth models an understanding of global ecology difficult to attain through direct observation, lived experience: "It is only by becoming more abstract, more estranged from nature that I can make the cultural leap to thinking its fragile totality")
this book traces narrative, metaphorical templates in rhetorical and visual realms that have shaped perceptions of global ecology: allegory, ill suited to reflect dynamic changes, is combined w/ other genres in a wary kind of experimentalism to capture connection, heterogenity, dynamism; epic is combined w/ radically modernist narrative stratgies, searching for modes of representation that accomodate ecological dynamisms, disequilibria, and disjunctions, combining postmodernist experimental modes that resist any direct summing up of parts into wholes or simple foregrounding of connectedness
high modernist techniques of collage and montage show all parts connecting but leading lives of their own; gravitation toward trop of the "network," decentralized system of nodes connected by multiple links (associated w/ information/communication technologies, inverting the organic tropis of human communities)
importance of formal choices in imagination, representation of the global: John Klims' Earth installation, combining different imaging techniques and scales, dynamic manipulation of data by viewer, connectedness of informational and social networks that span the world and prefiguring Google Earth, instantiating "database aesthetic" of new media art: not narrative nor metaphorical bu infinitely expandable, w/ possibility of different sets, links: modernist collage turned global, digital, dynamic, interactive; see also collages of Bruner, Brin, Cage;
in works by Baumgarten and Yamashita, local specificity of the rainforest is an optical illusion, which dissolves when the forest's global connectedness is gradually revealed; the Amazon region is deterritorialized, the local environment imagined less as foundation for unalientated existence than as habitat ceaselessly reshaped by encroachments of blogal and by own inherent dynmaism (but how discriminate bewteen inherent dynamism and disruptive change?); reimagine attachment to environmen whose "nature" is global, not local
modern society has been transformed by the creation of large-scale, extremely complex techno-economic systems for producing, distributing, managing ind'l means of transportation and communication--too complex to be understood or controlled, w/ origins and outcomes difficult to trace and manage; "disembedded" from local, mechanisms of global scope offer security (steady, safe supplies of water, food, electricity), generate new risks and affect social trust: late modernity as a "risk culture" of "endemic uncertainty"; cf. affinity of Ulrich Beck's work on the "world risk society" (the "democracy of smog"): ecological crisis as disintegration of class society, undermining social inequalities, w/ env'l justice advocates, who see ecological risk scenarios superimposed on existing structures of social inequality; the status of the disenfranchized exposes them to hazards the affluent can shelter from, w/ current global ecological crisis as logical exacerbation of capitalism; "vulnerability" ="differential susceptibility to loss from a given insult" as hinge term in analyses; increasing reliance on secondhand nonexperience of risk; risk-sharing can become a basis for community; international risk-based solidarity; eco-cosmopolitanism might link experiences of local endangerment to a sense of planet that encompasses human, nonhuman worlds
Brin's Earth a an innovative attempt to develop a narrative form commensurate w/ complexities, heterogeneities of cultures joined in global crisis--one of most daring (but not successful) attempts to address global ecological risk and envi'l connectedness; combines epic and modernist urban novel in a formal materializatoin of eco-cosmopolitism
like Google Earth, highlights imbrication of local ecologies in global networks, w/ an ambivalent stance toward the process--to be resisted? to become basis for cosmopolitan forms of awareness, community?--engaging w/ steadily increasing patterns of global connectivity, including those created by broadening risk scenarios
Huggan, Graham and Helen Tuffin. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. New York: Routledge, 2010.
burgeoning alliance between postcolonial and env'l studies, increasing convergence of postcolonialism and ecocriticism; painfully obvious need for "green postcolonialism" and "postcolonial ecocriticism," critiques of ecological imperialism, biocolonisation, environmental racism, institutionalized speciesism
postcolonial/ecocritical alliance brings out need for broadly materialist understanding of changing relationship between people, animals and enviornment, requiring attention to cultural politics of representation: contining centrality of the imagination/imaginative literature to postcolonial ecocriticism and mediating function of social and environmental advocacy
postcolonial and ecocriticism need to be understood as particular (affective and analytical) ways of reading, rather than specific corpus of texts, attunded to continuing abuses of authority, seeing environmental, social and economic justice as parts of same whole
broadly eco-socialist in inspiration, but w/ a range of perspectives, taking into account complex interplay of social history w/ natural world, and how (different) languages both shape and reveal such interactions
paradoxically driven by impossibility of utopian ambitions to make exploitation and discrimination of all kinds visible and obsolete
literature has lagged behind in most recent revolutions, w/ emphasis on plot, character and psychological states, focused on human experience w/ environment as background
centralizing of ecological issues in literary studies led to some radical experiments in genre practice, point of view/interpretative focus/ potentially innovating aspects of literary form
colonialist interpretation resulted in destruction/erosion of alternative apprehensions of animals, environment, blocking understanding of crucial interactions
frequent conflict between postcolonialism and ecocriticism:
conservationist ideals vs. human development, extra-human concerns over disadvantaged human groups; competing rights --plus questioning of categories of rights and representation
broadly counter-developmental thrust, set against alternative knowledges
demystify/reveal political implications of pastoral notions of entitlement and belonging
strongly anti-anthropomorphic focus of zoocriticism
righting of imperialist wrongs necessitates writing the wrongs done to animals
Barbara Gowdy's 1998 The White Bone: A Novel of Elephants, making huge imaginative leap to what it would be like to be that big, gentle, imperilled, w/ such prodigious memory; challenges the sort of compartmentalization described in Bruno Latour's vivid formulation of us in Plato's cave, sending out scientists as our representatives to bring back knowlege of outside world & interpret it for us
Gowdy interweaves dialogue w/ 3rd-person narration, incorporating comments on communication, reminding us that it is a form of translation from a very different vocal source; anthropomorphism based on natural history, destabilized reliance on genre; deliberately breaches mind/body dichotomy w/ bodily memory
cf. Martel's Life of Pi, re-written so as not to surprise, w/ animals allegorized/obliterated by human drama;
also Ghosh's The Hungry Tide, w/ tiger's ideological positioning between rights of local people and western conversationalist objectives--but @ end intractable problem of tiger sanctuary displaced by easier dolphin solution (and local environment mightier than either humans or tigers)
Ghosh explores tensions between/win human communities, their respective relations w/ natural world, and extra-discursive reality of nature that changes/is acknowledged by humanity
agency problematic for both postcolonial and env'l studies: "others" pre-positioned not to be heard--due to our own inability to think beyond ourselves; yet anthropomorphism of "non-human agency";
cf. "hungry tide"-> -agency=effecting change
see also Williams' 2007, Goldsworthy's Wish, Costello's The Lives of Animals
Ingram, Anne Merrill, Ian Marshall, Daniel J. Philippon, and Adam W. Sweeting, Eds. Coming into Contact: Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2007.
Introduction: "environments" are both places and processes
1) boundaries of eco-crit: who are we? where are we? how are the 2 related?
swamps ("learning to love the land that has been poisoned, and may be poisoning you"), haiku in Jap Am internment camps--env'l lit of exile, written from places people don't want to be; songs about lynching in the segregated South (sadistic violence in the service of a distorted pastoral ideal--remember billie holiday's "strange fruit"?!), stories of chinese immigrants working for the union pacific railroad in the sierra nevadas in the 1880s--cfed to john muir, scrambling over dangerous passes testing his manhood!
2) actions/praxis: social justice, eco architecture/design, philosophy, theology
complicate, critique commonly held definitions, frequently analyzed texts, complacent approaches--
for "designing hope"
infinite recycling: assignments that can be reused/circulated as ongoing resource in their lives
narratives of eco restoration need to consider indigenous culture history as well as eco past
rename Silent Spring and progeny: not 'apocalyptic"but "precautionary environmentalism"
Ishimure Michiko and Arundhati Roy's prospective concerns re: dam construction
challenge to anti-urban Romanticism by looking @ urban spaces as incipient green architecture
"postnatural ecocriticism": techniques like global biosurveillance that render nature transparent
Anthony Lioi, "Of Swamp Dragons: Mud, Megalopolis, and a Future for Ecocriticism," 17-38
(apply to Swamplandia?!)
Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: ritual pollution = "matter out of place"
such pollution a door to whole cosmologies: "where there is dirt, there is a system"
cf. "dirt-affirming" and "dirt-rejection" cultures, based on reaction to ritual pollution
recognize inevitability of impurity, offer it a carefully defined place to recognize, contain its power;
or imagine it separated from what is sacred, finalize separation by annihilating pollution from cosmos order
much ecocrit has been dirt-rejecting, shunning texts, places compromised by matter-out-of-place, ritual uncleanness of defiled ecosystems
consider swamp dragon (elemental mixture, ethyl impurity) as alternative to posture of prophet, judge, purity, righteousness
growing up in NJ, my land is wetland: damaged, unspectacular, ugly
little in the East is pure and high; distant hope of repristination can't be foundation of env'l devotion
cultural geography of ecocriticism has been located in the West; need to include the Norport Megalopolis (Maine to Va sprawl).
seen as diminished, ruined, of lesser value or interest; but condescension cannot be the basis for love or respect
swamp exemplary of chaos, desecration, diminishment; in 1850s began to be seen as matrix of
transformation, political resistance, repressed psychic materials,
symbolizing unconscious mental processes, repressed matriarchy, anarchism:
literally and figuratively terrain of struggle fo fov't, developers, environmentalists, scientists, ducks
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, remnant of Lake Passaic, site of Meadowlands, superfund site
swamp dragon as new model for ecocritical activity: does not shun compromised places, politic sof poison,
encompasses ironies of diminishment under aegis critical affection
new practice of reading , new attitude toward canon formation, consideration of compromised texts and environments
swampy hermeneutics in Griffin's Woman and Nature and Sullivan's Meadowlands
"lyric swamp" in Griffin's "ecological hypertext," which mimics physics of biological communities as metaphysics of discourse
requires reader to move through it as a rocs, hold contradictory positions w/out resolution,
aiming to undo hierarchical dualism of Western throughout w/ dynamic interrelationship among elements of a cosmos,
embodied in swamp, w/ Dante's Comedy as crucial intertext
cf. "comedic swamp" in Sullivan's parodic adventure narrative exploring polluted wetland:
postmodern Walden for a toxic age, attached to Thoreau and aware of toxicity as env'l norm
(cf. to cynicism of Joyce Carol Oates' "Against Nature," taking nature writers
to task for limits set of responses to morally ambiguous world)
sacramental consciousness: love flawed world as broken embodiment of God's grandeur
learning to love a postlapsarian world: anodyne for injury we did not prevent
U.S. env'lism protects wilderness, ignores urban ecologies
swamp dragon ecstatic identification w/ beleagured cosmos, prevents idealization:
enchantment of proximity and its curse: yew of damage that can't be undone
rubric of swamp dragon transforms guilt of complicity into appreciation of finitude and impurity
figure of resistance from land of refuge, inviting restoration
figure of guile and nonlinear connections, inviting serpentine bioregional consortiums, networks
Allen, Bruce. "Facing the True Costs of Living: Arundhati Roy and Ishimure Michiko on Dams and Writing," 154-167
we know price tags of many things, but not the full costs we pay for them, and therefore we do not know their real values
2 Asian women writers directly facing true (physical, cultural, environmental, spiritual) costs and values:
power of their stories in counteract destruction of dam construction
Michiko's Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow (1969/1972) re industrial methyl mercury poisoning in Japan
combined autobiography, fiction and journalism into new genre = lit of the future
expanded into a trilogy; several novels, essays, poems and Noh drama since
Roy famous for The God of Small things, since then concentrating on nonfiction and social-env'l activism:
has written about dam construction, nuclear armament, globalization, working local problems into larger contexts
both are modern mythmakers, weaving art and activism together
"the god of small things" is not accepting adult boundaries, small activity that goes on, the underlife, examined very closely but also from a very, very,distant point, almost from geological time, to see a pattern there--source of hope in looking @ small things, connecting them to larger ones, appreciate true costs and values…
3) give-and-take with nat'l sciences, reciprocity w/ humanities
replace scientific reductionism w/ Humboldt's integrative "cosmos"
subjective dimension of scientific naming (reflecting agenda of the namer)
"evocriticism" integrates methodology of evolutionary biology in ecocrit,
and treats eco narratives as texts (=our course in EvoLit!)
Mary Treat, 19th c. N.J. naturalist defined by cult of domesticity, explored "home" in lives of species
John Burroughs' geological explorations
ecocrit less marginalized? but margin not a bad place to be:
most productive work of a culture takes place" there (Bakhtin)
"ecotone, the edge where two habitats meet," is precarious but also rich, diverse, productive,
to walk from meadow to forest and back…
LaDuke, Winona. The Winona LaDuke Reader: A Collection of Essential Writings. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 2002.
"Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Futures" (1994).
the culturally and spiritually based way in which indigenous peoples relate to their ecosystems...represents the clearest empirically based systems for resource management and ecosystem protection in North America...native societies' knowledge surpasses the scientific and social knowledge of the dominant society in its ability to provide information and a management style for environmetnal planning. Frankly, these native socieites have existed as the only example of sustainable living in North America for more than 300 years (78).
To be secure that one will be able to harvest enough involves more than skill; it also invovles careful observaiton of the ecosystem and careful behavior determined by social values and cultural practices. "Minobimaatisiiwin," or the "good life," is the basic objective of the Anishinaabeg and Cree people who have..occopied a great poriton of the north-central region of the North American continent. an alternative interprestation of the word is "continuous rebirth"....Two tenets are essential to this paradigm: cyclical thinking and reciprocal relations and responsibilities to the Earth and creation...one could not take life without a reciprocal offering....Additionaly..."you take only what you need, and you leave the rest." Implicit in the concept of Minobimaatisiiwin is a continuous inhabitation of place.....(79-80).
I. A Model
By its very nature, "development"--or, concomitantly, an "economic system" based on these ascribed Indigeous values--must be decentralized, self-reliant, and very closely based on the carrying capacity of that ecosystem....This system has allowed traditional land-based economies to prosper (80-81).
II. Colonialism and Underdevelopment
III. Indigenous Nations Today
IV. Indigenous Environmental Issues
The conflict between two paradigms--industrial thinking and indigenous thinking--becomes central to the ... worldwide, environmental and economic crisis....for many indigenous peoples...development practices are in fact a war on subsistence (86-87).
"The Diaper Problem" (1990):
My father-in-law was a moss baby. My parents were cloth diaper babies as were my brother and I. In 1970, Procter and Gamble released Pampers to the supermarket shelves. By 1976, about half the babies were in Pampers...
"Who Owns America? Minority Land and Community Security" (2001).
...in the indigenous concept...is much more a concept that we belong to the land than the land belongs to us....our concepts...are a collective relationship to the land and individual or family use rights....But that is quite a bit different from the concepts [that] come quite often out of the church....And this is something that needs to be discussed in terms of honesty....these early guys, who were called "discoverers," went to claim land on behalf of the church....today...American...British...Canadian...and Australian legal institutions all hail to their common foundation of British common law and these initial cultural biases on land tenure....aboriginal title is not viewed, quite often, as having the same par as private property under the law....
one of the things that indigenous people find incredibly offensive; the naming process of America...who has the right to name....
...you are coming into, basically, the arena of the thief. The reality is that the founding fathers were land speculators....most of the initial founding fathers...had a lot of issues with people who held things that they coveted....
...if you do not have the ability to sustain yourself on your land, you do not have the ability to sustain yourself. That is it in the end. This akiing is the land to which we belong. It is indeed that. It is not our land. It is the land to which we belong (138-147).
"Honor the Earth: Our Native American Legacy" (1999).
Something about our Ojibwe that's kind of unique, is that we are a language of verbs--eight thousand verbs. That's a lot of verbs, eight thousand verbs. That's what I always say, though--I say that we're a people of action (172).
That is our biggest teaching, that natural law is the highest law, and it would be folly to figure that you can outwit natural law....We all walk down the same path. We all have to live here...How do we know what is natural law?....first, intergenerational residency....observe how your relatives live. That's a good way to know what natural law is. Another source of our knowlege is spiritual...practice (176-177).
...in its essence, the production system is linear...produce product...produce waste...it's not quite in keeping with natural law (178).
Another concept of natural law is the recongition that most things are animate. In my language of eight thousand verbs, most of our nouns are animate.... The word for stone...Even, ironically, the word for car....
but you compare what has happened to...the English langauge, and what you see is over time it's mutated....I say no, excuse, me, that's forest with trees. No: timber resouces, board feet. Of value in terms of its beneficial use toman ....it's a really important conceptual difference between worldviews...allocation of water rights, all in terms of beneficial use....We used to call it corn. Now we call it agricultural product. It moved from being an animate to an inanimate noun. It's important, what's happened even to the language, to recover the language (179).
...one of our last teachings...is the teaching of reciprocity. When you take something, you give something back....that is also a little different than the practices we have...America ...is a society...based on the concept that there is always a West, always a frontier. There will always be someplace to go. We don't necessarily have to give thanks for where we are because we're moving....this conceptual framework--there is always going to someplace we can go...that practice is not sustainable....there is no way that a society that causes so much extinction...is sustainable...is nourishing. The predator worldview is...manifest in how we live here. And every ecological crisis we have today is a direct consequence of that (179-180).
"A Seventh Generation Amendment" (1996).
The framers of the U.S. Constitution envisioned life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in that document, but had little idea of what was to come....it's time to amend the constitution to preserve "the commons" for all of us. It's time for a Common Property, or Seventh Generation, Amendment to the U.S. Constitution....American public policy...is increasingly absent of any intergenerational perspective. That long-term perspectives is crucial....As a consequence, or by default, that which is collectively ours...is often pilfered or degraded by a private interest....Common property resources are those that...cannot, by their nature, be owned by an individual or a corporation, but are held by all people in common...we must consider the impact of a decision mae today on the impact on the seventh generation from now..."the right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy....renewable resrouces...shall not be impaired..."
It's hard to imagine those who framed the U.S. Constitution could have imagined the U.S. at the millennium. It's harder yet to imagine what we'll pass on, if we don't think of the seventh generation from now (273-276).
Fiction and poetry....
** Latour, Bruno. Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Trans. Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.
every type of politics defined by its relation to nature: 2 sets of questions a single issue for all collectives
ecology has no direct access to nature; an "-logy" like all science, w/ a learned comunity as third party in all social relations: reposition enigma of scientific production @ core of political ecology--which has nothing to do w/ nature, and must re-define the political
new constitution: how many are we? can we live together?--> composing a common world, a cosmos
Time's Two Arrows: "To modernize or to ecologize? That is the question."
political ecology has to modify the mechanism that geneates the difference between the past and future, suspend temporality of the moderns
distinction between facts and values depended on two types of exteriorities, one used as a reservoir, the other as dumping ground; but political ecology recognizes that intake and outlet pump is plugged, shows difference between past and future by way of the gap betwen two successive iterations
"...we expect that [the future] will attach us with tighter bonds to more numerous crowds of aliens who have become full-fledged members of the collective that is in the process of being formed....tomorrow, the collective will be more intricate than it was yesterday. We shall indeed have to involve ourselves still more intimately with the existence of a still larger multitude of human and nonhuman beings, whose demands will be still more more incommensurable with those of the past, and we shall nevertheless have to become capable of sheltering them in a common dwelling" (191-192).
political ecology disinvents modernism
"There is not one thing* that is not also an assembly....Not a single one of the indisputable facts that is not the result of a meticulous discussion at the very heart of the collective. Not one matter of fact that does not drag behind it a long train of unexpected consequences that come to haunt the collective by obliging it to reshape itself" (193).
the modernist arrow goes toward detachment; the nonmodern toward reattachment
collective experimentation on attachments, detachments that identify candidates for common existence
fund'l discovery of the ecology movement: no one knows what an enviornmetn can do; no one can define in advance what a human being is, detached from what makes him be; no one knows relative importance of entities in comon world, but anyone can experiement/test--> process of composition, w/ no entity excluded definitively: can never call it quits, suspend the learning curve
in ecological way of thinking, everything is interconnected, w/ every collective thus deformed; only the trajectory of the experiment gives them a civil form; provisional totality composed according to due process, w/ Gaia our remote, generatable great-grand-niece
offended against good sense to rediscover common sense, the sense of the common...by lengthening the list of the requirements that bear on the constitution of the facts; separating facts from values meant losing the two most important functions: the capacities to debate hte common world, and to reach agreement by closing the discussion; we need much more collecctive experimentation on what is essential, what accessory, extending the question of democracy to nonhumans; imagining a due process for the discovery of the common world is difficult, demanding, procedural, groping; the reason there is a common world still to come is that we are unaware of the collective consequences of our actions, as the collective collects itself again
progress consists in going from the tangled to the more tangled, to an inextricable mix; freedom = ever-increasing attachments; fraternity = working w/ all others to build a single common world; equality = taking responsibility for nonhumans, not knowing ahead of time what is means, what ends
Thing: the etymological sense...always refers to a matter at the heart of an assembly in which a discussion takes place requiring a judgment reached in common...the etymology of the word thus contains the index of the collective (res, ding, chose) that we are trying to assemble here.
LeGuin, Ursula K. Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences. New York: Penguin, 1987.
Rocks are what a place is made of to start with and after all. They are under everything else in the world (55).
The relation of our species to plant life is one of total dependence and total exploitation....without plant respiration we'd suffocate promptly; without vegetable food...we starve. There is no other food (83).
"Vaster" is a story about boldly going where, etc. In it I was, in part, trying to talk about the obscure fear, called panic, which many of us feel when alone in wilderness. I have lost the trail on an Oregon mountain in logged-over second-growth forest, where my individual relation to the trees and undergrowth and soil and my relative position in their earth-and-ocean-wide realm, as an animal and as a human, were, you might, brought home to me....(84).
Love, Glen. Practical Ecocriticism: Literature, Biology, and the Environment. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003.
ecocriticism, unlike all other forms of liteary inquiry, encompasses nonhuman as well as human contexts and considerations (and so challenges much postmodern critical discoruse and past critical systems)
lit crit's curious, strange inattention to env'l questions while it pursued, race, class, gender;
now rapid expansion of congeries of semioverlapping projects
agressive anti-anthropocentrims of earlier ecocriticsm now making way for "environmentally useful emphasis" on what it means to be human
ecology underlying integrating science of today's world, ecocriticism as one of the new "interface" fields
cf. Practical Ecocritism" w/ Richard's "Practical Criticism" re lit work as autonomous/close-reading
testing both nature-endorsers and nature-skeptics against benchmark of ecological relevance
extending env'l criticism beyond "nature writers" to fresh re-reading of established texts
(Willa Cather's minimalist stylistic experiments, interlacing cultura and biological elements;
Ernest Hemingway's "iceberg principle," engaging paradoxical, deadly ecological conflict w/ primitivism;
William Dean Howells' questioning of altruism vs. selfishness in human nature/behavior)
more biologically informed ecocritical dialogue
Love, Glen. "Revaluing Nature: Toward an Ecological Criticism." The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1996. 225-240.
Why are the activities aboard the Titanic so fascinating to us that we give no heed to the water through which we pass, or to that iceberg on the horizon?...we must recognize, in our failure to consider the iceberg, our discipline's limited humanistic vision, our narrowly anthropocentric view of what is consequential in life....the time is past due for a redefinition of what is significant on earth....the revaluation of nature will be accompanied by a major reordering of the literary genres....
Marder, Michael If Peas Can Talk, Should We Eat Them? The New York Times (April 28, 2012).
Mazel, David. American Literary Environmentalism. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000.
--the environment itself a myth, a "grand fable" subject to literary history/geneology,
a discursive construction whose "reality" derives from the ways we write/speak/think about it--
w/ fund'l ideological underpinnings that work to undermine env'lism's most progressive ideals
most evident in focus on "nature," esp. "wilderness"-->obscuring/enabling economic, political, historical relationships @ root of env'l destruction, human opppression
"Nature is forever blinding us to History" (Barthes)--convincing us to accept inevitable natural processes as substitute for complexities of capital formation, class and interest-group competition
postmodern critique of construction of "environment" parallels old debates in feminism re: referent "woman"-->
useful fiction, necessary but necessarily revisable re: exclusionary assumptions; a la Butler,
"a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce effect of boundary, fixity, surface we call matter";
nature, like sex: not real but performative, malleable
env'l discourse constitutes specifically American nature AND nation; cf. ecocritical critique of "national narrative"--
environmentalist, nationalist, narratorial project rooted in colonial "errand into the wilderness" and culminating in creation of Yosemite National Park (efficacy of wilderness landscape in constructing desired national subject, enlisted in what Lauren Berlant termes the National Symbolic, "the fantasy-work of national identity")
in this poststructuralist ecocritism, interpretation = whiteness + masculinity = ownership
wilderness seen as a Great Book, first readable by, then disciplinary of modern "Aemrican" subject--and reinterpretable in the future
cf. Bill McKibben's originary nature w/ Rebecca Solnit's postmodern enviornmentalist memoir, Savage Dreams
literary environmentalism akin to Orientalism: an invented, naturalized formulation,
exemplified in elegiac tone of McKibben's The End of Nature
postnaturality refers to our sense that an escape from culture into nature was never availablee,
that the environmental narrative is not the "discovery" of wilderness but the performance of an identity
Solnit's text demonstrates promise of postnatural env'l writing,
by forthrightly, responsibly engaging social dimensions of the environment:
juxtaposing Yosemite w/ Nevada Test Site, in vividly remembered histories
McIntosh, Margaret Taylor. Joseph Wright Taylor: Founder of Bryn Mawr College. Haverford: Charles Shoemaker Taylor, 1936:
It is quite impossible now at the end of half a century of its history for any of us whose lives have been long and affectionately associated with Bryn Mawr College to imagine our world with Bryn Mawr completely left out of it. But it would have been left out of our world, and out of anybody's world whatever, if it had not been for the life of the man whose biography is given herein....an idea gestated in the mind of Dr. Joseph W. Taylor was the primary cause of Bryn Mawr College. That idea set going processes that have no predictable terminus....This extraordinary Quaker contribution ti higher education had its deep-lying spring almost certainly in he fundamental Quaker conception of life and its divine possibilities. And it is notable that the type of education in all these institutions [Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Bryn Mawr] was planned on remarkably broad and generous lines (xiii).
As his diaries show, Dr. Taylor always had a warm spot for women and took especial notice of them. He got on better with them than with men, and many were numbered among his friends. Family tradition has it that he tried to marry several....He had one very intimate woman friend--a wealthy New York Quaker...why they did not marry we do not know (105).
[A letter to Dr. Taylor from Francis King, "on 4th mo. 13th, '77," reporting on a conversation with Professor Morris of Hopkins:]
He says Vassar, in its isolated situation, with two expensive buildings and no endowment worth speaking of, will never rise to a high position. You must go near to a large city or to other kindred influences. The more of such institutions together the better for the education, and the cheaper for the running costs. He would not separate Haverford and the female college over half a mile....we would use the same observatory, lectures, laboratory, gas, and water....
Later that year, "10th mo. 16th, '77," Francis King writes diapproving of some considered spot, "as ... it would not be on the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which is of such ready connection with all parts of the country....Gilman... would prefer one to three miles form Haverford if on the Pennsylvania Railroad, so as to use a few professors in common and occasionally bring the students together on grand occasions" (184-185).
[A letter to Dr. Taylor from James E. Rhoads, later the first President of Bryn Mawr College,Germantown, Philada, 6/30/'77]:
I feel as if I ought to encourage thee to carry out thy generous design for a Higher Institution of Learning for Girls....should rather incline to place it near this City, where the benefit of professors and literary and scientific aids could be had, also some social influences; and yet quite apart from Haverford College as I think this would tend to the more untrammelled and vigorous growth of both Institutions.
With a view to finding a suitable location for a college, Dr. Taylor looked over land along the Pennsylvania Railroad from Wynnewood to Villa Nova, the Valley of Chester Creek, and the junction of the West Chester and Baltimore Central Railroads.....curiously enough, the final choice was made so as to permit a thrifty sharing of certain overhead expenses with Haverford College, an arrangement which, in fact, was never carried out (186-187).
[James Rhoads wrote,] By nature cautious, Dr. Taylor had to be reassured of the healthful and advantageous location of Bryn Mawr. At this period what was called 'bilious fever' laid out whole families, and the importance of good water and correct drainage could not be over-estimated. In this connection Dr. Taylor inquired of...the physician at Haverford College...He said there need be no fear on the ground of health, as he had never known a case of low typhoid or malarial fever or dysentery or kindred epidemic diseases there or in the niegborhood which had not been brought there from another place (187-188).
Dr. Taylor took great personal interest in the landscape architecture and welcomed the suggestion of his friend David Scull, made in the following letter (Overbrook, 6 mo. 14th, '79): I found that in [the architect] Addison's opinion the landscape gardener had little or nothing to do until the architect was pretty much through....I cannot but think...a skillful landscape gardener might arrange a design which would be tasteful and attractive, and promote a pleasing idea of unity in the whole college property. No doubt many parents and studnets form their opinion of such an institution on the highest grounds, i.e. its mental outfit; but many more (especially in the case of young ladies) would be largely influenced by impressions from that which merely meets the eye, and towards this the combination of attractive looking buildings in a well kept and tastefully arranged college lawn would largely contribute....Perhaps the topographical features of the ground limit the choice very closely, but if there is some latittude in this respect, I can imagine...a tasteful plan adopted at the start...the effect would be very much more pleasing than when the gardener is called in at the last to do the best he can, but not what he might have done earlier (189-190).
[Francis King's....meticulous attention to detail...was invaluable to Dr. Taylor, 8/28/'78)]:
....Low ceilings at Smith and high ones at Wellesley....We have found in the construction of our Hospital buildings that the question is not how much air a room will contain, but what are its capabiities of receiving fresh air & discharging foul air....Florence Nightingale & other authorities say that in sick wards of 28x100 ft. all space over 16 ft. in elevation is useless; in other buildings less elevation answers. A building used by girls should have easy stairs, moderately high stories, & thorough ventilation & heating .... Would it not be well to have light calisthenics (for only such are fit for girls) and outside games and walks...? (192-193).
Can thee get any evidence of bricks made at Bryn Mawr bieng good? I fear the soil is too loose--not tough. I hope it can be done. The holes made can be filled with dirt from foundation....I think I would face the building...towards the hotel [now Baldwin School] the depot, the town, and the natural approach. The view from the railroad as you approach Bryn Mawr from Haverford would still be good. The tower would loom up in a group of buildings and cottages, and a full broadside of the academic building would show (194).
Dr. Taylor received unsolicited suggesitons (2nd mo. 10th, 1870):
I have frequently met young women and girls who could not endure ordinary school life, on account of the delicacy of their organization, brought about perhaps by their modes of life. This has been more especially observable in the higher classes of society. Schools are generally established for the benefit of the robust, those who can stand the strain of hard application to study. The consequence is that these delicate ones are out of place in such institutions, being considered rather clogs in the progress of classes....a small school, established especially for such girls, where their physical development should be made the prime object, and literary education thrown in, as they were prepared for it might be made a success....With careful exercise increasing in amount, as their muscular [strength] should warrant it.....I believe many young women might have weak constitutions much strengthened (199).
The following extracts from Dr. Taylor's Will, dated February 19, 1877, have to do with Bryn Mawr College.
I give, devise and bequeath all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, real and personal...for a College or Institutiom of learning, having for its object the advanced education of females...the said Trustess of said Corporation may proceed to expend a portion of the principal in the purchase of suitable ground, chosen with care by them, and the erection thereon of substantial buildings of the most approved construction, for the comfort advanced education and care of young women, or girls of the higher and more refined classes of society.
Said Trustees are to locate the site near to or accessible to a station on the Pennsylvania Railroad within a dozen miles of philadelphia in Pennylvania...
In the admission of students, other things being equal, preference is to be given to the Society of Friends; but in all cases those should be preferred who are of high moral and religious attainments and good examples and influence, and, such as are most advanced in education....all must conform to the customs and rules of the institution and be willing to be educated as Friends...care should be taken to educate Young Women to fit them to become Teachers of a high order, and thus to extend the good influence of this Institution far and wide through them (207-208).
Twelve days beofre his death Dr. Taylor had written ...: "what is our life? It is a shadow! which appeareth but a little time--and then vanisheth away!" (211).
Meeker, Joseph. The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology. New York: Scribner's, 1972.
Konrad Lorenz, Forward: The tragic view of life, embodied in the hero of the Greek tragedy, is based on the deep conviction that man has no part of nature, that he is not subject to natural law but, quite on the contrary,....to moral laws to which his behavior must unconditionaly conform. The fundamental theme of all literary tragedy is given by the conflict between moral and natural laws. In the attempt to conform to nature, be it only in the forgiveable endeavor to survive, the tragic hero cannot avoid breaking moral laws and so incurring a guilt which...must be expiated....
The antithesis of man and nature as polar opposites not only leads to the unavoidable doom of the human hero, but also to that of nature. "The proud visions affirmed by litrary tragedy have ... led to ecological catastrophe" ....man's spiritual elevation above his natural environment....also leads to the exclusive concentration of all his moral obligations of his fellow human beings; no moral or ethical limitations are imposed upon humanitiy in regard to the ruthless exploitation of all non-human nature...
Dr. Meeker's central idea is that the comic mode of behavior is a genuine affirmation of instinctive patterns necessary for biological survival....Humility before the earth and its processes, the essential message of comedy, is necessary for the survival of our species....
Chapter One: An Introduction to Literary Ecology.
the creation of literature...should be examined carefully and honestly to discover its influence upon human behavior and the natural enviornment ....Is it an activity which adapts us better to the world or one which estranges us from it?...does literature contribute more to our survival than it does to our extinction?....The origins of enviromental crisis lie deep in human cultural traditions....The cultural images describing what we ight be have helped us to become what we are: however the human mind imagines the world, that is how the world tends to become...
The profound insight @ the heart of the science of ecology is that nature is indivisible....Comparative literture is to the humanities what ecology is to the natural sciences...unintelligible apart from its total context....The study of process and relationship is an interdiscipoinary technique common to ecology and comparative literature.... Literature, like science, has as often contributed to the destruction or degradation of biological environments...the studies which follow are an attempt to identify some adaptive ... postures in the literary traditions of human culture...which offer the prospect of a human future in closer agreement with the processes of nature...
Chapter Two: The Comic Mode....
Merchant, Carolyn. Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World. Second Edition. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2005.
Preface: radicals and revolutionaries address whole systems of injustice...the sexist treatment of women and ecological devastation may have the same root.
Acknowledgments: Many people, as well as other organisms and the entire planet, have made this book possible.
Introduction: What Is Radical Ecology? (pp. 1-13)
Self in Society: Consider your own family's history and place in society going back at least to your grandparents.... How did your families use the land and relate to nature?... the transofrmation of nature into commodity, which allowed their...rise in status, has had immense linked environmental and human costs...new values are now needed....
Society in Self: How have you yourself been socialized?...social patterns are imprinted on us as we grow up...we can articulate an ethic that either sustains or reforms the institutions around us...
Self Versus Society: Our lives bear the continuities of the past, but our futures reflect the problems facing the next generations. We go on making an dremaking ourselves each day...what conflicts do you experience between your own values and goals and the institutions and environment you anticipate in the future?
Radical Ecology: pushes social and ecological systems toward new patterns .... Environmental problems ... result from contradictions ... tensions beween the economic forces of production and local ecological conditions....tensions between reproduction and production....these contradictions...undermine the efficacy of Western culture's legitimating world view.... Mechanism and its ethic of domination legitimates the use of nature as commodity, a central tenant of industrial capitalism. Deep ecologists...spiritual ecologists...social ecologists...green political activists....ecofeminists...antiglobalization and sustainable development movements....search for new approaches....
Chapter 4: Deep Ecology (pp. 91-115):
calls for a new metaphysics, psychology, anthropology, ecocentric ethic, sense of human place w/in the household of nature...but is lacking a political critique, is socioeconomically and scientifically naive, and androcentric...Deepest ecology is both feminist and egalitarian.
Table 9.2: Whare You At? A Bioregional Quiz (p. 238)
"The truth is...that any concept of a 'natural' ecosystem is only a snapshot of how things were at some arbitrarily-chosen point of time. And if you do begin to pay attention to the artificial and new and exotic aspects of your environment, then you have opened yourself up to the contemplation of a world that is much, much more complex than the bioregionalists would have us believe. This is the real world....(p. 240).
Conclusion (pp. 249-254):
most of world's power is preently concentrated in economic systems and political institutions that bring about environmental deterioration....Radical ecology...stands outside the dominant political, economic, and scientific world order...challenges the hegemony.
Mentz, Steve. "Tongues in the Storm: Shakespeare, Ecological Crisis, and the Resources of Genre." Ecocritical Shakespeare, ed. Lynne Bruckner and Dan Brayton (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2011), 155-72.
early modern narratives emphasize proto-ecological values like interdependence, unanticipated consequences, and the limits of human ambition; the Elizabethean World Picture is analogous to the Gaia hypothesis
Shakespearean self-consciousness about literary invention can help renovate narratives about human beings and the natural world: his plays model a mutable systme for coming to terms w/ change and catastrophe; their dramatic structures can help shape future conversations about remediation and stability
key task of ecocriticism has been critiquing trad'l Western myths re: nature
dissatisfied with nature as external, static source of purity, alterity
"post-equilibrium shift" in the ecological sciences/"the new ecology"
argues that natural systems are not stable (no equilibirum or homeostasis)
"Wherever we seek to find constancy we discover change"
can use change in narrative culture to respond to this image of disruption in nature
cf. opposed fantasies of nature in comic As You Like It and tragic King Lear:
each recognizes blindness of primary stance, and offers alternative in inventive next-generation figure
Bill McKibben argues that current crisis requires narratives of ecological rupture
("global warming is essentially a literary problem")
a shared narrative may instigate action; need to supplement the pastoral with a wider range of stories,
new choices of generic forms (Shakespeare's were classical models of comedy and tragedy;
he imitated and mixed multiple competing genres, recognizing that all narrative structures change
the abiding fantasy of comedy is reconciliation; cf. darker stories of tragedy
Shakespeare's ability to shift between tragic agony and comic resilience, distant from both,
can help re-frame familiar stories in an unfamiliar world: meta-narratives are practical but fungible tools
cf. green world of Arden w/ counter-image of storm scenes in King Lear,
which resist human attempts to construct survivable narratives: nature is inhospitable
Joseph Meekr proposed comedy as fundamental ecological genre; his "play ethic" not limited to
comedy, but exemplified in ecological exchange of Shakespeare's polygeneric drama:
continuum between intelligible, harmonious environment and indifferent, hostile one
cf. complimentary generic differences of Bruno Latour's Politics of Nature
and Timothy Morton's Ecology without Nature:
both skepticial re: progressive narratives re: "nature," but
Latour's comic wit, energy advocates radically pluralistic politics,
while tragic clarity of Morton puts aesthetics @ center of political eco-debates
Latour: ecological crises are "revolts of means": w/ every entity treated as an end,
the sphere of social debate radically expands all public institutions
cf. Morton's tragic refusal of sentimental fantasies of nature
literary representations useful because not real, and self-aware re: own artificiality
familiar narrative habits contain stumbling blocks for env'l thinking
Meyers, Jeffrey. Converging Stories: Race, Ecology, and Environmental Justice in American Literature. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2005.
racial oppression and environmental destruction inherently and historically related and addressed by 19th c. writers; development of race and ecology as interrelated themes of American literature from late 18th-early 20th century
drawing on contemporary race theory and ecocriticsm to argue that the ethnocentric outlook that constructed "whiteness" over and against the alterity of other racial categories is the same perspective that constructed the anthropocentric paradigm @ the root of environmental destruction
Jefferson and Emerson's racism and alienation from nature came from the same source, a foundation undermined by emerging ecological consciousness of mid-19th century
ecocentricty of Thoreau forms continuum w/ thinking on antiracist social reform; more fully ecological vision of people and land of Charles chesntut and Zitkala-Sa: ecological views of species equality reveal spuriousness of racial hierarchies
until recently, most ecocriticism steered clear of race, but now critics address the need for multicultural ecocriticism: critique 'nature talk' that splits environmental from social concerns
separation among races, like separation of human from nonhuman, is illusory in ecological terms
"ecology" is totality of interactions among species and their habitats
2 central theoretical foundations: race is socialy, historicaly constrcuted (w/ whiteness delineatedagainst subalterit of other races); and ecocentric decentering of humanity, repositioned as interconnected, equal w/ other beings
fully ecocentric worldview places human ind'l in relationships of interconnection, involvement, responsiblity w/ all beings: ecocentricity basis for ecological sustainability and social justice
Ramachandra Guha, "Radical Environmentalism and Wilderness Preservation: A Third World Critique"--American obsession w/ wilderness preservation neglects far more pressing env'l problems, reveals imperialist yearnings of Western biologists
see Katherine Hayles in both Uncommon Ground and Reinventing Nature?
white American indiv'l self subordinates/imagines the subaltern (people of color an nature....) w/out will, agency, ontological status of subject: related social constructions re: superior status of (white) self
physiphobia: fear of erasure by primacy of the natural world
3 goals of ecocentricity: diversity, sustainability and equity
need to expand "environmental writing" to include resistance to ecological and racial hegemony
20th c. writers who recover a cultural resistance to this hegemony: Alice Walker, Simon Ortiz, Leslie Silko, Zora Hurston
need for socially egalitarian and ecoloigcally sustainable position that brings together democracy and stewardship: Thoreau's ecocentric "self-relinquishment" of mastery (over others and nat'l world)
see Alice Walker's "Am I Blue?" Silko's "Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination," and intro to Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain, as well as Eddy Harris's 1988 Mississippi Solo, which both renounces human superiority over the rest of the natural world and eliminates race as a meaningful divide between people: fully ecocentric and socially egalitarian
Morton, Timothy. Ecology Without Nature: Re-thinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.
Writing this book...a precarious picture of walking across a minefield with a bouquet of flowers, dressed in the costume of a clown (vii).
Introduction: Toward a Theory of Ecological Criticism
Nobody likes it when you mention the unconscious, and nowadays, hardly anybody like it when you mention the environment...Nobody likes it when you mention the unconscious...because when you mention it, it becomes conscious. In the same way, when you mention the environment, you bring it to the foreground....it stops being the environment. It stops being That Thing Over There that surrounds and sustains us. When you think about where your waste goes, your world starts to shrink. This is the basic message of criticism that speaks up for environmental justice....
...the very idea of "nature" which so many hold dear will have to wither away in an "ecological" state of human society...the idea of nature is getting in the way of properly ecological forms of culture, philoosphy, politics, and art. This book addresses this paradox by considering art above all else, for it is in the art that the fantasies we have about nature take shape--and dissolve. In particular, the literature of the Romantic period...still influences the way in which the ecological imaginary works (1).
...ecological writers are preoccupied with the "holy grail" of generating "new and encompassing worldview ... regarded as capable of transforming human politics and society"....but nature keeps giving writers the slip...in all its confusing, ideological intensity....the narrative of nature appreciation is complicated by a growing awareness of "historical realities." Ecology without Nature systematiclaly attempts to theorize this complication .... The goal is to think through an argument about what we mean by the word environment itself (2-3).
...environmental art...is hamstrung by certain formal properties of language....I propose that....close reading tools be used to keep one step ahead of the ideological forces that ecological writing generates. I outline a theory of ambient poetics, a materialist way of reaidng texts with a view to how they encode the literal space of their inscription....the spaces between the words, the margins of the page, the physical and social enviornment of the reader (3).
...even forms of rebellion against consumerism, such as environmentalist practices, fall under the consumerist umbrella. Because consumerism is a discourse about identity...in environmentalist writing...a narrator, an "I," struggles to situate him- or herself in an environment....the "Aeolian," ambient poetics...picking up the vibrations of a material universe an drecoding them with high fidelity--inevitably ignores the subject, and thus cannot fully come to terms with an ecology that may manifest itself in beings who are also persons (4).
This "theory of the theory" is political. Far from achieving greater levels of "theoretical" abstraction...the volume "rises" to higher and higher levels of concreteness....Ecological writing keeps insisting that we are "embedded" in nature...a surrounding medium that sustains our being....Putting somethig called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does to the figure of Woman. It is a paradoxical act of sadistic admiration...Nature has become a transcendental principle...what emerges from the book is a wider view of the possibiilties...the "widescreen" version of ecological cutlure...Ecocriticism has held a special, siolated place in the academy, in part because of the ideological baggage it is lumbered with. My intent is to open it up, to broaden it....The time should come when we ask of any text, "What does this say about the enviornment?" In the current situation we have already decided which texts we will be asking....It is vital for us to think and act in more general, wider terms. Particularism...can become shortsighted....I wish to advance ecocritical thinking....My work is about an "ecology to come"...a long-range [contribution]...to the debate opened up by environmental justice ecocriticism (4-6).
Ecology without Nature is inspired by the way in which deconstruction searches out, with ruthless and brilliant intensity, points of contradiction and deep hesitation in systems of meaning....there is indeed a connection between [deep ecology and deconstruction]...and I wish heartily to promote it....I assert that the rhetorical strategies of nature writing undermine what one could call ecologocentrisim....idea of nature...set people's hearts beating an dstop the thinkng process....In the name of ecology, this book is a searching criticims of a term that holds us back from meaningful engagemtns with what...nature is all about: things that are not identical to us or our preformed concepts....the habitual discussions of anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism...beg the question of what precisely counts as human, what counts as nature....I have chosen to hesitate at a more basic level, to lodge my criticism in the fissures between such categories (6-7).
Ecology without Nature accounts for the phenomenon of environmentalism in culture...by operating principally upon a single pressure point: the idea of "nature writing' or...ecomimesis ...."A theory of ecological criticism" is...to criticize the ecocritic....wholeheartedly ecological in its political and philosophical orientation...it does not thump an existing ecocritical tub...with the aim not of shutting down ecocriticism, but of opening it up (8-9).
Our notions of place are retroactive fantasy constructs determined percisely by the corrosive effects of modernity. Place was not lost...is part of our worldview right now...actually propping up that view...Here is the book's cri de guerre .... If we left our ideas about nature on hold for a moment, instead of introducing them all too soon...a clearer picture would emerge of what exactly the idea of "environment" is in the first place....Instead of lumping together a list of things and dubbing it "nature," the aim is to slow down and take the list apart--and to put into question the idea of making a list at all. Ecology without Nature takes seriously the idea that truly theoretical reflection is possible only if thinking decelerates...finding anomalies, paradoxes, and conundrums in an otherwise smooth-looking stream of ideas....Ultimately, theory...is supposed to ...examine the ways in which ideological illusions maintain their grip. The point is to go against the grain of dominant, normative ideas about nature..in the name of sentient beings suffering under catastrophic environmental conditions....the only ethical option is to muck in ....ecocritique ...is critical and self-critical ... similar to queer theory. In the name of all that we value in the idea of "nature," it thoroughly examines how nature is set up as a transcendental, unified, independent category...the guiding slogan of ecocrique is: "not afraid of nonidentity" (11-13).
One of the ideas inhibiting genuinely ecological politics, ethics, philosphy, and art is the idea of nature itself...a transcendental term in a material mask...consistency is what nature is all about...Saying that something is unnatural is saying that it does not conform to a norm...."nature" occupies at least three places in symbolic language....it is a mere empty placeholder for a host of other concpets....it has the force of law, a norm against which deviation is measured...is a Pandora's box..that encapsulates a potentially infinite series of disparate fantasy objects. It is this third sense--nature as fantasy--that this book most fully engages (14).
Nature and nation are very closely intertwined....ecocritique could examine the ways in which nature...actually forms the bedrock of nationalist enjoyment....According to...Rousseau, the framers of the social contract start out in a state of nature .... In the Enlightenment...the normal was set up as different from the pathological along the coordinates of the natural and the unnatural. Nature...put a stop to argument or rational inquiry .... Nature...becomes an oblique way of talking about politics. What is presented as straightforward, "unmarked," beyond contestation, is warped (15-16).
One of the basic problems with nature is that it could be considered either as a substance, as a squishy thing in itself, or as essence, as an abstract principle that transcends the material realm and even the realm of representation....On the whole, nature writing....has tended to favor a substantialist view of nature--it is palpable and there...further work in ecocritique should delineate a republican, nonsubstantialist countertradition running through writers...for whom nature did not stand in for an authority for which your sacrifice yor autonomy and reason (16).
Environmental writing is a way of registering the feeling of being surrounded by...an otherness, something that is not the self....such displacements always say something about the kinds of collective life that ecological writing is envisaging....The idea of the enviornment is more or less a way of considering groups and collectives....It is about being-with....the actual situation is far more drastically collective than that....To write about ecoloyg is to write about society....Different images of the environment suit different kinds of society....we could think of the environment in a more open, rational and differently sensuous manner (17-18).
When I suggest that we drop the concept of nature, I am saying that we really drop it...."Ecology without nature" is a relentless questioning of essence... nature is often wheeled out to adjudicate bewteen what is fleeting and what is substantial and permanent...Given that much ecocriticism and ecological literature is primitivist, it is ironic that indigenous societies often refer to nature as a shape-shifting trickster...nature is history ...."nature" is an arbitrary rhetorical construct, empty of independent, genuine existence behind or beyond the texts we create about it (21-22).
The "thing" we call nature becomes, in the Romantic period and afterward, a way of healing what modern society has damaged .... Contact with nature...will mend the bridge...There are at least two ways of looking at these irksome questions. The first...questions what is problematic about the problem itself. If...we coexist in an infinite web of mutual interdependence...one of the targets of genuine critique could be the very (eco)critical languages--the constant elegy for a lost unalienated state....The second approach is to wonder whether...dualism were hardwired into our world...take...dualism...as an ideological feature of the way in which the world operates (22).
"Ecology without nature" could mean "ecology without a concept of the natural." Thinking, when it becomes ideological, tends to fixate on concepts rather than doing what is "natural" to thought, namely, dissolving whatever has taken form. Ecological thinking that was not fixated, that did not stop at a particular concretization of its object, would thus be "without nature"....This is the aim of environmental literature: to encapsulate a utopian image of nature which does not really exist--we have destroyed it; which goes beyond our conceptual grasp. On the other hand, a nonconceptual image can be a compelling focus for an intensely conceptual system---an ideological system. The dense meaninglessness of nature writing can exert a gravitational pull (24).
The aesthetic is...a product of distance: of human beings from nature, of subjects from objects, of mind from matter. Is it not rather suspiciously anti-ecological?....[There are] problems of this intrinsically spatial way of thinking...a dimension...assumes a dichotomy between inside and outside, the very thing that has yet to be established (24-25).
For Adorno...the aesthetic helpfully distances us from something we have a tendency to destroy when we get close to it...the aesthetic promotes nonviolence toward nature....For Benjjamin, on the other hand, the aesthetic, in its distancing, alienates us frm the world. What we need is some kind of anti-aesthetic strategy....It is still uncertain whether the aesthetic is something we should shun, in the name of generating a liberating ecological artistic practice (25).
Both virtual reality and the ecological panic are about immersive experiences in which our usual reference point, or illusion of one, has been lost....it becomes impossible to count on an idea of "distance." We feel that we can't achieve a critical purchase...."there is no metalanguage"...nowhere outside a signifiying system frm which to pronounce upon it....We are now compelled to achieve ways of sorting things out without the safety net of distance....the inside/outside distinction has itself begun to be corroded....we cannot extricate ourselves....The so-called ecological crisis...is also a crisis of reason (26-27).
To be truly theoretical is to doubt....the only firm ethical option in the current catastrophe....there lives more faith in honest doubt...than in the outworn creeds of nature.... I long to charactrize what I am aiming for as "really deep ecology"...to be deep green means...to let go of the idea of Nature, the one thing that maintains an aesthetic distance between us and them, us and it, us and "over there." How deep does deep ecology want to go?...We must deal with the idea of distance itself....we could jump down into the mud....admit that we have a choice....accept our own death, and the fact of mortality among species and ecosystems. This is the ultimate rationality: holding our mind open for the absolutely unknown that is to come.... (204-205).
Murphy, Patrick D. Ecocritical Explorations in Literary and Cultural Studies: Fences, Boundaries and Fields. Lanham : Lexington Books, 2009.
inevitability and inadequacy of referentiality; pivotal (not foundational) localist, w/ attention to diversity, particularity; fund'l grounding not in autonomy and self-reliance, but interdependence and mutual aid (Walden lacks ref to us as interdependent social animals: achieving a simple life requires complex interactions, and was temporary; cf. later texts, less isolated, individualistic, independent....)
difference and responsibility as Bakhtinian annotherness and answerability; thinking beyond the nation-state w/ "ecologically answerable transnational formations" like Yamashita's Tropic of Orange and bioregional intentional communities like Bessie Head's; principle of belongingness must be accompanied by that of affectedness: relevant community is the one @ risk
how to draw on integrated techological dimension of current students' experience of reality to teach evn'l justice?
they engage on-line in multi-model discourse, interactive (dialogic, process-based) communication, w/ a hypericonic reading gestalt; hypertext, games, et.al. increase their sense of the contingency, porosity, permeability of experience, w/ multiple, developing relationships; cf. Kingsolver's static, utopian Prodigal Summer w/ the flexible multicausality of Letham's Girl in a Landscape and Gloss's The Dazzle of Day
"extrapolating" from science fiction to present day (rather than fantasizing escape); interconnection between present and future means "no alibi" for addressing results of our actions
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy--> space colonization no answer (expense, logistics)
David Brin's damaging novel Earth provides loopholes and ways out, w/ deus ex machina
(benign alien intelligence) to resolve plot--> all-powerful artificial intelligence absolves humans;
psychotic ecoterrorist annihilates millions, and so relieves population pressure...
"non-alibi of pragmatic utopianism and wild variability: optimistic variations on scifi theme":
blaming the structure creates an alibi for ind'ls; cf. non-alibi of taking ethical responsibility for one's own actions,
seen in optimistic plots of planetary resilience and human innovation:
Michael Crichton's Prey, Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age (re: nanotechnology)
contemporary utopian fictions portray unpredictable, unregulatable worlds:
Miyasaki's graphic novel Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, young adult series Anamorphs
"We are continuing to live in a world filled with many strange and unforeseeable things, and an increasing number of them are of our own creation….they contain the nature from which we and they arose. While we cannot exactly trust the wild variability upon which pragmatic utopianism is based to provide predetermined answers for every unanticipated occasion, we can assume responsibility for our actions moment to moment in relation to the results of those variables occurring in the world.…we can trust that wild variability, spontaneity, and unpredictably in life will open numerous avenues down which to walk into the future" (117).
escapist fiction leaves readers w/ a sense of closure, completion, cathartic release (vs. popular fiction that educates: John D. MacDonald's Florida novels: Travis McGee series, Murder in the Wind, A Flash of Green, Condominium, Barrier Island; Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon novels in national parks; Judith Van Gieson's mystery novels of New Mexico landscape; and John Straley's anti-romantic Alaska novels)
Nolet, V. (2009). Preparing sustainability-literate teachers. Teachers College Record 111 (2,
sustainability is an emergent paradigm that considers environmental, economic, social, and political systems a interconnected systems rather than discrete entities; involves transformation of values and belief systems as well as technological, market, or pouchy approaches to problem solving; views social and economic justice and intergenerational equity as inextricable from environmental stewardship; cannot be achieved if current rates of consumption and envionrmental degradation remaind unchanged; and emphasizes personal and collective practices consistent with responsible global citizenship. (415-416).
education for sustainable development…interdisciplinary and holistic…values-driven…critical thinking and problem solving…multi-method…participatory decision-making…locally relevant (417)
Sterling argued for a …fundamental change in educational culture…
education "as" sustainability…rather than.."about" sustainability of…"for" (418)
little or no relationship between knowledge of environmental….issues and chains in behaviors…there are several reasons for this awareness versus action gap: structural barriers..resistance to change (disrupt deeply held personal belief an identity patterns….)economic incentives foster unsustainable behaviors (419)
9 themes form the basis for a sustainability literacy: stewardship, respect for limits, systems thinking and interdependence, economic restructuring, social justice and fair distribution, intergenerational perspective, nature as model and teacher, global citizenship, importance of local place (422-427).
conceptualizing sustainability literacy as a construct…viewed holistically, similar to the way we think of ideas like cultural competence of citizenship (428).
Norwood, Vera. "Heroines of Nature: Four Women Respond to the American Landscape." The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Ed. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1996. 323-350.
documented, deep-seated bias against women moving freely into unsettled landscapes....four women freely choose to seek out wild nature and defend it, thus defying the traditions limiting women access to and appreciation of the natural environment, but who also conclude their explorations in a state of ambivalence...[For] Isabella Bird, Mary Austin, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard...the issue is freedom. At the core of the restrictions on women's movement into wilderness....[is that] women are more likely to express this "otherness" in an untamed environment than when they are controlled, restricted by cultural bounds....much of the "cult of wilderness" contained a message specifically for the male psyche--that civilization emasculated and wilderness returned virility....Feminine culture characteristically defines nature in a much more "immanent" fashion....Their cultural drama is not one of successful challenge, nature overcome, but of full recognition, nature comprehended...All four...are concerned not with action on the environment, but with understanding how nature (particularly wilderness) acts on them....
Odum, Eugene and Gary Barrett, Fundamentals of Ecology, 5th Edition
discipline addressing highest, most complex levels of biological organization: a study of holism and emergence
oikos = Household
logos = study
nomics = management
economics and ecology should be companion disciplines
(but seen as antagonists: cornucopian vs. neo-Malthusian schools of thought, currency of money vs. energy, of J- vs. S-shaped growth, linear (disposal) vs. circular (recycling) resource use, of exploration/expansion vs. sustainable/stable goals
interface of ecological economics is bridging the gap
word ecology coined in 1869; field dates from 1900; env'l awareness from 1968 w/ photographs of Earth from outer space
levels of organization: genes-> cells-> organs-> organisms-> populations->communities-> ecosystems->landscapes->biomes->ecosphere (ecology concerns w/ levels beyond the organism; each level is integrated/interdependent w/ others; cf.
nested hierarchies in nature (each level made up of groups of lower-level units w/ non-nested (more rigid, sharply separated) human-organized hierarchies
imp't consequence of hierarchical organizations: new, unpredictable, nonreducible properties emergent from combination/interaction --vs. collective properties (summation of behavior of components): integrative systems evolve more quickly and are more resilient
although positive and negative feedback controls are universal, from the organism down control is set point (exacting controls=homostasis) but above the organism, no set-point controls (no chemostats or thermostats in nature); therefore, feedback control is much looser, resulting in pulsing rather than steady states (homorhesis= "maintaining the flow"): no equilbriums, but pulsing balances (between production, respiration, etc.); failure to recognize this difference in cybernetics (mechanisms of control/regulation) has led to much confusion re: "balance of nature"
history of science alternation of reductionism (atomism) <-->constructionism (holism)
Parini, Jay. "The Greening of the Humanities," The New York Times Magazine (October 29, 1995): 52-53.
"one of our main interests is design: how to live in ways that are ecologically sound as well as esthetically pleasing. In this sense, it's tremendously practical as a subject. Environmentalism is, ultimately, a question of design -- of ethical design."(David Orr)
"It doesn't make sense to have English departments anymore....The traditional model in education has been cosmopolitanism. I've come to prefer a concentric and bioregional approach to learning...it makes sense -- educationally -- to begin with local writing; then you expand, adding layers of knowledge -- and not just literary knowledge....we're trying to teach a form of attention to the landscape, to the whole environment, human and natural...the work of intellectuals in our time is the work of grieving, but it's not just lamentations. I call it 'creative grieving.' We've come to a moment when we can think about loss, can absorb the extent of the damage done and perhaps engage in real action." (John Elder)
"....Nature writers are constantly...in quest ...of an understanding of consciousness...there is an explicit testing of the boundaries of self against the "other world" of nature....Abbey, Dillard, Berry, Lopez...[are] all epistemologists, students of the human mind, rather than activists....their goal being the empirical study of their own psychological responses to the world...objective scrutiny of subjective experience....concerned...primarily..with interior landscapes, with the mind itself.
Percy, Walker. “The Loss of the Creature.” The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is and What One has to Do with the Other. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975. 46-63.
"see for yourself"/"sovereign knowing"/deferral to experts/
"loss" of the thing itself/fitting into a "preformed symbolic complex"
his essay is sructured as a series of ancedotes/travel stories
* Cardenas's discovery of the Grand Canyon
* the sightseer who comes to view it later
* an American couple seeking an unspoiled place in Mexico
(and want an ethnologist friend to certify it as real)
* young man in France who also seeks the sanction of experts for his experiences
* New Mexican natives who discover artifacts on their own, not certified as genuine
* a neurotic who wants his symptom certifed "interesting" by his doctor
* a Faulkland Islander who discovers a dogfish
all parables, all metaphoric accounts of educational experience:
what it is, what it should be
Percy describes the difficulty of salvaging the "creature,"
the "thing itself," from the educational package:
the sonnet from the theory of the English prof,
the dogfish from the apparatus of the dissecting table
his key idea/value is the sovereignty of the knower
he insists that each of us, as students, must avoid what the philosopher
Alfred North Whitehead called "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness":
mistaking the abstract, theoretical, "preformed symbolic complex"
for the real, the specimen for the individual
we must beware handing our experence/knowledge over to the experts
Percy has a number of strategms for "avoiding the approved tour":
* leaving the beaten track
* returning "one level above" it, dialectically
* breaking the symbolic machinery (typhus outbreak!)
* national disaster
* popular art
in education, this usually takes the form of "the indirect
approach," circumventing the educator's presentation w/
1) the openness of the thing before one
(not an approved exercise, but a beckoning garden), with
2) the student as a sovereign wayfarer (not a consumer of prepared experience)
Percy proposes an educational technique:
dogfishes in the poetry classes, sonnets on dissecting boards --
in order to return "title" to the knower,
to the "disinherited" consumer, the "ghost,"
"expertise" to the "layman"
Phillips, Dana. The Truth of Ecology: Nature, Culture, and Literature in America. New York: Oxford, 2003.
cosmopolitan, comparativist, skeptical approach to the culture of nature
ecocriticism needs to be more theoretically savvy, less devotional, to emulate the picaro's mobility and fluid, playful sensibility, to be like Thoreau, "uncivil"--and not literal-minded about what constitutes wildness: see A. R. Ammons's book-length poem, Garbage, in which his orderly Stevens and disorderly Whitman modes interact;
common mistaken assumption that thinking ecologically is to recover past habits of thought, before world was disrupted by agriculture, industrialism, sciencel ironically, our understanding of the environment has come about through the disruption of nature; without env'l crisis, no env'l imagination
Ruffin, Kimberly. Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2010.
ecological burden-and-beauty paradox: those who are racialized negatively suffer economically and environmentally--but simultaneously experience ecological beauty that undercuts racism
environmental justice movement is giving marginalized groups an entry point, naming enviornmental othering in calls for just distribution of env'l burden and pleasure
need to expand ecocritical languge to befit a more representative imaginative landscape
environmental alienation, yet human/nonhuman affinity
liberating/acting outside of societal scripts that make them ecological pariahs
imaginative responses to nature's splendor including/not limited to domination
Karen Yamashita, The Tropic of Orange
replacing "environmental" terminology (associated with anthropocentrism/biocentrism binary)
with interconnection of natural--> social ecology, and unequal application of term "human," as natural fact
human health point of departure for any progress e ecological vision/activism
participatory relationship between speaker and audience in call-and-response tradition enacted here in
"call" of provocative history deserving the "response" of extended readings: ongoing, diverse conversations
(New Orleans as symbol for porject/inspiration to change terms of citizenship,
shaped as "Dirge and Second Line" from city's jazz funeral tradition
ecotheological writing of Alice Walker and Octavia Butler puts human beings front-and-center,
w/ deep understanding re: interrelatedness of ecological and social conditions
Desmond Tutu's forward to The Green Bible: "We're made to live in a delicate network of interdependence, for we are made for complementarity…made different so that we can know our need of one another…Once we start living in a way that is people-friendly to all of God's family, we will also be environment-friendly."
Walker's ecotheology pushes deeper relationships with nonhumans and Earth;
Butler aims @ overcoming negative tendencies to survive on whatever planet--
each w/ distinct religious visions to advance sustainability, promote radical ecological change
Butler's Parable novels coping w/ "manifest difficulty" of "exhaustible resources" and obsolete dreams:
Christianity does not equip its followers to think critically enough to sustain humanity: insufficiently ecumenical;
cf. critical thinking of Earthseed, w/ God as change itself -- and possible extraterrestial home!
w/ Alice Walker's pagan vision of earth as only viable home; cf. also
Mark Wallace's "sustainable spirituality": nonsectarian commitment to ethical ideal
of preserving integrity of deep interrelationship of all life-forms
Solnit, Rebecca. A Field Guide to Getting Lost. New York. Penguin, 2005.
..says the twentieth-century philosopher-essayist Walter Benjamin...."to lose oneself in a city--as one loses oneself in a forest--that calls for quite a different schooling." To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away. In Benjamin's terms, to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one....loses onself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achieveable through geography (6).
I think now that the suburbs were a kind of tranquilizer...if topography can be a drug (107).
...the places in which any significant event occurred become embedded with some of that emotion....and sometimes to revist the place uncovers the emotion. Every love has its landscape. Thus place, which is always spoken of as though it only counts when you're present, possesses you in its absence, takes on another life as a sense of place, a summoning in the imagination with all the atmospheric effect and association of a powerful emotion. The places inside matter as much as the ones outside. It is as though in the way places stay with you and that you long for them they become deities (118).
That life is a journey is a given [in old country and western songs] ...but the intense love of place frames this journey not as an enlightenment narrative of discovery of the unknown but an insular tale of loss of the formative terra cognita that exists in the song only as memory....Nobody gets over anything; time doesn't heal any wounds....The landscape in which identity is supposed to be grounded is not solid stuff; it's made out of memory and desire, rather than rock and soil....(121).
"Terra Incognita," unknown land...was common on old maps...and is seldom found now. Between words is silence, around ink whiteness, behind every map's information is what's left out, unmapped and unmappable...any place can be mapped infinite ways...maps are deeply selective...maps cannot be commensurate with their subject....No reprsentation is complete....representation is always partial, else it would not be representation...But the terra incognita spaces on maps say that knowledge also is an island surrounded by oceans of the unknown. They signify that the cartographers knew they did not know, and awareness of ignorance is...awareness of knowlege's limits....To acknowlege the unknown is part of knowledge, and the unknown is visible as terra incognita but invisible as selection (161-163).
...those old maps were tools of empire and capital....What was marked "terra Incognita" was also what remained unvanquished (169).
That things should be lost to our knowledge is one thing...that things should be lost from the earth is another .... More is known; there is less to know; we lose both what we know and what we don't. It is certain that species are vanishing without ever having been known to science. To think about this is to imagine the space inside our heads expanding but the places outside shrinking, as though we were literally devouring them (187).
Only the continuation of abundance makes loss sustainable....[In] a world where there is help being received and help being given....this compelling determined world acording to me loses some of its urgency and desperation. It's not so necessary in a generous world....to be so adamant about the world according to me (188, 200).
Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. New York: Knopf, 2012.
It was all unknown to me then....Everything except the fact that I didn't have to know. That it was enough to trust what what I'd done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was...To believe that I didn't need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That was everything....like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred...How wild it was, to let it be (311).
Tingley, Kim. Is Silence Going Extinct? New York Times Magazine (March 15, 2012).
Vogel, Joseph Henry "Ecocriticism as an Economic School of Thought: Woody Allen's Match Point as Exemplary."OMETECA: Science and Humanities 12 (2008): 105-119.
ecocriticism deals w/ resource allocation in a fashion distinct from all other economic schools of thought
ecological economists studying thermodynamics identify
"uneconomic growth," an oxymoron in standard economic theory
(Garrett Hardin's political incorrectness = tough population control);
cf. active political engagement, pragmatic awareness of ecocritics
Hardin's critique of economic "objectivity" as euphemism
Match Point as exemplary film re: resource allocation
(upper class finds refuge from tragedy of the commons through their over-consumption)
focus on relentless determinacy (of the tennis ball) --common tragic plot
Westling, Louise. The Green Breast of the New World: Landscape, Gender, and American Fiction. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1996.
...gender is a field of imperialism central to more obvious political and historical forms of colonization. Attention to gender can do much to explain the puzzle of ambivalence in American literary responses to landscape and nature. My approach proceeds from an interested perspective, of course--that of a woman desiring to unravel the strange combination of eroticism and misogyny that has accompanied men's attitudes toward landsacpe and nature for thousands of years.... part of a complex evolution from the most ancient human past, in which an analogy seems to have been assumed between the body of woman and the fruitful body of the land (5-6).
Chapter 3: Pastoral Ambivalence in Emerson and Thoreau
Thoreau's...writing began immediately to echo Emersonian terms like "not me" in assertions of the opposition of nature and mind....the conflict between Thoreau's desire to become part of the natural environment...and his need to maintain distance and control..."she" is always other than himself; the witty narrator is always a male in control of the relationships...Thoreau is trapped by his literary heritage and masculine loyalties (43-44).
Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty
Chapter 7: Brave New World
None of the writers examined so far in this study has succeeded in breaking out of the archaic gendered sense of the human relation to the landscape and its life....all we have is a sentimentalized instrumentalism projected out upon the world....Octavia Butler...is able to break down the boundaries between nature and culture and gender and race...provides an ideal fictional elaboration of the new constructions...necessary to "shift the webs of intertextuality and to facilitaite perhaps new possibilities for the meanings of difference, reproduction, and survial." For [Donna] Haraway, postcolonial politics allow women of color to tell "the main story"...I would like to turn to the work of Louise Erdrich for suggestions about the kind of ecological thinking that might be possible....What is striking for my purposes about her first published novel...is the absence of the gendered landscape of traditional European-American fiction....many voices and perspectives shape a communal relation to the reservation land....Concerted efforts must be made to shape new metaphors for the land that are neuter and non-anthropomorphic...without feminizing hte landscape or positing the extreme separation that is the European heritage....
James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis...offers one possible metaphor for a landscape hwere we might both be consicous and working within a much wider living system than we can understand or pretend to control. Octavia Butler's conception of the living ship that is a symbiotic host for its sentient Oankali inhabitants in her Xenogenesis Trilogy offers another. The alien creatures who attempt to repopulate postapocalypse Earth in this work are interplanetary gene traders whose ship is a metaphoric landscape meant to reinterpret that of our own Earth. It is entirely animate, a large and complex body in symbiotic relationship with the panoply of creatures it houses....The difference between the Oankali ship and the earth is that it is a mobile biota governed by wise, restrained beings who act for the good of the entire living community....Butler makes it clear that humans are far too selfish, violent, and destructive to be capable of Oankali cooperation and disinterestedness....Butler seems to insist on a radical interrelation among living creatures that involves constant metamorphosis and adaptation. The Oankali...have evolved values that support balance and reciprocity within an extensive larger Self that is a world...the necessary relation between the "ship" or mobile whole and the individuals who make it up--like the earth and the individual animals who make up its biota...
James Lovelock implies an analogy similar to Butler's at the end of The Ages of Gaia: A Biography of Our Living Earth....." It all depends on you and me. If we see the world as a living organism of which we are a part--not the owner, nor the tenant; not even a passenger--we could have a long time ahead of us and our species might survive for its 'allotted span." It is up to us to act personaly in a way that is constructive. The present frenzy of agriculture and forestry is a global ecocide as foolish as it would be to act on the notion that our brains are supreme and the cells of other organs expendable. Would we drill wells thorugh our skin to take the blood for its nutrients?"
...we must entertain the possibility that the environmental movement is itself a kind of imperialist nostalgia. Can it be an accident that ecological consciousness has appeared in the industrialized world of Euro-America? Jean Baudrillard calls it a "maleficent ecology" by which the whole concept of nature has been reconceived...."naure is today becoming an interactive subject.....this is bringing it all the more surely into the circuit of subjection....we are much more compromised when we ...become subjects...the ultimate danger is that, in an interactivity built up into a total system of communication, there is no other"....
White, Richard. "Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?" Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. Ed. William Cronin. New York: Norton, 1995. 171-185.
--about the problematic attitude most environmentalists take towards work (work in general, but esp. hard physical labor in nature, which they see, categorically, as destructive and degrading of the environment): they self-rightously present nature, instead, as a site that needs to be protected for play and leisure. white argues (compellingly, i think, though he is too dismissive of the importance of play!) that work is a fundamental way for us to come to know nature, that the separation of us (even/especially those of us who spend our days inside typing) from nature is an illusion, that we need to unmask the environmental consequences of our work, the connections between nature and whatever labor we do. i could use it in my course, to help my students reflect on the relation of the time i will have them spending outside w/ what goes on in the buildings on campus. (cf. also Slovic's Going Away to Think: Engagement, Retreat and Ecocritical Responsibility, on the social role of ecological literary criticism)
Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.
"Country" and "city" are very powerful words...how much they seem to stand for in the experience of human communities....On the country has gathered the idea of a natural way of life: of peace, innocence, and simple virtue. On the city has gathered the idea of an achieved centre: of learning, communication, light. Powerful hostile associations have also developed: on the city as a place of noise, worldliness and ambition; on the country as a place of backwardness, ignorance, limitation. A contrast between country and city ,as fundamental ways of life, reaches back into classical times. Yet the real history, throughout, has been astonishingly varied (1).
...whenever I consider the relations between country and city...I find ...the relations are not only of ideas and experiences, but of rent and interest, of situation and power; a wider system (7).
The country and the city are changing historical realities....Our real social experience is...of many kinds of intermediate and new kinds of social and physical organisation. Yet the ideas and the images of country and city retain their great force....Clearly the contrast...is one of the major forms in which we become conscious of a central part of our experience (289).
since the Industrial Revolution...our powerful images of country and city have been ways of responding to a whole social development. This is why...we must...go on to see their interrelations....It is significant, for example, that the common image of the country is now an image of the past, and the common image of the city an image of the future. That leaves, if we isolate them, an undefined present. The pull of the idea of the coutnry is towards old ways....The pull of the idea of the city is towards progress....we use the contrast of country and city to ratify an unresolved division and conflict....often an idea of the country is an idea of childhood....delighted absorption in our own world....But...now we have had enough stories and memories of urban childhoods to perceive the same pattern (297).
...all the real decisions are about the modes of social interest and control....I am convinced that resistance to capitalism is the decisive form of the necessary human defence....The division and opposition of city and country, industry and agriculture,...are the critical culmination of the division and specialisation of labour....We can overcome division only by refusing to be divided (301-302, 304, 306).
Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. New York: Vintage, 1991.
White pelicans are gregarous. What one does, they all do....as many as a dozen or more forage as a group, forming a circle to corrall and then to herd fish, almost like a cattle drive, toward shallower water where they can more efficiently scooop them up in their pourches. Cooperative fishing has advantages. It concentrates their food source, conserves their energy, and yields results....
It's not a bad model, cooperation in the name of community. Bringham Young tried it. He called it the United Order. The United Order was a heavenly scheme for a totally self-sufficient society...a seed of socialism planted by a conservative people...committed...to the local production of every needful thing....
Brigham Young, the pragmatist, received his inspiration for the United Order...from Lorenzo Snow, who is 1864 established a mercantile cooperative in the north Utah community named after the prophet. Brigham City became the model of people working on behalf of one another.... Lorenzo Snow was creating a community based on an ecological model: cooperation among individuals within a set of defined interactions. Each person was operating within their own" ecological niche," strengthening and sustaining the overall structure of "ecosystem" (99-100).
The ecological model of Brigham City Cooperative began to crumble. They were forgetting one critical component: diversity.
The United Order of Minutes, taken on July 20, 1880, states, "It was moved and carried unanimously that the council disapprove discountenance, and disfellowship all persons who would start an opposition store or who would assist to erect a building for that purpose."
History has shown us that exclusivity in the name of empire building eventually fails. Fear of discord undermines creativity. And creativity lives at the heart of adaptive evolution (102).
....there is an organic difference between a system of self-sufficiency and a self-sustaining system. One precludes diversity, the other necessitates it. Brigham Young's United Order wanted to be independent from the outside world. The Infinite Order of Pelicans suggests there is no such thing (103).
....I don't know if Brigham Young ever ... observed the finely tuned society of pelicans. But had his attention been focused more on Earth than "heaven on earth" his vision for managing the Saints in the Great Basin might have been altered (107).
in the severity of a salt desert, I am brought down to my knees by its beauty. My imagination is fired. My heart opens and my skin burns in the passion of these moments. I will have no other gods before me.
Wilderness courts our souls...I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen (148-149).
I am slowly, painfully discovering that my refuge is not found in my mother, my grandmother, or even the birds of Bear River. My refuge exists in my capacity to love. If I can learn to love death then I can begin to find refuge in change (178).
Mormon religions has roots firmly planted in a magical worldview. Divining rods, seer stones, astrology, and visions were all part of the experience of the founding Prophet, Joseph Smith....it renders my religious human....To acknowledge that which we cannot see, to give defintion to that which we do not know, to create divine order out of chaos, is the religious dance (195-196).
"How do you place a value on inspiration? How do you quantify the wildness of birds, when for the most part, they lead secret and anonymous lives?" (265).
Williams, Terry Tempest. An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. New York: Vintage, 1994.
a naturalist traveling into unfamiliar territory (3)
Home is the range of one's instincts (9)
the natural world provides refuge (12)
collecting shells w/ her grandmother; Georgia O'Keefe befriending Coyote; in Alaska, remembering her sole-born uncle Alan; wildness in the built environment of Pelham Bay; Japanese farmer who knows Utah soils; the unpredictable feminine/bear; fearing love/land @ the Moab solstice; Stone Creek Woman, guardian of desert water; eulogy to Edward Abbey/Coyote Clan; eating avocados; Yellowstone: erotics/echoes...
"...at the heart of bood biology is a central core of imagination. It is the basis for responsible science. And it has everything to do with intimacy, spending time outside. But we forget because we spend so much time inside...out of an erotics of place, a politics of place is emerging. Not radial, but conservative...roote din empathy in which we extend our notion of community...to include all life forms" (86-87).
"Beauty is a resource in and of itself" (90).
"If you take one step with all the kowlege you ahve, there is usually just enough light shinig to show you the next step" (94).
"the only war that matters is the war/ against the imagination" (108).
protesting nuclear testing--and the war; counting sheep--> and bombs
I wonder how it is that in the midst of wild serenity we as a species choose to shatter it again and again. Silence is our national security, our civil defense. By destroying silence, the legacy of our deserts, we leave no room for peace...that awkaens us to the truth of our dreams (124).
testimony re: conserving the Pacific yew (for taxol)
"It may be that the most radical act we can commit is to stay home. Otherwise, who wil be there to chart the changes?...What would happen...if we took the Homestead Act of 1862, designed to open the West to settlement...and turned it inside out....We could call it the Home Stand Act of 1994, designed to inspire and initiate a community of vigilance and care toward the lands we inhabit. It would give us courage to honor 'the stay option' and dig in, set down roots" (134-135).
"We must do it for outselves. As women wedded to wilderness...we do carry the wild card" (140).
"We can try and kill all that is native...but spirit howls and wildness endures. Anticipate resurrection" (144).
Williams, Terry Tempest. Desert Quartet. With Drawings and Paintings by Mary Frank. New York: Pantheon, 1995.
Williams, Terry Tempest. Finding Beauty in a Broken World. New York: Pantheon, 2008.
VERY wide-ranging, from racism--> speciesm: making mosaics in Italy; studying prairie/"prayer" dog tunnels; her brother's death; building a memorial with genocide survivors in Rwanda; adopting a son....
Yoon, Carol Kaesuk. Nature Follows a Path of Pixels Into Children's Hearts. The New York Times (June 18, 2012):
The inanities of the Internet may be... getting the next generation to love and cherish the living world....through most of the millenniums of human history, children connected with the living world by living directly in it. Things change....Young people are knowledgeable about organisms in a global way we could never have been as children. They may not often wander the local patch of forest — we won’t let them most of the time anyway — but they wander the natural world through the Internet.
Young, Jon. Exploring Natural Mystery: Kamana One.
Zapf, Hubert. "Literary Ecology and the Ethics of Texts." New Literary History 39,4 (2008): 847-868.
new branch of "cultural ecology" considers human culture as interdependent with and transfused by ecological processes and natural energy cycles, yet also recognizes the relative independence and self-reflexive dynamics of cultural processes, w/ information and communication (not genetic laws) as major driving forces
literature appears as the symbolic medium of a particularly powerful form of “cultural ecology”: it explores the complex feedback relationship of prevailing cultural systems with the needs and manifestations of human and nonhuman “nature”
Cf. Buehl's criteria for an "environmental text":
1. The nonhuman environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history.
2. The human interest is not understood to be the only legitimate interest.
3. Human accountability to the environment is part of the text’s ethical orientation.
4. Some sense of the environment as a process rather than as a constant or a given is implicit in the text
--w/ the ecoethical attitude of coevolution and partnership in the poems of Emily Dickinson
their “ecological” quality results from their semantic indeterminacy:
the other ("narrow fellow") resists representation--experience of irreciprocity =ecological ethics
nature resists narration
shift from such a regional-realist to a cultural-ecological concept of the text:
link of local nature w/ global concerns in Ceremony, Underworld, and Insect Dreams
iterature stages the complex dynamical processes of life on the boundary of the culture-nature interaction =
literary studies a “life science” (and depragmatized knowledge? not easily translated into political practice?)
Possible novels to "conclude"
David Brin's 682-pp. Earth (1990): "an innovative attempt to develop a narrative form commensurate w/ complexities, heterogeneities of cultures joined in global crisis--one of most daring (but not successful) attempts to address global ecological risk and environmental connectedness; combines epic and modernist urban novel in a formal materialization of eco-cosmopolitism"
Octavia Butler's scifi fiction Parable of the Sower (1993): coping w/ "manifest difficulty" of "exhaustible resources" and obsolete dreams: Christianity is insufficiently ecumenical, does not equip its followers to think critically enough to sustain humanity: cf. critical thinking of Earthseed, w/ God as change itself -- and possible extraterrestial home!
Barbara Gowdy's The White Bone: A Novel of Elephants (1998), "making huge imaginative leap to what it would be like to be that big, gentle, imperiled, w/ such prodigious memory; challenges scientific compartmentalization by interweaving dialogue w/ 3rd-person narration, incorporating comments on communication, reminding us that it is a form of translation from a very different vocal source; this is anthropomorphism based on natural history, w/ a destabilized reliance on genre; deliberately breaches mind/body dichotomy w/ bodily memory"
Bessie Head's first novel When Rain Clouds Gather (1969): The poverty-stricken village of Golema Mmidi, in the heart of rural Botswana, offers a haven to the exiles gathered there. Makhaya, a political refugee from South Africa, becomes involved with an English agricultural expert and the villagers as they struggle to upgrade their traditional farming methods with modern techniques. The pressures of tradition, the opposition of the local chief, and, above all, the harsh climate threaten to bring tragedy to the community, but strangely, there remains a hope for the future.
Zora Neale Hurston's "weather" novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).
Jonathan Letham's Girl in a Landscape (1998): "flexible multicausality," "extrapolating" from science fiction to present day (rather than fantasizing escape); interconnection between present and future means "no alibi" for addressing results of our actions.
And the winner is….
Jonathan Coetzee's The Life of Animals (1999)--because of the topic, the claim, and the formal experiments….