Environmental Imaginings: Ecocriticism as Theory

Posted 11 March 2010 by Richard Pickard

Institution: University of Victoria

Course Number: English 462

Studies in Modern Critical Theory

Course hours: Tuesday, 4:30–7:30         Location: Clearihue A307
Instructor: Richard Pickard
Office hours: Monday 1:30-2:30, Wednesday 3:30-4:30, and by appointment
Telephone: 721-6636                             Email: rpickard@uvic.ca
Office: Clearihue D331

 

Course description:

Ecocriticism began as a practical endeavour, and ecocritics continue to perceive the field as

under-theorized. The 2008 MLA conference, for example, includes a panel sponsored by the

Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) entitled “Theorizing

Ecocriticism.” The panel’s call for papers (see Appendix 1 below) notes that “scholars are

struggling to answer the question of how to best theorize ecocriticism,” and asks, “What

theoretical framework can help ecocriticism enter a new age?”

This course is intended to ask the same questions asked in the MLA’s CFP, as well as others

to be determined by your own interests. Because you likely enrolled in this course to study
queer theory and feminist theory, we will devote significant time to the intersections of
ecocriticism with these approaches. Some questions to consider might be: (1) what role does
gender play in ecocriticism, and should ecofeminism be considered as a separate approach?
(2) how does ecocriticism relate to colonialism and postcolonial studies? (3) can
ecocriticism offer a critique of capital? (4) how can ecocriticism connect to the Derridean
concept of différance, or indeed to poststructuralism more generally? (5) what does it mean
to read greenly?

Required texts:
de Leeuw, Sarah. Unmarked: Landscapes along Highway 16. Edmonton: NeWest P, 2005.
Glotfelty, Cheryll, and Harold Fromm. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary
Ecology
. Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 1996.

Other hard-copy readings are available in the Reserve Reading area of the library, and others
are available online. See the Schedule for dates and details of all readings; there is also a
complete list as Appendix 2 to this outline. In most weeks we will look at three essays or
articles, totaling approximately 60 pages.

Assignments:
Description              Length              Due                    Value
Response paper     700 words         January 31         15%
Short essay            1000 words        February 28       25%
Final paper             1800 words       April 10               50%
In-class and online participation, or presentation       10%

Response paper:
You will be required to respond to one theoretical text assigned for this course; you can
choose a reading from any course unit, not just those covered by the due date. Rather than a
summary of the assigned reading, your response should engage closely with one or two
theoretical issues or knots you find particularly productive or problematic.

Short paper:
You will need to discuss Sarah de Leeuw’s Unmarked in relation to the theoretical and
practical issues we have been addressing in class. You could choose to focus on a single
section from the book, to pursue a repeated image or reference, or to consider the theoretical
perspective embodied by the book as a whole.

Final paper:
You are free to pursue any ecological issues or debates of particular interest to you. You
could write a traditional research paper; a focused theoretical examination of some issue,
concept, or object; or an example of narrative scholarship. We will discuss this assignment in
some detail during class time. Topics must be discussed with the instructor no later than
March 18.

Submitting assignments, and lateness:
Assignments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on the date due, through the course Moodle
page in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format. Ten percent will be deducted from the score of assignments
handed in after the date due. Extensions are very rarely – but occasionally – granted.

Plagiarism:
The minimum penalty for plagiarism is a grade of 49 on the relevant assignment, but this

grade is reserved only for clear cases of inadequate documentation, such as mishandling
well-intentioned paraphrases; most cases will result in a grade of 0. In addition, incidents of
plagiarism are reported.

 

Reading Schedule:


Week 1 (Jan15)    Critiques of Ecocriticism

Cohen, Michael P. “Blues in the Green: Ecocriticism under Critique.”
Environmental History 9.1 (2004): 9-36.  http://www.asle.org/site/resources/ecocritical-library/intro/blues/ [ON RESERVE]

Estok, Simon C. “Bridging the Great Divide: Ecocritical Theory and the Great Unwashed.” English Studies in Canada 31.4 (2005): 197-209. [ON RESERVE]

Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona. “Unnatural Passions?: Notes Towarda Queer Ecology.” Invisible Culture 9 (2005). Nature Loving. Ed. Lisa Uddin and Peter Hobbs.  http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_9/sandilands.html [ON RESERVE]

 

Week 2 (Jan 22)       Ecocritical Theory 1

Glotfelty, Cheryll. “Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis.” Glotfelty & Fromm.

Slovic, Scott. “Nature Writing and Environmental Psychology: The Interiority of Outdoor Experience.” Glotfelty & Fromm 351-70.

White, Lynn, Jr. “The Historic Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” Glotfelty & Fromm 3-14.

 

Week 3 (Jan 29) Ecocritical Theory 2

Buell, Lawrence. “The Ethics and Politics of Environmental Criticism.” The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. New York: Blackwell, 2005. 97-127, 164-69. [ON RESERVE]

---. Glossary. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. New York: Blackwell, 2005. 134-49, 170. [ON RESERVE]

Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona. “A Genealogy of Ecofeminism.” The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1999. 3-27. [ON RESERVE]

Week 4 (Feb 5)   Indigeneity

King, Thomas. “You’re Not the Indian I Had in Mind.” The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. CBC Massey Lectures. Toronto: Anansi, 2003. 31-60. [ON RESERVE]

Scholtmeijer, Marian. “The Listening World: First Nations Women Writers and the Environment.” This Elusive Land: Women and the Canadian Environment. Ed. Melody Hessing, Rebecca Raglon, and Catriona Sandilands. Vancouver: UBC P, 2005. 316-34. [ON RESERVE]

Silko, Leslie Marmon. “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination.” Glotfelty & Fromm 264-75.


Week 5 (Feb 12)   Race

Sturgeon, Noël. “The Nature of Race: Indigenous Women and White Goddesses.” Chapter 4 of Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action. New York: Routledge, 1997. [ON RESERVE]

Waldie, Angela. “Challenging the Confines: Haiku from the Prison Camps.” Coming into Contact: Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice. Ed. Annie Merrill Ingram, Ian Marshall, Daniel J. Philippon, and Adam W. Sweeting. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2007.39-57. [ON RESERVE]

Week 6 (Feb 26)   Animals
(key texts: Adams, Berger, Wheat)
Adams, Carol J. “For a Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory.” Chapter 9 of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. New York: Continuum, 1994. 166-85. [ON RESERVE]

Berger, John. “Why Look at Animals?” About Looking. New York: Pantheon, 1980. 1-26. [ON RESERVE]

Cronin, Keri. “‘The Bears are Plentiful and Frequently Good Camera Subjects’: Postcards and the Framing of Interspecies Encounters in the Canadian Rockies.” Mosaic 39.4 (2006): 77-92. [ON RESERVE]

Estok, Simon C. “Theory from the Fringes: Animals, Ecocriticism, Shakespeare.” Mosaic 40.1 (2007): 61-78. [ON RESERVE]

Vint, Sherryl. “Speciesism and Species Being in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Mosaic 40.1 (2007): 111-26. [ON RESERVE]

Wheat, Jennifer C. “Mindless Fools and Leaves That Run: Subjectivity, Politics and Myth in Scientific Nomenclature.”  Coming into Contact: Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice. Ed. Annie Merrill Ingram, Ian Marshall, Daniel J. Philippon, and Adam W. Sweeting. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2007. 209-20. [ON RESERVE]


Week 7 (Mar 4) Ecofeminism

Hazlitt, Maril, “Voices from the Spring: Silent Spring and the Ecological Turn in American Health.” Seeing Nature Through Gender. Ed. Virginia J. Scharff. Lawrence, KS: U of Kansas P, 2003. 103-28. [ON RESERVE]

Kheel, Marti. “License to Kill: An Ecofeminist Critique of Hunters’ Discourse.” Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations. Ed. Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan. Durham, NC: Duke U P, 1995. 85-125. [ON RESERVE]

Verchick, Robert R. M. “Feminist Theory and Environmental Justice.”  New Perspectives on Environmental Justice: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism. Ed. Rachel Stein. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2004. 63-77. [ON RESERVE]


Week 8 (Mar 11) Queer Ecology

Gaard, Greta. “Toward a Queer Ecofeminism.” New Perspectives on Environmental Justice: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism. Ed. Rachel Stein. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2004. 21-44. [ON RESERVE]

Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona. “Unnatural Passions?: Notes Toward a Queer Ecology.” Invisible Culture 9 (2005). Nature Loving. Ed. Lisa Uddin and Peter Hobbs. http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_9/sandilands.html [ON RESERVE]

Ross, Andrew. “Wet, Dark, and Low, Eco-Man Evolves from Eco-Woman.” Chapter 4 of The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature’s Debt to Society. New York: Verso, 1994. 202-36. [ON RESERVE]

Week 9 (Mar 18) Work

Reed, Maureen G. “Working at the Margins of Forestry: The Gender
of Labour Practices on British Columbia’s West Coast.” This Elusive Land: Women and the Canadian Environment. Ed. Melody Hessing, Rebecca Raglon, and Catriona Sandilands. Vancouver: UBC P, 2005. 102-27. [ON RESERVE]

Simon, Bryant. “‘New Men in Body and Soul’: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Transformation of Male Bodies and the Body Politic.” Seeing Nature Through Gender. Ed. Virginia J. Scharff. Lawrence, KS: U of Kansas P, 2003. 80-102. [ON RESERVE]

White, Richard. “‘Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?’: Work and Nature.” Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. Ed. William Cronon. New York: Norton, 1996. 171-85. [ON RESERVE]


Week 10  (Mar 25)    Theory

Campbell, Sueellen. “The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet.” Glotfelty & Fromm 124-36.

Everden, Neil. “Beyond Ecology: Self, Place, and the Pathetic Fallacy.” Glotfelty & Fromm 92-104.

Johnson, Galen A. “Forest and Philosophy: Toward an Aesthetics of Wood.” Environmental Philosophy 4 (2007): 59-75.  form at http://ephilosophy.uoregon.edu/Johnson%20EP4%20Forest%20and%20Philosophy.pdf [ON RESERVE]

Oppermann, Serpil. “Toward an Ecocentric Postmodern Theory: Fusing Deep Ecology and Quantum Mechanics.” The Trumpeter 19 (2003): 7-35.  http://trumpeter.athabascau.ca/index.php/trumpet/article/view/104/108 [ON RESERVE]

Week 11 (Apr 1)     Wrapping the course

Appendix 1: 2008 MLA Ecocriticism CFP
“Theorizing Ecocriticism”
(Panel sponsored by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment)

Since its origins a few short decades ago, a number of scholars have challenged
ecocriticism as being under-theorized. For instance, Dana Phillips has called for
greater theoretical sophistication in environmental studies and ecocriticism,
demanding that they become truly interdisciplinary and less reverential; Simon C.
Estok insists that ecocritics should define the field of inquiry and take on theory instead
of turning from it.

In an effort to construct an ecocritical theoretical perspective, Serpil Oppermann
proposes that literary ecocriticism has been too focused on realism and that a
reconstructive postmodern theory, rooted in principles of heterogeneity, is more
consistent with ecological principles. Louise Westling suggests that ecocriticism can
locate promising new theoretical possibilities in what she calls Animot Posthumanism,
which strives to challenge Cartesian dualisms by turning to philosophers and
posthumanist theorists who explore our human entanglement within the larger web of
the world. These are just two examples of the ways that scholars are struggling to
answer the question of how to best theorize ecocriticism.
What theoretical framework can help ecocriticism enter a new age? Proposals are
invited that theorize methods of ecocritical practice; this panel hopes to assemble
scholars whose work does so from a variety of perspectives, thereby creating
productive discussion that cuts across genre and discipline.

Works Cited

Oppermann, Serpil. “Toward an Ecocentric Postmodern Theory: Fusing Deep Ecology and Quantum Mechanics.” The Trumpeter 19.1 (2003): 7-35.

Westling, Louise. “Literature, Environment, and the Question of the Posthuman.” Nature in Literary and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism. Ed. Catrin Gersdorf and Sylvia Mayer. New York: Rodopi, 2006. 25-47.


Appendix 2: Course Readings

Adams, Carol J. “For a Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory.” Chapter 9 of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. New York: Continuum, 1994. 166-85.

Berger, John. “Why Look at Animals?” About Looking. New York: Pantheon, 1980. 1-26.

Buell, Lawrence. “The Ethics and Politics of Environmental Criticism.” The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. New York: Blackwell, 2005. 97-127, 164-69.

---. Glossary. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. New York: Blackwell, 2005. 134-49, 170.

Campbell, Sueellen. “The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet.” Glotfelty & Fromm 124-36.

Cohen, Michael P. “Blues in the Green: Ecocriticism under Critique.” Environmental History 9.1 (2004): 9-36. http://www.asle.org/site/resources/ecocritical-library/intro/blues/

Cronin, Keri. “‘The Bears are Plentiful and Frequently Good Camera Subjects’: Postcards and the Framing of Interspecies Encounters in the Canadian Rockies.” Mosaic 39.4 (2006): 77- 92.

Estok, Simon C. “Theory from the Fringes: Animals, Ecocriticism, Shakespeare.” Mosaic 40.1 (2007): 61-78.

---. “Bridging the Great Divide: Ecocritical Theory and the Great Unwashed.” English Studies in Canada 31.4 (2005): 197-209.

Everden, Neil. “Beyond Ecology: Self, Place, and the Pathetic Fallacy.” Glotfelty & Fromm 92-104.

Gaard, Greta. “Toward a Queer Ecofeminism.” New Perspectives on Environmental Justice: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism. Ed. Rachel Stein. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2004. 21-44.

Glotfelty, Cheryll. “Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis.” Glotfelty & Fromm.

Hazlitt, Maril, “Voices from the Spring: Silent Spring and the Ecological Turn in American Health.” Seeing Nature Through Gender. Ed. Virginia J. Scharff. Lawrence, KS: U of Kansas P, 2003. 103-28.

Johnson, Galen A. “Forest and Philosophy: Toward an Aesthetics of Wood.” Environmental Philosophy 4 (2007): 59-75.  http://ephilosophy.uoregon.edu/Johnson%20EP4%20Forest%20and%20Philosophy.pdf

Kheel, Marti. “License to Kill: An Ecofeminist Critique of Hunters’ Discourse.” Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations. Ed. Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan. Durham, NC: Duke U P, 1995. 85-125.

King, Thomas. “You’re Not the Indian I Had in Mind.” The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. CBC Massey Lectures. Toronto: Anansi, 2003. 31-60.

Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona. “A Genealogy of Ecofeminism.” The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1999. 3-27.

---. “Unnatural Passions?: Notes Toward a Queer Ecology.” Invisible Culture 9 (2005). Nature Loving. Ed. Lisa Uddin and Peter Hobbs.
http://www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_9/sandilands.html

Oppermann, Serpil. “Toward an Ecocentric Postmodern Theory: Fusing Deep Ecology and Quantum Mechanics.” The Trumpeter 19 (2003): 7-35. http://trumpeter.athabascau.ca/index.php/trumpet/article/view/104/108

Reed, Maureen G. “Working at the Margins of Forestry: The Gender of Labour Practices on British Columbia’s West Coast.” This Elusive Land: Women and the Canadian Environment. Ed. Melody Hessing, Rebecca Raglon, and Catriona Sandilands. Vancouver: UBC P, 2005. 102-27.

Ross, Andrew. “Wet, Dark, and Low, Eco-Man Evolves from Eco-Woman.” Chapter 4 of The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature’s Debt to Society. New York: Verso, 1994. 202-36.

Scholtmeijer, Marian. The Listening World: First Nations Women Writers and the Environment.”  This Elusive Land: Women and the Canadian Environment. Ed. Melody Hessing, Rebecca Raglon, and Catriona Sandilands. Vancouver: UBC P, 2005. 316-34.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination.” Glotfelty & Fromm 264-75.

Simon, Bryant. “‘New Men in Body and Soul’: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Transformation of Male Bodies and the Body Politic.” Seeing Nature Through Gender. Ed. Virginia J. Scharff. Lawrence, KS: U of Kansas P, 2003. 80-102.

Slovic, Scott. “Nature Writing and Environmental Psychology: The Interiority of Outdoor Experience.” Glotfelty & Fromm 351-70.

Sturgeon, Noël. “The Nature of Race: Indigenous Women and White Goddesses.” Chapter 4 of Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action. New York: Routledge, 1997. 113-34.

Verchick, Robert R. M. “Feminist Theory and Environmental Justice.” New Perspectives on Environmental Justice: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism. Ed. Rachel Stein. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2004. 63-77.

Vint, Sherryl. “Speciesism and Species Being in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Mosaic 40.1 (2007): 111-26.

Waldie, Angela. “Challenging the Confines: Haiku from the Prison Camps.” Coming into Contact: Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice. Ed. Annie Merrill Ingram, Ian Marshall, Daniel J. Philippon, and Adam W. Sweeting.  Athens: U of Georgia P, 2007. 39-57.

Wheat, Jennifer C. “Mindless Fools and Leaves That Run: Subjectivity, Politics and Myth in Scientific Nomenclature.” Coming into Contact: Explorations in Ecocritical Theory and Practice. Ed. Annie Merrill Ingram, Ian Marshall, Daniel J. Philippon, and Adam W. Sweeting. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2007. 209-20.

White, Lynn, Jr. “The Historic Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” Glotfelty & Fromm 3-14.

White, Richard. “‘Are You an Environmentalist or Do You Work for a Living?’: Work and Nature.” Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature. Ed. William Cronon. New York: Norton, 1996. 171-85.