Posts Tagged ‘pastoral’

What “Good Nature Writing” IS NOT

When reading this essay, I found that Wright chooses to define “good nature writing” more by what it IS NOT than by what it actually is. This is seen in her denouncement of nature writing that is overly embellished but claims to be the truth. Wright states that the authors of such pieces have made a “grave error” in claiming to be truly good nature writers. Specifically, she condemns the writings of William J. Long for stating that his works are “careful and accurate [observations]” when the reader can clearly see he is elaborating. She does not condemn these elaborations for simply embellishing the truth but merely finds faults in the claims that they are the pure truth, almost as an attempt to lie to readers.

Like Wright, I also find it easier to exclude some works of writing (such as Long’s) from the category of “good nature writing” rather than to try to categorize all works that may or may not fit into the genre. Because, like Wright states, we should not regard all writing as false, and therefore, poor nature writing, simply “because they are not within the range of our own experiences”. I feel that a simpler way to eliminate a poor nature writer is to look at the extent to which he or she is honest with the reader. I think elaborative writing can explain a different, more personal aspect of nature and it can be regarded as worthwhile as long as the aspects of it that are purely fictitious are acknowledged.

In addition to the need for honesty in nature writing, I agree with Wright that good nature writing it also about “stepping forward” and meeting nature as an equal rather than the traditional view of “going back to Nature”. However, this led me to question the pastoral trope and it’s idealization of returning to nature. Perhaps just a reframing of the trope is necessary to categorize pastoral writings as great nature writing because the writer is not so much trying to reclaim lost nature of years past but rather reuniting with nature with “out-stretched hands”.


Proposal Topic: Promotion of ‘deep ecology’ using the ‘pastoral trope’ in James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pioneers” and Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered”

When this assignment was introduced I immediately thought of Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered” and how the contrast between all the generations of the MacIvey family that roamed the Florida swamps.  The early generations became farmers and cattleman using the land responsibly while the younger generations becoming greedy developing the land and exploiting it.  However, the most recent generation, Solomon MacIvey began reminiscing about the aesthetic beauty of Florida’s natural landscape.  This led me to James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pioneers” where Natty and Judge Temple represent the contrast between appreciating nature aesthetically and using its resources in a responsible manner to the development and exploitation of the land.  I found these two text interesting because they both incorporated the ideology of ‘deep ecology’ while portraying the ‘pastoral trope’.  With the cycle of man’s view and interaction with nature from the nature is a resource for man to the appreciation of the aesthetic beauty and conservation of it.

By applying Greg Garrard’s chapter ‘pastoral’ and the section defining ‘deep ecology’ to the texts will help define the exact positions each character represents and how they evolve from development of the land to conserving it.  Using the basic definition of ‘pastoral’:

literature that contrasts rural and urban life that generally values rural over urban life focusing on picturesque natural places; often involving a retreat to nature that enlightens the protagonist,

both texts will demonstrate the shift to the ‘deep ecology’ ideology.  The significance of both texts transitioning back into the ‘deep ecology’ ideology is because they evoke sympathy from the audience to promote ‘deep ecology’ and conservation with the responsible use of nature’s resources.  The main passages in focus for Cooper’s “The Pioneers” are the ones involving the killing of the deer and pigeons along with the introduction ofJudgeTempleto Natty.  In Smith’s “A Land Remembered” the main passages in focus are the arrival of the MacIvey family, the development of the property and Solomon MacIvey reminiscing on the land before it was developed.


  1. How does the transition from agrarian value of the land lead to exploitation of the land and its resources?
  2. What is the significance of the cycle from agrarian values to exploitation of resources to returning to valuing nature aesthetically leading to conservation of nature?
  3. Are these texts suggesting that the value of aesthetic nature can be returned to and if so when?
  4. What is the significance of valuing nature aesthetically?
  5. Are both texts effective at promoting ‘deep ecology’ ideology?
  6. How is the ‘pastoral trope’ depicted in both texts and is it effective?
  7. Do these texts effectively have the audience sympathize with the ‘deep ecology’ ideology?  And if so is this good?

Instructions for Group 1’s Second Blog Post: Emerson’s “Nature”

Charcoal portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson by ar...

Charcoal Portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson by artist Eastman Johnson, 1846. 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. How does Emerson define nature? In answering this rather broad question, here are some smaller issues you may want to consider (remember, you do not need to answer all of these): What role do the dichotomies of human/nature, human/animal, and/or nature/culture play in his definition? Is nature (and/or people’s relationship to nature) gendered? What are the class and racial implications/meanings of his definition? How are the tropes of pastoral and/or wilderness conceptualized in this definition? How do Emerson’s views of nature compare to the other authors we’ve read in class so far or the various eco-philosophies outlined in Garrard’s Ecocriticism?  In answering this question, you may choose to focus on one chapter or make an argument about the essay as a whole.
  2. Choose one quote from Emerson’s “Nature” 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 or compelling, 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.
  3. Read “An Overview of American Transcendentalism” by Mark Bickman or the definition of Transcendentalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. How does Emerson’s essay reflect the values and characteristics of Transcendentalism? In answering this question, you may choose to focus on one chapter or make an argument about the essay as a whole. Feel free to also quote from either of the texts on Transcendentalism.

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, September 20.

Group 2, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, September 22.