“The Outlook’s” Effective Nature Faker Argument

Many of the arguments made during the “Nature Faker Controversy” offer conflicting perspectives with the author simply refuting an argument but providing no real examples or substantial evidence for their argument. The controversy is mainly centered on the egotistical opinions of authors who do not write with enough credibility to adequately quell the questions and retorts of their colleagues in nature writing. The continuous back and forth slew of vicious and ill-supported arguments makes it difficult to pinpoint which argument is not only the most convincing but also the most successful.

Ultimately it is the argument made by the editors of The Outlook that is the most well-supported and the most compelling, “Our own careful observation and experience lead us to believe that his [Long] books have, on the whole, done much more good than harm, by interesting the children of this country in the life and welfare of animals…Mr. Burroughs appeals to the adult mind, Mr. Long to the imagination and curiosity of the child” (Mazel 145). While this excerpt may not necessarily be a part of the “Nature Faker Controversy” it effectively sums up the argument without using any belittling or impudent remarks toward either author. With the final sentence, the editors at The Outlook characterize the value of both Long and Burroughs, identifying that each author occupies an important place in the literary world of natural history. What makes this argument so effective is that the editors take no stand on whether they find Long to be an overly imaginative author or Burroughs to be a condescending critic. The editors make a successful critique because they are able to separate their personal biases and implications and focus solely on the words of Burroughs and Long.

Though it can be argued that personality and imagination is what makes or breaks a piece of literature that is not what the “Nature Faker Controversy” was about. This controversy was a result of authors publicly critiquing the work of their colleagues based on opinions and assumptions and while the arguments are numerous for both sides there are too many questions left unanswered by both perspectives to consider any of the arguments truly convincing. Neither side is willing or able to provide concrete evidence to support their argument and for that the credibility of the critique is lost.

Mazel, David (ed). A Century of Early Ecocriticism. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 26-47, 87-100, 113-147, 154-162. pub. University of Georgia Press 2001


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by teagueoreagan on December 1, 2011 at 2:33 am

    I share the same perception that the article in The Outlook does present the greatest objectivity of any of the articles presented us from the “Nature Faker” Controversy obviously because it is an outside perspective that chose to remain outside the argument. I would agree that Long should not be accused of “bearing false witness” yet the insistence with which he attempts to suspend a reader’s disbelief perhaps goes too far in the way he frames the factuality of his stories. He unquestionably fails the strict litmus test of objectivity but then again so does everybody. The cattiness of this “Nature Faker” exchange is almost comical. Burroughs calling Long a liar does indeed go to far and although Long is more gracious in his responses the same cattiness is present. I agree entirely that although informative, the “Nature Faker” articles are quite confounding should one attempt to choose a side or nail down what exactly the problem is of each opposing side if not simply an inability to posture adequately and the article from the Outlook, while not nearly as informative, is certainly more just and even-keeled.

  2. While I would agree that the comment from the Outlook editors presents both sides of the “nature faker” argument, I would argue that it is not completely without bias. The second paragraph of their statement concerns Roosevelt’s response in defense of Burroughs, but I found their response rather unsatisfying because they simply state that because he is the President, he should not express his opinion in the matter. This came across as a pretty weak argument, since they made no attempt to de-construct what he actually said, and instead simply support Long by characterizing him as a victim. That said, the reason they did not discuss what Roosevelt actually said could be because they were attempting to remain neutral, but I still believe it is clear where their sympathies lie.

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