Posts Tagged ‘J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur’

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 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.

What is an American?

Joselyn Garcia
September 6, 2011

Defining and American Identity

In the letter, “What is an American,” J Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur uses imagery and simile to compare nature to the ideal American identity. For example, Crèvecoeur says “Men are like plants; the goodness and flavor of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we derive from the government we obey and the nature of our employment.” (Pg 5) Plants will not flourish gracefully if the soil they are planted is rotten. Similarly, Americans do not have the same opportunity to flourish in Europe. Most settlers, Crèvecoeur points out, come to America because of the opportunities, freedom, and equality all men seem to possess. People may start from nothing in America but surely with hard work and perseverance they are able to live a decent lifestyle. From the beginning to the end of his letter, Crèvecoeur seems to compare the American to the European. Crèvecoeur’s definition of an American is the person who “leaves behind him all of his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the mode of life he embraces, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he hold.” (pg 4) Therefore, we can see that because an American does not follow the rules of the English king but follows what the American Alma Matter says, is hard working, and submits to the American customs then that is what distinguishes him from the European. Compared the European Nature, Europeans have huge social gaps, follow unrighteous laws, and is not free. Nature is free and so man deserves the same right! Unlike Europe, there were “so many useless plants, wanting vegetative mould, and refreshing showers; they withered, and were mowed down but want, hunger, and war.” (pg4) Americans lay their roots, their foundation in America and will not wither away because we have good soil, we have fertile ground. In essence, our foundation is viewing your fellow American with equal eyes, working hard on your land and following a new system.

St. John de Crèvecoeur, J. Hector. “What is an American?” Letters from an American Farmer. New York: Dutton, 1877. 39-68. Print.

Crèvecoeur: Men as Plants… Question 1

In his Letter from an American Farmer: “what is an American”, Crèvecoeur describes the ideal American as the product of cultural exchange and the new, specific environment. He explains that Americans were once “scattered all over Europe”, as if to metaphorically suggest that the citizen’s of this new state came from different European origins while at the same time, suggesting that they are no longer scattered but united in their new American home (44). This connects to Crèvecoeur’s clear intentions of identifying and elucidating a sort of proto-nationalism that idealizes specific American attributes: industriousness, diverse origins, and essential equality.

In examining the reality of cultural exchange in America, Crèvecoeur explains how a large portion of cultural identity—specifically religion and generally intolerance— is lost  “evaporate[d] in the great distance it has to travel” (51). The isolation and separateness of the new American society is exemplified through the long and perilous journey. The reality is that this trip was customarily undertaken by the poor or persecuted. It serves as a real crucible; testing the fortitude of the travelers, and weeding out the weak. At the same time, Crèvecoeur employs it nearly rhetorically, explaining its effects as diffusing the gunpowder keg of Europe.

Crèvecoeur also makes the simile “Men are like plants;” that the physical environment plays a large part in an individual’s development. He explains how regional differences within the American boundaries will ultimately breed different cultural developments. This is most strongly emphasized in his examination of the back-settlers, which he warns may become barbaric or otherwise separate from his American ideal. This analogy provokes an ecocritical reading to the extent that moral considerability can be shifted towards plants; if men are like plants then plants are like men. This may be comparable to the ‘deep ecology’ philosophical perspective.

It is clear that Crèvecoeur is attempting to explain the American experience as it effects (is effecting) the development of the fledgling American society. He specifies that even though the inhabitants might have been linked to one culture or another, upon arrival a “great metamorphosis” has taken place (60), they have become citizens of one nation. The force of this metamorphosis is the “common casualt[y] of nature”, the features of American life as both a struggle and a time of growth.

St. John de Crèvecoeur, J. Hector. “What is an American?” Letters from an American Farmer. New York: Dutton, 1877. 39-68. Print.

Crèvecoeur and the “great woods”

According to Crèvecoeur, the “great woods” appear to have extreme complexity. Even though the vast amount of unsettled land proved to be beneficial to the American society, it was not a perfect utopia. The settlers in these regions were not a part of the American society. “There, remote from the power of example and check of shame, many families exhibit the most hideous parts of our society,” (Crèvecoeur 47). Even though many Europeans immigrated to America to escape persecution and own land, the complete alienation from government appears to be frowned upon. However, Crèvecoeur never said these settlers were a detriment to the society. He writes, “They are a kind of forlorn hope, preceding by ten or twelve years the most respectable army of veterans which come after them,” (Crèvecoeur 47). We have to understand how important the early settlers were to America. They were the building block and even though they were rough around the edges, and ate mostly meat, Crèvecoeur understands the purpose they served in creating the American society.

Crèvecoeur also details the benefits of scattering settlers. Because of the scattered farmers, America does not become a copy of Europe. Crèvecoeur sees a society of vast amounts of land where everyone is welcome and not confined to living on top of each other. He writes, “He [European] does not find, as in Europe, a crowded society, where every place is overstocked; …There is room for everybody in America;” (Crèvecoeur 57). However, this “room” described by Crèvecoeur, does not exclude the woods. They are pivotal in the development of America. Granted, Crèvecoeur did warn against the men who made their lives in the woods, who resorted to hunting as means to survive, he knew we could not discard the benefits of the woods. They offered so much to the American society, but Crèvecoeur warns against exclusion. There must be a harmony between the “great woods” and industry so America can flourish.

Sources:

St. John de Crèvecoeur, J. Hector. “What is an American?” Letters from an American Farmer. New York: Dutton, 1877. 39-68. Print.

1. Crèvecoeur’s Ideal American

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur utilizes his letter “What is an American” to advance his view that environments reflect the moral and political identity of their denizens.  Crèvecoeur describes Americans as the “individuals of all nations [who] are melted into a new race of man” (43).  In defining this “new race,” he subscribes strongly to his view that men “owe all their different modifications either to government or other local circumstances” (65-66).  Americans are categorized into three groups.  Those on the coast, owing to how they “feed more on fish than on flesh,” are more “bold and enterprising” (45).  Those farther inland are described as being purified by the earth, and “government…religion…[and] the rank of independent freeholders, must necessarily inspire them with sentiments, very little known in Europe” (45).  Finally, those on the farthest outreaches of the colonies are far from government and order, and are thus “no better than carnivorous animals of a superior rank” (46).

In contrast, Crèvecoeur characterizes Europe as forbidding due to “The severity of the climate, the inclemency of the seasons, the sterility of the soil, [and] the tempestuousness of the sea” (66).  In so doing, Crèvecoeur betrays more in his way of thinking than simple environmental determinism; he is using these environments as political analogies.  Europe is described as harsh and forbidding due to its rigid political and economic structure, where society is “composed…of great lords who possess everything, and of a herd of people who have nothing” (40).  On the other hand, he characterizes the American environment by “my verdant fields, my fair navigable rivers, and my green mountains” (67-68).  This Edenic environment symbolizes Crèvecoeur’s belief in individual freedom that goes beyond the stuffy inflexibility of Europe, where individuals determine their own worth and “each person works for himself” (40).  This is not to say that Crèvecoeur is an anarchist who completely disbelieves in the benefits of a governmental structure; his backhanded description of the frontiersman from above betrays this much.  Rather, Crèvecoeur believes the ideal American is an individualist who works with what he is given to make the best possible life for himself, a view somewhat akin to classical liberalism, and Crèvecoeur deems the unfettered American landscape as the perfect symbol of this outlook.

 

References

 

St. John de Crèvecoeur, J. Hector. “What is an American?” Letters from an American Farmer. New York: Dutton, 1877. 39-68. Print.

The Ideal American

Crevecoeur juxtaposes between hunters and farmers to perpetuate his Cornucopian capitalist values while also giving examples of a fledging American pastoral. Although, for a farmer, religion takes a back seat to crop yields (or arguably it becomes a religion to Crevecoeur) it is altogether lost on a hunter. Here Deep ecologists would point out the great problem, “It identifies the dualistic separation of humans from nature promoted by Western philosophy and culture as the origin of environmental crisis” (Garrard 21).  Crevecoeur demonstrates how all the farmers do their work, all devout, doing God’s work, while being free to worship or not as he also states that there is a religious fallout that naturally takes place in America. To Crevecoeur, the American is a new race that must take on new ways of thinking while applying the tools and technology born in Europe to the land. To him there is also a difference between country and land. Land is to be cultivated and country is be cared for and loved: “the simple cultivation of the earth purifies them,” and because of this they will love their country’s embrace (Crevecoeur 45). And to be a man, a citizen, he must own land.

To Crevecoeur, once the tools of farming are thrown away and the gun is accepted, the biggest sin has committed. In the woods, men become hunters, move away from the land and eventually lose the will to harvest. Crevecoeur delineates the hierarchies of American populations. Seafarers who value transit are cultured, and this would include the eastern seaboard. Slowly, he demonstrates that the further inland people go the more barbarous and simpleminded they become. Rural woods that are not cleared for fields do not allow for culture or a construction thereof, because of the distances between people—something that is unique from Europe.

While Crevecoeur raises up the poor European immigrant he embraces an ideal sort of egalitarian middle and lower class, or some type of mystic society where everyone can eventually reach the very same rank; who are not oppressed by a state church; monarchy, or aristocracy and can retreat from Europe’s urban industrialism. He displays a combination of Cornucopian capitalism while simultaneously denigrating the class of hunters, who are also American. The hunters are poor and it is difficult to differentiate between them and the poor European. Either way, the hunters will eventually remove and the civilized man will come to clear the land. There is a funny commonality between the poor European and the hunter that I’m not so sure Crevecoeur saw.

We find Crevecoeur’s values clearly contrasted between hunter and farmer.. Crevecoeur shows the American pastoral, putting a strong value in the work of the land. Indeed he rarely mentions the aesthetic qualities that with which British and Classical pastoral were concerned (Garrard 49). By contrast the hunters do none of what is valuable and as quoted before, are not purified. What is lost on the hunters is democracy and capitalism. Crevecoeur repeatedly emphasizes the idea of one man hatching an idea after acquiring skills, goes out on his own and is likely to prosper, using nature as a tool, a part of the entrepreneur’s ingenuity. Opposite to success, the hunters descend into drunkenness and idleness.

In hunting we find immorality, insatiability, drunkenness and oblivion. In farming we find culture, manners, sobriety, virtue and religion.

Also, I would like to posture a question, on page 54 of Crevecoeur he uses the word ‘rustic’, I wonder what this word meant back then, and how different was it from what means now? I could be the same, I don’t know.

References

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2004.

St. John de Crevecoeur, J. Hector. “What is an American?” Letters from an American Farmer. New York: Dutton, 1877. 39-68. Print.