Proposal Topic: Promotion of ‘deep ecology’ using the ‘pastoral trope’ in James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pioneers” and Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered”

When this assignment was introduced I immediately thought of Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered” and how the contrast between all the generations of the MacIvey family that roamed the Florida swamps.  The early generations became farmers and cattleman using the land responsibly while the younger generations becoming greedy developing the land and exploiting it.  However, the most recent generation, Solomon MacIvey began reminiscing about the aesthetic beauty of Florida’s natural landscape.  This led me to James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pioneers” where Natty and Judge Temple represent the contrast between appreciating nature aesthetically and using its resources in a responsible manner to the development and exploitation of the land.  I found these two text interesting because they both incorporated the ideology of ‘deep ecology’ while portraying the ‘pastoral trope’.  With the cycle of man’s view and interaction with nature from the nature is a resource for man to the appreciation of the aesthetic beauty and conservation of it.

By applying Greg Garrard’s chapter ‘pastoral’ and the section defining ‘deep ecology’ to the texts will help define the exact positions each character represents and how they evolve from development of the land to conserving it.  Using the basic definition of ‘pastoral’:

literature that contrasts rural and urban life that generally values rural over urban life focusing on picturesque natural places; often involving a retreat to nature that enlightens the protagonist,

both texts will demonstrate the shift to the ‘deep ecology’ ideology.  The significance of both texts transitioning back into the ‘deep ecology’ ideology is because they evoke sympathy from the audience to promote ‘deep ecology’ and conservation with the responsible use of nature’s resources.  The main passages in focus for Cooper’s “The Pioneers” are the ones involving the killing of the deer and pigeons along with the introduction ofJudgeTempleto Natty.  In Smith’s “A Land Remembered” the main passages in focus are the arrival of the MacIvey family, the development of the property and Solomon MacIvey reminiscing on the land before it was developed.


  1. How does the transition from agrarian value of the land lead to exploitation of the land and its resources?
  2. What is the significance of the cycle from agrarian values to exploitation of resources to returning to valuing nature aesthetically leading to conservation of nature?
  3. Are these texts suggesting that the value of aesthetic nature can be returned to and if so when?
  4. What is the significance of valuing nature aesthetically?
  5. Are both texts effective at promoting ‘deep ecology’ ideology?
  6. How is the ‘pastoral trope’ depicted in both texts and is it effective?
  7. Do these texts effectively have the audience sympathize with the ‘deep ecology’ ideology?  And if so is this good?

11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kbudd on October 27, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Interesting paper topic. I too enjoyed “The Pioneers” and there is so much you can write about. Arguing against the exploitation of the land is pivotal in this argument because you can discuss the argument between Natty and the Judge. I think you should also ask: Is it possible to live in nature without taking?

    We saw the Natty would still hunt, but take only what he needed. Overall, I think you have a great idea, but you might need to confine it in order to stay within the paper limits.

    • I have to agree that “The Pioneers,” definitely offers a lot of material to write about, but like the above commentator I have to say that you might need to narrow down your paper topic – even for your own peace of mind.
      I think you could add to number 6 – How are the characters enlightened by a retreat into nature? Are they even enlightened?
      Also how do both texts represent an inherent value of nature? is it widely accepted within the text?

  2. Posted by rebsheppard on October 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I admire your ambition in wanting to tackle two ecocritical perspectives/tropes in your research (deep ecology and the pastoral trope). “The Pioneers” was among my favorite of the assigned readings for class, so I agree with the above commenter that there’s a lot of research-worthy material in that text.

    From looking at your questions, though, you may want to make sure that your thesis idea that the pastoral trope promotes deep ecology is thoroughly fleshed out with textual examples–I can imagine that this might be tricky, because in order to accomplish this you’d have to first define deep ecology and show how it is used within the text, then define the pastoral trope, examine how it functions, and then prove how it promotes deep ecology. Good luck!

  3. Posted by bharta1 on October 28, 2011 at 12:34 am

    I have never heard of A Land Remembered but I love Florida narratives and anything related to Florida conservation, so thanks, got another to put on my list of to-read after college!

    The exploration of a deep ecological perspective is important and from the looks of it, A Land Remembered is a generational narrative that moves from rustic to urban, and if it follows any kind of accurate historical details of Florida’s agrarian progress you’ve got a ripe amount of correlations between Pioneers and the pastoral trope in its development both in Pioneers and A Land Remembered.

    As I said, not having read A Land Remembered I can only speak for Pioneers, when the settlers or “pioneers” which is a concept in itself worth exploring, bring down the massive death of birds they seem to “not know what they do” type of thing, except for conveniently enough, Judge, who is sickened and is one of the only ones, aside from Natty, who sees the damage done. I think 3 is a great question. If these people cannot see what kind of damage they inflict, aside from a remote few, how long will it take to turn the destructive movement around? What kind of time table would it require to return a natural aesthetic order? Another good question is, what is our definition of a natural aesthetic and what are our capabilities to create such a thing? How can we contend with invasive (human)nature?

  4. Posted by brightgirl04 on October 28, 2011 at 12:38 am

    I agree that analyzing through both pastoral and deep ecology is ambitious and you have already posed a lot of great questions. Everyone above has offered some great suggestions. Another part of question six is you could ask Do both Cooper and Smith’s work fall under the same type of Pastoral?

  5. Question number one is very important concerning your deep ecology perspective because the exploitation of the land is something they oppose so this question adds more substance to why there would be a deep ecology approach.
    Another question: Did people consciously choose to exploit the land as they transitioned?

  6. Posted by yribaf on October 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I agree with the above comment because in The Pioneers, the settlers end up killing many pigeons because they wanted to protect their farmland. This scene at the end illuminates an important point that I believe will be vital to your paper. You should also consider asking: Does relying solely on farming create a duality between man and nature?

  7. Posted by teagueoreagan on October 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    I find question two rather interesting, especially your implication that it is cyclical. Would it not be valid to question the motivation behind such a shift? Is it not problematic that now that Americans have built one of the most industrially progressive nations with an immense accumulation of material wealth that now we exhibit a focus to shift back to preservation of the land? I believe that this is indicative of the continuing value of material attainment over environment. Now that we have assembled everything that we need to maintain a level of lifestyle comfort that is almost unparalleled, is it not shallow and self-serving to pay primarily lip service to the ideology of environmental preservation without making any real sacrifice to attain one’s ideological goals?

  8. Posted by etrotta on October 28, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I think you have a very interesting topic. The cycle of agriculture to development to aesthetic value is an important event to analyze. I like your 3rd question about the possibility of returning to nature in its untouched form. Another possible question would be what’s the next step in the cycle if we try to return the land to its natural state?

  9. I haven’t read “A Land Remembered,” though it has been recommended to me by a couple of different people. After giving its wiki article a perusal, I’d say your second question might carry the most weight as I feel it deals most explicitly with the main themes of both texts. To further explore these themes, you might want to consider a question like:
    What role does capitalism and the struggle to make a living have on the way different characters view and/or utilize nature? How does viewing land as a way to make money influence the characters’ approach to pastoral or deep ecology?

  10. Moving off of conservation and its connection with deep ecology, I think it is interesting that Natty is essentially chastizing the agrarian community for reducing his access to natural resources. Like all hunters he has a specific region that he hunts, an area of what once was a commons. With the introduction of agrarianism and white land rights there is a reduction in his freedom to hunt. What audience is Cooper addressing with this message? Is this critique compatible with Deep Ecology?

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