Posts Tagged ‘ecofeminism’

An Ecofeminist Reading of “A White Heron and Other Stories”

In the excerpt from A White Heron and Other Stories featured in the course pack, writer Sarah Orne Jewett tells the story of a wide-eyed young tomboy, Sylvia, exploring the grounds around her home in search of a prized white heron. The protagonist teams up with a travelling young man who shares her sense of wanderlust for the wilderness (and for that particular bird). It is through this relationship that the author demonstrates clearly defined if repressive gender roles, feminizing the concept of submissiveness while masculinizing attitudes of dominance over nature and competence in dealing with the challenges that nature presents.

When describing Sylvia and her guest’s quest to find the bird, Jewett writes that the girl “grieved because the longed-for white heron was elusive, but she did not lead the guest, she only followed, and there was no such thing as speaking first.” Here, Sylvia automatically assumes the role of the submissive, weakened female in need of male guidance despite the fact that she is a comparative native to the property leading a guest around the grounds on which she lives. She also expresses  insecurity about her own ability to even speak. The author writes, “the sound of her own unquestioned voice would have terrified her.” This hints at the notion that women’s voiced (both figuratively and literally) are being silenced by a hegemonic masculine culture, and that this silencing perpetuates itself and is manifested in a sense of fear that it fosters within the minds of the victimized women.

At the end of the second chapter of the excerpt, Sylvia makes a somewhat surprising declaration of admiration for the boy about whom she’d earlier expressed fearful reservations. “Dear loyalty, that suffered a sharp pang as the guest went away and disappointed later in the day, that could have served and followed him and loved him as a dog loves!” Jewett writes on behalf of her timid heroine. Although such an expression of willingness to be totally subservient to a man like a dog is to her master might have been in keeping with the traditional roles of women in the 19th century, that sentence read in 2011 seems like an ironic snipe and those antiquated gender roles.

Jewett, Sarah Orne. A White Heron and Other Stories. Ch./Art: Ch 1 & 2 p. 12-13. pub. Houghton Mifflin Company 1886

L.H. Sigourney: An Ecofeminist Perspective

In L.H. Sigourney’s poem “Fallen Forests,” I found many elements that aligned with the ideals of the ecofeminist perspectives we read in the Judith Plant essays for this week. In her essays, Plant states: “Life struggles in nature… become feminist issues within the ecofeminist perspective. Once we understand the historical connections between women and nature and their subsequent oppression, we cannot help but take a stand on the war against nature” (Plant, 80). I found that quote to encompass a lot of what Sigourney was trying to argue within “Fallen Forests.”

For example, line one of Sigourney’s poem states: “Man’s warfare on the trees is terrible” (Sigourney, 117). This statement could not be more blatant or upfront; she goes on to describe how the tree-cutting practices of the time are truly ruining nature, and if Americans are not more careful, the damage will be irreparable. Although when she says “man,” this could be taken to mean both males and females, throughout the poem there are images conjured of lumber jacks and laborers working hard to wreck the natural environment. These images, of course, correspond to the traditional ideals of men “out in the fields” with women staying in the home. This idea directly intertwines itself with Plant’s statement above. In this way, Sigourney’s poem not only calls out the American practice of tree-cutting (and its subsequent harms to the environment) but makes a statement against the male dominated world she, as a woman, lives in.

Sigourney does not shy away from making these remarks bold and direct; she even relies on some emotional appeals to impress upon her readers how dire this situation is. On page 118, Sigourney states: “neither he, nor… his children’s children, shall behold what he hath swept away” (Sigourney, 118). This, coupled with the last line of the poem that describes the irrevocability of man’s actions, leaves a clear statement in the reader’s mind. If nothing changes, nature will be damaged for all time. The true cleverness of Sigourney’s statement, though, lies in the fact that she is able to effortlessly tie in a complementary argument- advocating for women’s rights, as well as nature’s.


Plant, Judith. Home! A Bioregional Reader.Ch./Art: REvaluing Home: Feminism and Bioregionalism; Searching for Common Ground:
Evofeminism and Bioregionalism p. 21-23, 79-82. pub. New Society Publishers 1990

Sigourney, L.H. Scenes in My Native Land. Ch./Art: Excerpts p. 117-132. pub. James Munroe and Company 1845


Group 1’s Third Blog Post

Lydia Sigourney. Library of Congress descripti...

L.H. Sigourney; Image via Wikipedia

For this blog response, you have a few different writing options. Choose only ONE of these topics to write your response. Be sure to make it clear which question you chose in the subject line of your post. Remember, this blog response is for Group 1 only!

  1. Write an ecocritical analysis of L.H. Sigourney’s poem “Fallen Forests.” What is the argument of this poem?  Besides applying some of the ecocritical interpretative techniques you’ve learned in this course in answering this question, be sure to also consider the specific elements of poetry as a form, like speaker and listener, imagery, patterns of sound, form, meter, lineation, etc. Some questions to consider regarding these elements of poetry include: Who is the speaker, where is s/he, and what is the speaker’s state of mind? Does the poem have an implied listener and to what effect? What images are most striking in this poem? Do they seem conventional, familiar, surprising, experimental? Why?What patterns of sound to you find in this poem and what effect do they give? How are the poem’s lines structured?
  2. Both Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours And L.H. Sigourney’s Scenes in My Native Land are particularly interested in the ecology of home, focusing on their local environments rather than uncharted wilderness. How do either (or both) of these writers define home, and how is nature valued within this context? If you are writing about both Cooper and Sigourney, do they have similar or different views of nature and/or the New England environment? To what extent does Coopers’/Sigourney’s valuation of nature and/or home agree with/diverge from other authors we’ve read this semester? Do these texts have a clear environmental message, and if so, what is it?
  3. Choose one quote from the Judith Plant essays that you find interesting, confusing, problematic, surprising, or otherwise compelling. In your response, work closely with the quote. Why did it stand out to you? If you chose a quote that you found confusing, use the response to work through your confusion. If you found it interesting, compelling, or problematic, explain why. If you choose this option, choose a long quote (a few sentences). Type your quote at the top of your post, then follow with your 300-word response (the quote is NOT considered part of the minimum word count). Be sure to give the page number for your quote in parentheses. You are not required to bring in additional quotes for the response if you choose this topic.

Remember, your posts should follow these requirements and guidelines:

  • Posts must be at least 300 words.
  • Posts must include at least one quote from the text. If you are writing about more than one text, then you’ll need at least one quote from each as support.
  • Stay focused on answering the prompt question above. Avoid repeating the question and be as specific as possible in your answer.
  • Please note that you do not need to answer every “thinking question” I have posted (the questions after the bold directive). These are just options, so you could focus on one or a few. Avoid writing a response that looks like a Q & A or laundry list of answers to these smaller questions; make sure your response flows smoothly and has unity.
  • Your response should make an argument, not summarize the text.
  • Use specific moments from the text(s) to support and illustrate your argument.
  • Be sure to introduce, quote, cite, and comment on all quotes.
  • Don’t forget to tag your posts! Before adding a new tag, check the “choose from the most used tabs” menu to make sure it is not already listed.

Group 1, your blog response is due by class time on Tuesday, October 4.

Group 2, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, October 6.