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提供者:Kate Liu / 劉紀雯

Critical Practice

Except otherwise noted, the following notes are mainly based on the article
"Ecocriticism," by Kate Rigby in Introducing Criticism at the 21st Century.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2002: 151-78.

Methodologies and Questions for Discussion
Possible Questions to Ask of Literature


I. General

''Cold War criticism'' -- critical trends before ecocriticism
Focusing on questions of human creativity, human agency and human social relations, ''Cold War criticism'' can also be seen to perpetuate that binary opposition of the human to the non-human, culture to nature, which has a long history in western rationalism. (pp. 159-60)

''Global Warming criticism,''
By contrast, ''Global Warming criticism,'' as Bate terms his new approach, attends to the inextricability of culture and nature, the primary sign of which he considers to be the weather (Bate 1996 439). Informed not only by meterology and ecology, but also by the new science of non-linear dynamic systems popularized as ''Chaos Theory,'' Global Warming criticism presupposes a natural world which can no longer be thought of as passive, orderly and compliant, but which is rather volatile, unpredictable and responsive to our interventions in ways that we can neither foresee nor control.

Two Groups: the formalist camp and the protoecocritical group.

1. The formalists have examined birds, plants (especially flowers), gardens, the relation between nature (as a general theme) and genre, the way the natural environment could be seen to fit into cosmic patterns, and so on.

2. While the former[formalist] is structuralist (concerned primarily with enumerating thematic clusters, with comparing them, with trying to get idealist pictures of the English Renaissance, and so on), the latter is poststructuralist in its various theoretical discussions of the ways that thinking and talking about the natural world interrelate with other early modern discourses. (Estok)


II. Methodologies and Questions for Discussion:  

Methodologies --

1. Critiquing the Canon (p. 155 - );

e.g. example:
* Lyn White Jr. ''The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis'' 1996 -- the Hebrew creation in Genesis I - "not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God''s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends'' (: 10). . . . In [White''s] analysis, the problem lay not so much with the biblical text itself, but rather with the way in which it began to be interpreted in western scientific exploration, technological manipulation and economic exploitation of the natural world which has today reached a level that would have been unimaginable, and quite possibly appalling, to the authors of Genesis.

* Joseph Meeker The Comedy of Survival 1972
1. classical tragedy -- reinforces the anthropocentric ''assumption that nature exist for the benefit of mankind, the belief that human morality transcends natural limitations, and humanism''s insistencde on the supreme importance of the individual'' (Meeker 1972 42-3).
a defense: classical tragedy-question, rather than affirm, the hubris of human assertion.
2. the pastoral tradition - a form of escapist fantasy, valorizing a tamed and idealized nature over wild no less than urban environments.

2. Reframing the text

For White, as for subsequent ecocritics and environmental historians, the natural world is no longer a passive recipient of human interventions and projections but an active participant in the formation and transformation of human culture and society. . . .--> . . . this principle necessitates a radical shift in the way in which texts are interpreted and contextualized. . . . Whereas, in the past, literary critics might have leant on history, philosophy or the social sciences in framing their readings of particular texts, ecocritics need to draw also on geography, ecology and other natural sciences. (p. 158 -)

3. Revaluing Nature Writing

the ''recuperative'' more than the critical. P. 159
Lawrence Buell - environmentally oriented work should display the following characteristics:
1. The non-human environment is present not merely as a framing device but as a presence that begins to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history. [. . .]
2. The human interest is not understood be the only legitimate interest. [. . .]
3. Human accountability to the environment is part of the text''s ethical framework. [. . .]
4. Some sense of the environment as a process rather than as a constant or a given is at least implicit in the text. [. . .]

4. Return to Romanticism -pastoral

1) Raymond Williams demonstrates that pastoral is potentially far more than an expression of conservative nostalgia for a lost agrarian past. Thus he begins by observing that pastoral, which first emerged in Hellenistic Greek literature, may well have originated not in the escapist fantasies of an urban elite, but rather in the singing competitions of peasant communities themselves. Latin, and to an even greater extent Renaissance and Augustan, pastoral writing did nonetheless undoubtedly tend towards forms of idealization, which elided the realities of rural life from the perspective of the labouring poor. In the ''green language'' of romantic neopastoral, however, above all that of early Wordsworth and his younger contemporary John Clare . . . , William finds an important locus of resistance to the increasing commodification and degradation of the land, . . . (p. 161)

2) Bate vs. different views on Romanticism

New Criticism and Deconstruction - what Romanticism really valorizes is not nature, but the human imagination and human language;
New Historicism-the ideological function of romantic imagination and pastoral was to disguise the exploitative nature of contemporary social relations;
Bate - Wordsworth repositioned in a tradition of environmental consciousness, according to which human well-being is understood to be coordinate with the ecological health of the land. (p. 162)

3) possible problems :

-- Romantic thought undoubtedly overcame the Cartesian dualism of mind and matter by positing human consciousness and creativity as a manifestation of potentials inherent in nature. However, this very naturalization of mind can lend itself to a celebration of techne at the expense of physis, as in the image of the ''good mine'' in Shelley''s Queen Mab (1813).
-- romantic holism does not always undo the hierarchies embedded in the oppositions that it reconciles.
-- It might be argued that the romantic aestheticization of nature has functioned historically not so much as a potential locus of resistance to its industrial exploitation, but rather as compensation for it. Under the Modern Constitution, it has been all too easy to move between the consumption of nature as raw material for economic production during the working week, to the consumption of nature as sublime or beautiful on Sundays.
-- . . . within the romantic celebration of natural beauty or sublimity, there is sometimes a transcendental strain, whereby the ultimate source of meaning and value is projected out of this world into a heavenly beyond, . . .(pp. 162-63)

5. Reconnecting the social and the ecological

e.g. Feminization of Nature

6. Regrounding language

-- Nature is not silent. Contemporary biologists . . .testify to the abundance of signifying systems in the natural world.

-- Animistic cultures, where ''human language takes its place alongside, and in communication with ''the language of birds, the wind, earthworms, wolves, and waterfalls--a world of autonomous speakers whose interests . . . one ignores at one''s peril'' (Christopher Manes 1996, 15, qtd in Rigby 166)

-- Language is shaped by environment.


III. Possible Questions to Ask of Literature:

-- "How is nature represented in this sonnet?"
Or: "Are the values in this play consistent with ecological wisdom?"
Or: "In what ways has literacy itself affected humankind''s relationship to the natural world?"

Three levels:
1) a concern with "representations"--how nature is represented in literature.
2) the re-discovery and re-consideration of antecedent works--the claiming of a heritage.
3) a theoretical phase, for, say, examining "the symbolic construction of species. How has literary discourse defined the human?"
(Glotfelty qtd in "Only God Can Make a Tree: The Joys and Sorrows of Ecocriticism")


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