Posts Tagged ‘John Burroughs’

“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

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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.

Question 3: Burroughs’ criticism on Thoreau

After reading “A Critical Glance into Thoreau” by John Burroughs, Burroughs views Thoreau as “a dreamer, an idealist, a fervid ethical teacher, seeking inspiration in the fields and woods” (Burroughs 487). That quote simply establishes a general ground for all of those people who label themselves nature writers. Generally speaking, every Nature-writer escapes into nature and away from civilization to find a deeper connection to Nature or connect things that occur in Nature to human emotions. At the same time, Burroughs see’s Thoreau as “not a great philosopher, he was not a great naturalist, he was not a great poet, but as a nature- writer and an original character, he is unique in our literature” (Burroughs 488). This is where I disagree with Burroughs. A person who raises moral questions or proposes a new theory can be classified as a philosopher. Thoreau addresses the busy lifestyle. People can get consumed with the idea of getting rich, or always trying to have more but Thoreau says we should live a simple lifestyle. “I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand, instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail” (Thoreau 293). Thoreau may not have been a great naturalist but Thoreau did call to attention economy, the value of money in the lives of human beings and true knowledge. In essence, “Thoreau was in no sense an interpreter of Nature… but if he sees anything unusual in Nature, like galls on trees and plants, he must need to draw some moral from it and indulge his passion for striking expression and fantastic comparison, usually at the expense of the truth” (Burroughs 489). Thoreau simply does not criticize an issue but offers a solution. In Walking, Henry David Thoreau says “I rejoice that horses and steers have to be broken before they can be made the slaves of men, and that men themselves have some wild oats left to sow before they become submissive members of society” (Thoreau 306). If a person simply nods in agreement with what Thoreau said then they might not understand the subliminal message. Horses are naturally wild animals but in order to be tamed and domesticated they first must be broken by the owner. One technique some use to tame a horse is they usually tie the leg of a horse until the horse is tired and then the owner gently stokes a horse so that the horse knows it is safe. Similarly in society, we have norms. If a person does not “fit” the norm then society as a whole will make sure he or she becomes like everyone else. Thoreau’s message is simple. Everyone has a natural wild spirit to them. Society sets the norms of how to act. We should not be easily submissive to what others expect of us but just be individuals. Therefore, Burroughs is correct to criticize Thoreau for not incorporating so much Nature and human emotions but Burroughs should reevaluate his criticism for Thoreau not being a philosopher or an interpreter of Nature. Thoreau’s examples do incorporate Nature and human beings as well as offer insight about how to live a better life.

 

Thoreau, Henry D. Walden Civil Disobedience and Other Writings. 3Ch/Art: Walden; Walking p. 5-70, 260-287. pub. WW Norton 2008

Mazel, David (ed). A Century of Early Ecocriticism. Ch./Art Excerpt p. 26-47. pub. University of Georgia Press 2001

Burrough’s Assessment of Thoreau

 

In John Burrough’s “A Critical Glance into Thoreau”, I agree with some of the things he says about Thoreau and disagree with other statements. Thoreau was a critic of the life around him and by going to live in the woods he did leave the civilization he was apart of. I do agree with Burrough that “his nature-lore was an aside… while he ponders on higher things.” (Burrough 43) Thoreau used his journey to list the woes of civilization such as a farmer having a house and being made poor from the expense or people who are “needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such… as their neighbors have.” (Thoreau 27) Nature itself is not talked about more than what is going on with humans. Thoreau’s connection to nature is his act of going back to the basics of food, shelter, and clothing which eliminates wastefulness that harms nature. I also agree that Walden “embodies a fresh and unique personality, and portrays an experiment in the art of living close to nature, in a racy and invigorating style.” (Burrough 44) Thoreau offers a new perspective about different aspects of society that get passed over as being normal and in this way the importance of them is questioned, such as the benefits of paying to go school rather than having real life experiences that teach a trade or how he questions the importance of fashion changes and how they should not matter. Burrough’s statement that Thoreau’s philosophy is “nearly always illogical” I disagree with, because Thoreau’s philosophy of living life without being taught what to do, what to say, or what path to follow is very logical and important. He is advocating freedom and creativity in order for people to enjoy life and not continue a way of life just because it’s always been done that way. Also, he advocates for people to live within their means, such as not buying a house that’s unaffordable or buying things to fit in with others. Thoreau advocates for people being content with that they have, because people can have peace when they are not chasing after the next big thing. He says, “Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes be content with less?” (Thoreau 28)

Group 1’s Fourth Blog Post

Walt Whitman's use of free verse became apprec...

Walt Whitman; 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 a Whitman poem of your choosing. 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. Find a contemporary newspaper or magazine article that relates to an idea in Thoreau’s Walkingor Whitman’s poetry. In your response, explain the connection between the article and Thoreau/Whitman, making sure to quote from each to showcase the connection. Besides giving a BRIEF summary of the article and thoroughly explaining the connection to Thoreau/Whitman, be sure to also address the significance of the connection. In other words, what do we gain/learn from connecting Thoreau/Whitman to this contemporary issue (or, if you prefer, from connecting this contemporary issue back to Thoreau/Whitman)? You are also required to include a link to the article in your post.
  3. After reading the excerpt from “A Critical Glance into Thoreau” by John Burroughs, do you agree with Burroughs’ assessment of Thoreau? Why or why not? In your response, be sure to quote from Thoreau’s Walden and/or “Walking” to support your answer. As a reminder, Burroughs’ discussion on Thoreau can be found on pgs. 487-489 of the course pack.
  4. After reading the excerpt from Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person by John Burroughs, do you agree with Burroughs’ assessment of Whitman? Why or why not? In your response, be sure to quote from Whitman’s poetry to support your answer. As a reminder, Burroughs’ discussion of Whitman can be found on pgs. 483-485 of the course pack.

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 1, your blog response is due by class time on Tuesday, October 18.

Group 2, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, October 20.

Group 2’s Third Blog Post

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) in June 1856 (...

Henry David Thoreau in June 1856, Aged 39. 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 2 only!

  1. Write an eco-Marxist analysis of Thoreau’s “Economy” chapter in Walden and/or his essay “Walking.” You may want to review Garrard’s brief overview of eco-Marxism in Chapter 2 of Ecocriticism, but what I am looking for is an analysis of how nature and economy function in the text. You do not need to use any technical Marxist/eco-Marxist terms, though you are more that welcome to do so if you have some knowledge of Marxist/eco-Marxist theory. Some questions to consider include: What arguments does Thoreau make about how nature is valued in nineteenth century American capitalism? According to Thoreau, how are humans valued within that system (and does he see humans as part of or distinctly separate from nature)? What solutions (if any) does Thoreau posit to the problems he poses and who are they accessible to? Do you see those solutions as plausible, and why or why not? Do you think that Thoreau’s own class position undermines his arguments or limits the extent to which we could view him as sharing eco-Marxist or social ecologist viewpoints? Why or why not?
  2. Give an analysis of how wilderness functions in Walden and/or “Walking.” Some questions you may want to consider include: How is wilderness represented/valued (for example, as Eden, evil, sacred, pure, threatening, etc)? What are the “politics of wilderness” (Garrard 77) of the text; in other words, how is wilderness a site of gender, class, and/or racial struggle? Who or what is included/excluded in the text’s conception of wilderness?
  3. Find a contemporary newspaper or magazine article that relates to an idea in Walden orWalking.” In your response, explain the connection between the article and Thoreau’s text, making sure to quote from each to showcase the connection. Besides giving a BRIEF summary of the article and thoroughly explaining the connection to Thoreau, be sure to also address the significance of the connection. In other words, what do we gain/learn from connecting Thoreau to this contemporary issue (or, if you prefer, from connecting this contemporary issue back to Thoreau)? You are also required to include a link to the article in your post.
  4. After reading “James Russell Lowell on Henry David Thoreau,” do you agree with Lowell’s assessment of Thoreau? Why or why not? In your response, be sure to quote from Thoreau’s Walden and/or “Walking” to support your answer. (As a reminder, Lowell’s discussion on Thoreau can be found on pgs. 479-482 of the course pack).
  5. After reading the excerpt from “A Critical Glance into Thoreau” by John Burroughs, do you agree with Burroughs’ assessment of Thoreau? Why or why not? In your response, be sure to quote from Thoreau’s Walden and/or “Walking” to support your answer. As a reminder, Burroughs’ discussion on Thoreau can be found on pgs. 487-489 of the course pack. (Note: This reading is not due until the week of October 18th. I accidentally added it to this week’s blog questions because I confused it with Lowell. I am keeping it on this week’s list of options in case anyone already started answering this question for this week. However, if you have not yet started your response, do not choose this one because it requires extra reading.)

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 11.

Group 1, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, October 13.