Posts Tagged ‘Susan Fenimore Cooper’

2. Susan Fenimore Cooper — Nature, the Home and Naming

Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours expresses a great deal about the relationship between humans and nature, and nature and the home, and very gradually provides implicit suggestions about the ethical behavior of humans toward nature. Her elaborations include interesting sentiments concerning possession which have not been the focus of previous writings we have encountered in this class, including the phenomenon of naming, in particular. Cooper provides a generally objective account of the winter season and its characteristics in her writing, every now and then breaking into more lengthy, subjective matters, such as an ode to the Christmas season – a season which, she softly suggests, is not only a time of family and religious observance, but also a time to consider blessings, like the many utilities afforded to people by nature. The holiday brings the idea of home to the forefront of the text, drawing a spiritual connection between domestic life and natural gifts. These, we can infer, would include the provisions derived from the wildlife Cooper details for pages and pages beforehand, such as down and eggs from Eider-Ducks (257), fur coats made from the fur of buffalo, fox, rabbit and wolf (286), and even maple or hickory wood for fires, which are deemed preferable to coal (296). Nature and its provisions are closely tied to the idea of home, according to the relationships Cooper establishes in Rural Hours. Without saying so explicitly, she ties natural resources tightly to daily life, acknowledging the presence of natural products in everything from home furnishings to holiday season decorations. Though she does not hinge her writing on a predominant environmental message, certain opinions shine through the text here and there and achieve the same effect. For instance, Cooper describes a “greedy” kind of person who would “steal” eggs from the Eider-Duck (257), and suggests that the growing population of the American Deer is a positive change, adding that it is likely “thanks to the game laws[…]” (289). This is important to draw from Cooper’s writing, because the notion that humans and nature and the home are kept in harmony by economical use of the land and wildlife constitutes the foundation of this text. Because nature, according to this text, operates as a resource and an object of beauty, it is implied that humans are entitled to its use but responsible for its sustainment. At the same time, it isn’t necessarily owned. This idea comes to surface when Cooper discusses naming, questioning the odd convention of inappropriate and inconsistent naming of places or landforms, especially naming natural objects after people, which, in her opinion, is especially a habit of “the English or the Yankees” (303). In part, the American home, in the sense of a national home, is more accurately defined by its original or natural names, given by Native Americans, such as in the case of “[…]Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc, etc” (300). This is an idea that is of great importance to Cooper, but not terribly significant to other writers so far. But after all, is it not human convention to give names to our communities of residence? Neighborhoods, apartment complexes and other districts within the boundaries of the smallest towns often take on a name that describes the immediate land. Cooper not only recognizes this as a part of defining the land as home, but argues that naming the land for its own features is more appropriate than naming it for its human features, establishing her stance on the matter by saying, “Consider a mountain peak, stern and savage[…]and say if it not be a miserable dearth of words and ideas, to call that grand pile by the name borne by some honorable gentleman just turning the corner[…]this connection between a mountain and a man, reminds one rather unpleasantly of that between the mountain and the mouse” (305).

Cooper, Susan Fenimore. Rural Hours. Ch./Art: “Winter” p.252-357. pub. University of Georgia Press 1998

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Group 1’s Third Blog Post

Lydia Sigourney. Library of Congress descripti...

L.H. Sigourney; 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 L.H. Sigourney’s poem “Fallen Forests.” 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. Both Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours And L.H. Sigourney’s Scenes in My Native Land are particularly interested in the ecology of home, focusing on their local environments rather than uncharted wilderness. How do either (or both) of these writers define home, and how is nature valued within this context? If you are writing about both Cooper and Sigourney, do they have similar or different views of nature and/or the New England environment? To what extent does Coopers’/Sigourney’s valuation of nature and/or home agree with/diverge from other authors we’ve read this semester? Do these texts have a clear environmental message, and if so, what is it?
  3. Choose one quote from the Judith Plant essays 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, compelling, or problematic, 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.

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.
  • 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, October 4.

Group 2, blog comments are due by class time on Thursday, October 6.