Posts Tagged ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’

Instructions for Group 2’s First Blog Response

prairie in Effigy Mounds National Monument, Io...

Prairie in Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa. 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. Give an analysis of how wilderness functions in The Pioneers and/or A Tour on the Prairies. Some questions you may want to consider are: 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? If you are writing about both texts, do they portray wilderness in similar or different ways, and what is at stake in these similarities/differences?
  2. Give an analysis of how the death of animal(s) is depicted in The Pioneers and/or A Tour on the Prairies. Some questions to consider include: What is the purpose of animal death in the text(s)? What emotions does it evoke in the reader and for what purpose? What attitude(s) toward animals/animal life is represented by the depiction of its death? How is this event used to reveal, promote, or condemn human qualities/actions? Is the animal death related to issues of identity, such as gender, race, class, and sexuality? To what extent does animal death validate or deny a commonality of experience shared by human and nonhuman entities? What kind of language is used to convey animal death, and what are the implications of that language? If you are writing about both texts, do they portray animal death in similar or different ways, and what is at stake in these similarities/differences?
  3. Give an analysis of how prairies are depicted in Washington Irving’s A Tour on the Prairies and either William Cullen Bryant’s poem “The Prairies” or the journals of Lewis & Clark. What do prairies represent to each of these writers? How does a change in literary form (from creative nonfiction to poem, for example) affect the representation of the prairie landscape? What feelings/thoughts does the prairie illicit? How do the writers depict changes to the prairie landscape as a result of westward expansion? How do issues of identity (like race, class, gender, religion, etc) influence their depictions of the prairie? What is at stake in the similarities/differences in these authors’ depictions of the prairies?

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 2, your blog response is due by class time on Tuesday, September 13.

Group 1, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, September 15.

4. How Nature is Conceived and Valued

In the reading of the letters and journals it is clear that in the early 1800’s,nature was conceived as vast and strong, but ultimately, a commodity to be understood, conquered, divided up and traded.

It is evident that Lewis saw the nature surrounding him as larger and more powerful than himself in many respects. “The difficulties which oppose themselves to the navigation of this immence river, arise from the rapidity of its current, its falling banks, sandbars, and timber…” (Lewis to Lucy marks, pg 49) He also describes one bear in particular as “ a terrible looking animal which [he] found very hard to kill” (pg 21) These two examples show in part the explorer’s conception of the nature as larger than himself.

However, despite all this, nature is largely valued as a resource meant to profit humans; white, “non-savage” humans, moreover. The very purpose of the venture was to explore and understand the land to see how best it could be used for human’s good. What’s perverse about this is the way in which Lewis and Clark seem uninterested in co-existing with nature. Instead, they want to conquer it. “It is now only amusement for Capt. C and myself to kill as much meat as the party can consume”. (pg 20) Here, nature has moved from a source of amazement to one of amusement.

Further appalling was the statement found on page 50, “in short there can exist no other objection to it except that of the want of timber, which is truly a very serious one.” This epitomizes the habit of humans to expect nature to be altered in order to suit their purposes, rather than humans change to accommodate non-human nature. This suggests a hierarchy where man assumes his position at the top.

If we were ever, without bias, to assume that humans saw themselves as superior to other nature, and valued the land as much as he valued his coat, shoes or house, these letters would lend much insight and justification of that assumption.

References

Jackson, Donald, ed. “47. Jefferson’s Instructions to Lewis.” Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition /with Related Documents. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962. Print.

Lewis, Meriweather and William Clark. “Journal Entry July 18, 1805.” The Journals of Lewis and Clark.  Ed. Bernard De Voto. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953. Print.

Question 4: The value of nature

 

    At the turn of the nineteenth century, nature was considered important only concerning what humans could benefit from it. Lewis and Clark spent time up close and personal with nature yet their journals lack an account about the awe of the sun or the beautiful flowers around them or any insight regarding the independent animals who have a purpose outside of providing food for humans. According to the Lewis and Clark’s journals and letters from their expedition, nature existed only for them to survive, observe, and be entertained by. Throughout their travel on the North America continent, Lewis, Clark and their partners killed animals in order to have food, oil, and clothing. Clark recalls, “I shot a large beaver & Drewyer three in walking on the bank, the fresh of those animals the party is fond of eating &c.” (Jackson 106) They lacked an intimate connection to the animals they killed. The explorers did not have any remorse as they killed animals simply for entertainment. Lewis stated“it is now only amusement for Capt. C. and myself to kill as much meat as the party can consum[e]” (Jackson 106) They bears they killed were never recorded as nuisances or as a threatening danger, yet they were pursed, shot at numerous times and called a “monster” (Jackson 105) Their ferocity, strength, ability to ignore pain and determination entertained the travelers as they watched bears fight until death. Panthers,swans, otters, and many more were shot at just for the sake of doing it without any shame. The death of many animals only brought the traveler something else to observe, such as the way the otter sunk to the bottom of the clear water after it was shot (Lewis, Meriwether and William Clark 165)

Lewis recorded his vast amount of observations. The country is described as “handsome and fertile.” (Jackson 105) The snake is described in detail concerning its color and length. Bears are compared to one another such as, “this bear differs from the common black bear in several respects; it’s tallons are much longer and more blont…” (Jackson 106) Wolves are observed as they hunt antelopes by singling one out of the group. Insects are included in the journal as simply pests who gather on the explorers meat. Despite the vast amount of observations and experiences the travelers had with nature, they never created a bond with it. Their insight concerning nature remained limited. Nature, according to the letters and journals of Lewis and Clark, was simply something to be used for human needs and had no purpose beyond that. The land surrounding them only held the value of something to be explored and taken advantage of.

                                                                                                                 References

  1. Jackson, Donald, ed. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition / with Related Documents, 1783-1854. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois, 1962. Print.
  2. Lewis, Meriwether and William Clark. The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Ed. Bernard De Voto. Bostom:Houghton Mifflin, 1953. Print.

Question 4: Nature’s Value in Politics

Reading the journals and letters of the Expedition of Lewis and Clark enlightened me to the fact that nature was represented in the first few years of the 1800s as a means to show respect and gain personal and political connections.  Lewis and Clark were mapping out the unknown areas of the North American continent, and while much of what they discuss in their journals and letters is regarding the nature and surroundings of the areas they visited, many of the aspects are strongly inter-connected with political ideologies and the complex, and often volatile, relations between nations.

Within the readings, there were many instances that showed the way nature is used politically, but I will delve into two that stood out to me particularly. The first occurs in Lewis’ journal of the journey, in the submission dated July 18th, 1805. As Lewis describes a river the crew comes across, he states “this handsome bold and clear stream we named in honor of the Secretary of war calling it Dearborn’s river” (Lewis 159). This statement, although written in a personal journey, has as much to do with describing the river as it does complimenting a man of high authority within the United States government. By simultaneously describing Secretary Dearborn and the river as “handsome bold and clear” Lewis is able to get in good graces with those in power and effectively do the job he was set out to do (documenting the sights and people of the then-uncharted portions of the American continent). Clearly, in this use, Lewis had personal motives, and he used nature as a means to achieve what he needed.

The second instance in which nature is used politically and as a means for personal gain occurs in the instruction letter Jefferson writes to Lewis on June 20, 1803. In this letter, Jefferson describes the relations with countries of Europe, and how these countries are handling the Lewis and Clark expedition. He describes how Lewis and Clark should handle relations with British citizens on the American continent: “[protection] from the minister of England will entitle you to the friendly aid of any traders of that allegiance with whom you may happen to meet” (Jefferson 61). This statement provides very interesting insight into the relations between nations of the day; only 25 years prior England and what would soon become the United States were at war. By the early 1800s, though, England is putting their faith and contributions behind an American enterprise, largely for the knowledge of what the rest of the American continent consists of. By offering the British something of value, the United States is able to better themselves as well. This instance, coupled with the one described before, shows that nature can be used in a multitude of ways, for both political and personal gain.

References

 

Jackson, Donald, ed. “47. Jefferson’s Instructions to Lewis.” Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition /with Related Documents. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962. Print.

Lewis, Meriweather and William Clark. “Journal Entry July 18, 1805.” The Journals of Lewis and Clark.  Ed. Bernard De Voto. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953. Print.

Lewis and Clark Journals

From reading the Lewis and Clark journals it is safe to say they had little to no respect for nature. Nearly everyday they killed several animals, more than enough to feed their group. They were not killing to sustain themselves; it became a competitive game for the two men. Lewis wrote on Monday May 6 1805 “Capt Clark walked on shore and killed two Elk, they were not in very good order, we therefore took a part of the meat only; it is now only amusement for Capt C. and myself to kill as much meat as the party can consum.” This makes is obvious that the party had more than enough to eat, and began to kill for entertainment.

Lewis and Clark do not fit into any of Garrard’s philosophical positions but they do display a trope studied in eco criticism. And that trope is man dominance and superiority over nature. Lewis and Clark set out to ‘conquer’ the west and were determined to not let any part of nature, whether it is a grizzly or a rapid river, stand in their way.

Lewis and Clark were only concerned with nature in terms of how it could be beneficial to them, and humans as a whole. This is a common theme in literature and in people’s view of nature in general. There is not reverence for the beauty of the undiscovered land. They don’t even view it as a feminine entity as some explorers do. Because to view nature as a woman that would be lending it human qualities and Lewis and Clark do not view nature in any way human. They in no way feel connected to nature, if anything the time they spent made them feel even more superior to nature than they did when they began their trip.

Instructions for Group 1’s First Blog Response

The route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

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. In his letter “What is an American,” How does J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur use nature (as imagery, simile, metaphor, etc) to help define his ideal of American identity? In your response, be sure to identify Crèvecoeur definition of an ideal American and how his depiction of nature reflects this vision.
  2. What role does class/economics play in the text(s) we’ve read for this week, and how is nature valued within that context? In responding to this question, you can focus on Crèvecoeur’s “What is an American,” the various writings of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, or both.
  3. Crèvecoeur expresses a complex ambivalence about life in the “great woods” which covered the United States only a few miles west of the eighteenth-century eastern settlements. What does he see as the beneficial effects of this scattering of farmers and settlers on the frontier? What are the “most hideous” results of this scattering?
  4. After reading the journals and various letters on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, what insight do these documents give into the way nature was conceived and valued at the turn of the nineteenth century?

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.
  • Stay focused on answering the prompt question above. Avoid repeating the question and be as specific as possible in your answer.
  • 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!

Group 1, your blog response is due by class time on Tuesday, September 6.

Group 2, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, September 8.