Posts Tagged ‘Group 2’

Animal Individualism in “The ‘Nature Faker’ Controversy”

I found the argument about animal individualism by William Long to be one of the most compelling. He states that “birds and animals (and even the insects, especially the solitary wasps and spiders) differ greatly among themselves in individual characteristics and habits…Every animal he studies closely is different from every other animal, for nature seems to abhor repetition as she abhors a vacuum. As among men, the differences, which lie deep, are much harder to detect than the resemblances, which are mostly on the surface (Mazel 127).

This argument correlates so much with the way in which people treat zoos, animals in the wild, and even pets. While usual pets like cats and dogs are frequently seen as having their own personalities, many other animals are thought of as being solely a member of whatever species, and not as an individual animal within that species. Particularly smaller animals, as Long mentions, liked wasps and spiders. Generally people are able to see that larger animals (tigers, deer, turkeys, etc.) do in fact have separate personalities if they consider it, but it is harder to imagine individual spiders and wasps having their own desires and goals.

As we discussed last week this applies easily to zoos as well. People visit zoos, moving from exhibit to exhibit, expecting animals to behave a certain way, and then when the animals don’t live up to their expectations they are disappointed. These animals are individual animals, so “[w]hat do you expect? It’s not a dead object you have come to look at, it’s alive. It’s leading it’s own life” (Berger 24). Although he was referring more so to how awful it is to keep animals on display like that, I think it could apply to individualism as well as he does touch on that a bit throughout his text. Those who visit zoos expect all lions. for instance, to act like their preconceived notion of what a lion should act like, and completely disregard that each lion they view is its own being that will not necessarily act like that.

There is a tendency for people to lump nature together as “all nature,” or even down to individual species, but individual beings are frequently overlooked. This absolutely makes it easier for humans to continue to dominate over them if we believe they are all the same and disregard the fact that like us, they are all different and varying and should be treated as such.

 

Berger, John. About Looking. International Ch./Art: Why Look at Animals? P. 3-28. pub. Vintage Sept 1991

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

 

Advertisements

Group 2’s 6th and Final Blog Post

For your last blog post, pick one of the following options:

  1. Do you agree with Selden Whitcomb’s argument about the trajectory American literature and its treatment of nature by the turn of the 20th century? Why or why not? Use examples from any of our reading this semester to illustrate your points. Feel free to also bring in your knowledge of American literature from other classes or other sources.
  2. Write a response in which you assess Whitcomb’s analysis of either Hector St. John de Crevecoeur or William Cullen Bryant. In your response, you should both reference Whitcomb’s text and cite textual evidence from either “What is an American?” or Bryant’s poetry to support your claims.
  3. Which arguments made during the “Nature Faker Controversy” do you find most convincing? In your response, explain and defend your position. You may want to consider citing from last week’s Seton reading to further illustrate your points.
  4. What criteria does Mabel Osgood Wright propose for “good nature writing?” Do you agree with her criteria? What would you add to her list? In other words, how would you define “good nature writing?”

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 both texts, 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, November 29. Group 2, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, December 1.

Group 2’s 5th Blog Response

Headshot of Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 18...

Louisa May Alcott, Age 20. Image via Wikipedia

For this blog response, write an ecocritical analysis of Louisa May Alcott‘s “Transcendental Wild Oats,” Harriet Prescott Spofford‘s “Circumstance,” or Sarah Orne Jewett’s “The White Heron.” Your blog post should focus on  an ecocritical reading of only ONE of these stories. As you know, there are many directions you can take with this, but here are some questions you may want to consider:

  • How does the story conceptualize nature? What are the characters’ relationships to nature?
  • What ecocritical tropes do you see at work in this text (pastoral, wilderness, georgic, ecological Indian, apocalypse, etc) and how do they function? (NOTE: If you do decide to go this route, you should focus on only one trope for such a short response.)
  • How (or, to what extent) do the characters’ experiences with nature differ, and in what ways are they similar?
  • In what ways do gender, race, and/or class difference influence the way characters experience and/or conceptualize nature in the story?
  • How is this story influenced by its historical/cultural context, especially regarding environmental issues of the era? (See the syllabus for dates of publication and the resources tab for helpful links).
  • If you had to argue that this story had an environmental message, what would it be?

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. Is.
  • 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 bulleted 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. If some summary is asked for in the prompt you chose, keep that summary brief and concise.
  • 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.
  • Don’t forget your Works Cited!

Group 2, your blog response is due by class time on Tuesday, November 8.

Group 1, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, November 10.

The “Home” Revolution: Ecofeminism in “California, In-doors and Out”

To the modern mind, Eliza Burhans Farnham epitomizes an ideal ecofeminist in much the way that Judith Plant would outline in her essay on ecofeminism. Farnham espouses the interchangeability of roles for men and women, and that one should not dominate the other.

Farnham believes that for a real shift to occur – to from exploitation to harmony – there must be a shift in morality. She states that “The revolution in progress here at this hour will shortly have inaugurated a new and more hopeful state… the present is a war, not between parties or persons, but between principles of good and evil” (vi). Farnham deeply believes that a revolution in society must grow from the ground up, from deep inner principles out to purposeful action. She believes that a woman-centered society is at the core of this shift, which I will touch on a little later.

What interesting is that Judith Plant declares that ecofeminism “has very much to do with a shift in morality, in the attitudes and behaviors of human beings” (81). This means that the woman being the center of the family is more than a woman just taking a role as the leader of the household, but it is the fact that neither man nor woman dominates the other. It is a matter of a shift in morality, that is the revolution that Farnham is speaking about.

One may ask how to go from the abstract (“revolution in morality!”) to the concrete (“how does this work, right now?”). Both Farnham and Plant establish that the “home” is the nexus where the most change shall occur, and the home is the domain of the woman. Farnham states that “The home, holiest and purest nursery of what is good in the heart, springs up everywhere before woman” (285). Judith Plant echoes this principle: “The real work is at home” (82). Home is where core of a family resides – the principles of love and care and gentleness – and both Farnham and Plant imply that because a woman’s “natural” place is in the home, she has the most power to shift the direction of society.

What I find fascinating, though, is that Farnham glorifies the woman who can do everything a man can do – and a man traditionally does his work outside of the home. Farnham states that “it must not be forgotten that life in California is altogether anomalous, and that it is no more extraordinary for a woman to plough, dig, and hoe with her own hands, if she have the will and strength to do so, than for men to do all their household labor for months, never seeing the face of a woman during that time” (28).  Note that Farnham lists all of the backbreaking work that men traditionally do and juxtaposes this with the household labor of a woman coupled with loneliness – she does not say that one is easier than the other. I believe the emphasis here on Farnham’s ecofeminism is not so much the physical structure of the home, but the principle of “home” – that a family must be rooted in one place long enough to work the land and take care of the family unit.

Plant confirms that “the ecofeminist’s task is one of developing the ability to take the place of the other when considering the consequences of possible actions, and ensuring that we do not forget that we are all part of one another” (80). I find it fascinating that Farnham lives the deeper principle of ecofeminism by adhering to the principle that the man and the woman neither dominate one or the other. Feminism is not about the woman being higher than the man, it is about equality, in whatever role that might be. So yes, the woman is at the heart of the home, and she is still supported and protected by the man. And if the man and woman play musical chairs and switch roles, that is fine, as long as the principle of “home” remains the revolution of morality.

Farhham, Eliza W. California In-Doors and Out; On, How We Farm, Mine, and Live Generally in the Golden States. Ch./ Art: Excerpts p. 28-31, 91-94. Pub. Dix, Edwards & Co 1856

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

Myths of the American West

As Lawrence states, “[despite] recent studies on western history, women’s diaries, journals, and letters are considered by literary scholars as subliterary- pieces of local color, at best (Lawrence 3). Because women’s writings of the American West and frontier life has been so disparaged, many myths about that land and life have been preserved. Eliza Burhans Farnham’s writing dispels many of the myths, as do many other women’s writings, yet until recently they were considered of little importance which goes to show that men’s accounts are considered more accurate or relevant which perpetuates the myths of the American West surrounding women.

Farnham’s depiction of herself completely contradicts the depiction of women within other texts. The most striking difference is that she did not travel with her husband, but instead with just “her two little sons, a female friend, and a farmer” because she was widowed (Farnham 41). This is in sharp contrast to the usual depiction of women traveling west solely to follow their husbands. This myth persists because “[historians] rarely mention that single and widowed women traveled west” (Lawrence 83). The patriarchal undertones of this seem to indicate that women are unable to be independent, yet that clearly is not the case as Farnham shows well.

Farnham further differs from the usual myths of women on the frontier by being heavily involved in both the building of her home and the farming of her land. She states that it is not “extraordinary for a woman to plough, dig, and hoe with her own hands, if she has the will and strength to do so” (Farnham 28). She did just that, because as a widowed woman on the frontier, “‘women’s work’ was a misnomer- they did whatever work needed to be done” (Lawrence 83). Farnham even finds this work so fulfilling that she laughs at the idea of needing to pay a man to do it (Farnham 107). Although many women, whether they were married, single, or widowed, did do outside work, their lack of presence within literary texts is severely lacking. This is not a problem solely with women in the American West, but for women throughout all time time and places, whose work has gone unnoticed and unrecorded. This myth that women never did work outside the home is not an accidental thing, because the patriarchal society wanted people to believe that the American West was built on the hard work of men alone and that women’s experiences were unimportant, and thus not as instrumental in the settling of the frontier.

Apart from the myths about women in the west, the myth of how the land was settled is also strong. Many people did move west in order to mine, but many also went in order to farm and settle the vast expanses of “uninhabited” land, or ended up farming as a result of finding over-mined land. Farnham specifically addresses this myth by stating that she wants others to know “that there is something in California other than mines” (Farnham 29). So while most of the myths that Farnham contradicts relate specifically to women, she also wants to break myths related to the land itself.

Group 2’s Fourth Blog Post

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 2 only!

  1.  In her introduction to Writing the Trail, Deborah Lawrence argues that “women’s western writings create conflicting versions of the myth of the American West” (3). What are the typical myths of the American West? After reading Eliza Burhans Farnham’s California: In-doors and Out, do you agree with Lawrence’s argument? Why or why not? What, if any, conflicting versions of this myth does Farnham’s text offer?
  2. In her chapter on Eliza Burhans Farnham, Deborah Lawrence makes several arguments regarding the function of nature/the environment in Farnham’s narrative. In your response, choose one (or a few) of these arguments to critically consider. Do you agree/disagree with her assessment of Farnham’s text? Is there an ecocritical analysis that is missing or underdeveloped in Lawrence’s chapter? Use quotes from Farnham’s text to support your argument.
  3. Write a response in which you analyze Farnham’s use of the word “natural” and how it functions in her text. What behaviors, roles, actions, etc are considered “natural” and why? What value system does Farnham set up with the use of this word? How does Farnham use the term “natural” as part of her rhetorical strategy in this text? How would it be perceived by her Northeastern, female audience?
  4. Write a response in which you consider how Farnham’s depiction and valuation of nature compares to the other writers we’ve encountered so far this semester. In your response, be sure to make close connections between Farnham and another author we’ve read this semester to illustrate your points. If you decide to write about connections between Farnham and Ralph Waldo Emerson or J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, make sure you are adding to (rather than simply repeating) Lawrence’s arguments.

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. If the question you chose asks for more than one quote in the instructions above, then be sure to follow those instructions.
  • 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. If some summary is asked for in the prompt you chose, keep that summary brief and concise.
  • 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.
  • Don’t forget your Works Cited!

Group 2, your blog response is due by class time on Tuesday, October 25.

Group 1, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, October 27.

An Ecocritical Perspective on Catlin

George Catlin’s excerpt from “Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians” had the tone of a “Save the Whales” campaign – only in this case, the “Indian” is the endangered animal.

Garrard calls the idea of the Ecological Indian a “seductive myth” and Catlin seems to be seduced by this myth. Garrard says that “‘We’ apparently cannot dwell in working harmony with nature, but perhaps other cultures are able to do so” (120). Please note how Garrard put the ‘we’ in quotation marks – almost demarcating that any person reading his words must be of a civilized nature, out of touch with working in harmony with nature.

Catlin takes on a similar tone – the “we” in his text are the civilized people. He contrasts that the “civilized” world has words and systems to overrule the laws of nature, but then states, “I say that we can prove such things; but an Indian cannot” (40). I gasped when I read that sentence the first time. I thought he was joking. But the italics are from the original text (!) and give a terrific air of condescension.

Catlin’s nation’s park for the “Ecological Indian” (as ‘we’ would call them) was the most spectacular demonstration of a man who has been seduced by the “myth.” Catlin gushes that Indians are beautiful in their ancient, preserved state and insists that this admirable, exotic beauty should be showcased to the rest of the world. He says, “What a beautiful and thrilling specimen for America to preserve and hold up to the view of her refined citizens and the world, in future ages!” Please note the word “specimen” in this passage in reference to the Indian, which contrasts quite jarringly with “refined citizens.” Indians are specimens of a lost world that can live in harmony with nature, but at the end of the day, I believe Catlin would rather be a “refined citizen” than a “specimen.”

Catlin goes on to sketch out his idea: “A nation’s Park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature’s beauty!” (42)  I sincerely believed that Catlin was joking. A Park to showcase the Indian as a specimen?? But when he later states that he wants to be known – after he dies – for establishing such a park, I understood that Catlin was romanticizing the Indian as an ecological wonder.

Let’s get a show of hands, shall we? Would you, my dear reader, visit such a park – or, shall I say, zoo? Does the idea delight or disgust you?