ASLE’s Scholar of the Month for November 2020 is Jason Hogue.
Jason Hogue is a Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he recently received his PhD in English literature. He has contributed entries to The Map of Early Modern London and has done transcription work for the Early Modern Recipes Online Collection. Most recently, he completed an essay titled “‘The Fare of Sanguinary Devils’: Feast and Storytelling in The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta,” in Food and Feast in Modern Outlaw Tales (Routledge, 2019).
How did you become interested in studying ecocriticism and/or the environmental humanities?
Although I’m more of a “literature person” than a rhetorician, I was actually first exposed to ecocriticism as a discipline when I was teaching rhetoric/composition courses as a master’s student at the University of West Florida. A colleague lent me Sidney Dobrin and Christian Weisser’s Natural Discourse: Toward Ecocomposition, which inspired me to teach environmental perspectives in my classes and incorporate service learning projects like working with students in community gardens. I also had a great mentor at the time, Greg Tomso, whose vision for our campus garden got me really excited about growing vegetables organically as a type of public activism. I then decided I wanted to use an ecocritical approach in my master’s thesis on the medieval forest represented in Robin Hood ballads. My advisor initially balked at this proposition, but he eventually let me run with my passion.
Who is your favorite environmental artist, writer, or filmmaker? Or what is your favorite environmental text? Why?
If I have to pick just one, I think I would say Michael Pollan. I’ve read just about all of his books (I haven’t read the one about hallucinogens yet). He was the first writer to get me to think deeply about not only the industrial food system and its perils but also to think from a “plant’s-eye view,” with his attempt in The Omnivore’s Dilemma to trace the murky food chain that starts in genetically modified cornfields, as well as with his exploration of the vegetal agency of apples, tulips, cannabis, and potatoes in The Botany of Desire. And even though Pollan is an omnivore, it was his engagement with Peter Singer and veganism that first persuaded me to become a vegetarian.
What are you currently working on?
My primary focus at the moment is revising my dissertation into a book, tentatively titled Shakespearean Arborealizations. This project reads the trees and forests of Shakespeare’s dramas informed by scientific fields such as dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) and arboreal phenology (the life processes of trees through the seasons) for the dual purpose of showing how Shakespeare’s trees speak to our current climatic concerns in the Anthropocene and how these trees inform debates about plant intelligence, agency, and sentience. For example, my chapter on The Tempest takes Ariel’s long and painful imprisonment inside a pine tree as an opportunity to think backward and forward with the “dendrochronological” layers of the play, speculating on the differences between human and vegetal time. An article-length version of this chapter is forthcoming in ISLE.
What is something you are reading right now (environmental humanities-related or otherwise) that inspires you, either personally or professionally? Comment briefly on why or how it inspires you.
I recently picked up the memoir The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elizabeth Tova Bailey, which is inspiring me on multiple levels. It’s the story of a bedridden woman’s observations of her snail companion, who was brought to her by a visiting friend as a type of “get-well” gift. As Bailey slowly recovers, she begins to develop a kinship and attachment with this strange being who nightly dwells next to her. The book is both meditative and uplifting, with insights into Bailey’s having to live with a prolonged illness as well as how an unlikely interspecies friendship helps with her recovery process.
Is there a scholar in the field who inspires you? Why?
Amy Tigner, Stacy Alaimo, and Jackie Fay have been my inspiring mentors for a few years now, while I wrote my dissertation, and their many studies in ecocriticism, animal studies, and food studies have greatly influenced my own thinking and research. Vin Nardizzi has also been a wonderful mentor to me; his work on trees and plants in the early modern period constantly inspires me. As far as someone I don’t personally know, I am always excited by the work of Michael Marder, plant philosopher extraordinaire. His output of research in the field of critical plant studies is prodigious, and his books are my constant companions. His Plant-Thinking (2013) has practically become the Bible for plant studies scholars working through ideas of vegetal ontology and agency.