Ecocriticism 2:Thinking Like a Child or a Mountain William Wordsworth vs. Mary Oliver, Aldo Leopold
Review • Different Usages of Nature — incorporation (as background), symbolization, interaction (as background or ‘characters’); • Ecocriticism -- Methodologies (from critique, re-reading to reconfiguration); Issues (e.g. nature vs. culture, the picturesque); • Examples: • the picturesque and “Tinturn Abbey” • “To Autumn”: Weather and Time • “Immortality Ode”: Nature & Childhood Romanticized?
Outline • Wordsworth’s Views of Nature: “Immortality Ode”: Nature & Childhood Romanticized? • Aldo Leopold : • General introd. • The Land Ethic • His Legacy • Mary Oliver: Two Poems • “Peonies” • “Wild Geese” • References
Examples II: Nature & Childhood Romanticized? • Immortality Ode: Structure – • Stanzas I-II:past glory vs. his present sense of loss; • Stanzas III – IV: his confirmation of the present beings while missing the visionary gleam bespoken by a tree, a field and the pansy; • Stanzas V-VII – the process of human (our) growth and learning of different ‘arts,’ lies and imitation in the lap of ‘Earth’ • Stanzas VIII – XI – reconfirmation of both past affections, recollections and truths and the present natural beings and child (child --we)
Examples II: Nature & Childhood Romanticized? Immortality Ode: • Do you agree that the child is father of the man? • How is nature presented in this poem? • How does Wordsworth resolve the issue of inevitable aging, forgetting and death?
”Ode: On Intimations of Immortality” • Memory of lost childhood sensuality, ”splendor in the grass,” led Wordsworth to a very different truth. [. . . ] he demoted nature from mother to ”homely nurse” because he wanted to claim a more diverse parentage, a patriarchal one with ”God, who is our home.” • Few romantic poets, even those like Wordsworth who wrote to recover a closer relation to nature, finally see themselves as entirely natural creatures, for natural creatures die, and poets, as Wordsworth’s title indicates, must find an imaginative route to immortality. (McNew)
Aldo Leopold: “The Land Ethic” • Starting Questions – • What is ethic for Leopold? Is it something absolute (a ‘transcendental signified’)? • How about the biotic pyramid?
Aldo Leopold: General Introduction • “a scientist who wrote poetry, a scholar who was most comfortable in the field, a conservative man who came to advocate a revolutionary idea” (Callicott 172) • Contributes to transforming ecology from a descriptive schema in botany (or animal distribution) to a functional approach to the total environment—a concern with processes and relationships, with causes and effects. (Flader 6-7) • Argues for the normal circulation of the energy among the various levels of the biotic pyramid—the stability and healthy functioning of the system(F 31)
Aldo Leopold: General Introduction • e.g. Wisconsin’s deer problem: for Leopold -- • Deer and cottontails were inflicting severe damage on plantations and natural forest reproduction, • and the commission had the obligation to get whatever help it could from wolves, coyotes, and foxes in trimming excess deer and cottontails to mitigate the damage. (F 210)
The Land Ethic: Structure • Odysseus • The Ethic Sequence: ethic defined; • The Community Concept – humans as members of the land; • The Ecological Consciences vs. the economic interest • Substitutes for a Land Ethic to leave everything to the government • The Land pyramid (three basic ideas 218) • Land health and A-B Cleavage • The Outlook –modern mentality, the farmer, vs. land ethic as a product of social evolution.
Ethic • Judgment with standards beyond the merely expedient • Ecologically, ‘a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence.’ • A differentiation of social from anti-social conduct (202) • Premised on the concept of ‘community.’
The Land Ethic • A product of social evolution • from Odysseus – slaves as property; • to the Bible –against despoliation of Land; • to the present conservationism –community instinct in the making • P. 205 – the workings of the biotic mechanism is never fully understood. • But many historical events were actually biotic interactions between people and land. e.g. Bluegrass六月禾;早熟禾屬植物(205)
The biotic pyramid • the biotic pyramid – “the energy circuit of nature” Through millennia of evolution, the pyramid had increased in height and complexity. • The carnivores (wolf, bear) – at the apex; (images) • Man –lop the large carnivores from the apex of the pyramid and thus disorganizing the system. • One who could listen objectively to that howl [of wolves]—who could visualize the wolf in its relation to the total life process of the ecosystem through time, not just as it might affect one’s own immediate interests – was thinking ecologically, like a mountain. (Flader 2)
The biotic pyramid • Two examples of Food Chains: • (left) http://sofia.usgs.gov/publications/fs/166-96/fig1.htmlSchematic representation of the mercury geochemical cycle and the pathways of mercury through the food chain in the Florida Everglades.
The Legacy of Aldo Leopold • A Sand Country Almanac 1949 • Not a Nature lover who glorifies Nature or lament over its loss; • a scientist, one of the first to profess the new science of ecology. • Without romantic revulsion against plowing, or cutting trees, or hunting birds and animals, or any of the things we do to make our living from the earth. • Against ‘the furious excess of our exploitation’ (Callicott 234-36)
The Legacy of Aldo Leopold (2) • Helping intertwined with competition • Predator and prey or parasite and host require a co-evolution where both flourish, since the health of the predator or parasite is locked into the continuing existence . . . of the prey and host. (Callicott 250) • Two examples: saving the bear; rain forest (from Earth Pulse) • The other examples: Bambi (hunters criticized, nature simplified), Pocahontas (Nature and ‘noble savage’ romanticized).
Mary Oliver: Her Style • . . . [presents] the human in the act of recovering a truth – that we are creatures. • Instead of forsaking the natural for supernatural eternity, her poems follow the cycles of the seasons to image loss and the possibility for renewal. These vast natural cycles, which usually symbolize traps and prison houses for the romantic visionary, are strangely consoling for Oliver. (McNew)
Mary Oliver • “Wild Geese” and “Peonies” – • How does the speaker in each poem relate to the natural creature? With what language are these natural creatures presented (presented as they really are, described with human imagination or symbolized)?
. ..all day the black ants climb over them, boring their deep and mysterious holes into the curls, craving the sweet sap, taking it away to their dark, underground cities William Blake “The Sick Rose” O Rose, thou art sick! The invisible worm That flies in the night, In the howling storm, Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy, And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. “Peonies”
Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal” She seemed a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years. No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees; Rolled round in earth's diurnal course, With rocks, and stones, and trees. “Wild Geese”
References: • Leopold, Aldo, 1886-1948.A Sand County almanac, and sketches here and there New York : Oxford University Press, 1987, c1949. • Companion to A sand county almanac : interpretive & critical essays Ed. J. Baird Callicott Madison, Wis : University of Wisconsin Press, c1987 • 沙郡年記 : 李奧帕德的自然沈思 / 阿爾多.李奧帕德(Aldo Leopold)著; 吳美真譯; 王瑞香審訂臺北市 : 天下文化, 1998[民87] • Thinking like a mountain : Aldo Leopold and the evolution of an ecological attitude toward deer, wolves, and forests / Flader, Susan. /University of Wisconsin Press, 1994. • From Janet McNew, ”Mary Oliver and the Tradition of Romantic Nature Poetry,” Contemporary Literature 30:1 (Spring 1989), 60, 68, 69, 70, 72, 75. http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/oliver/about.htm