Ecocritter a.k.a. Lisa
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Now that a new semester is about to begin, I found this interesting course that a friend was involved with at St. Joseph’s. I thought a future iteration of Ecocritism could include a learning segment like this one. It looks like fun and is a great way to learn about what you can make with a variety of fresh food.
This week I have been working on my final project for our Ecocriticism course. I have been reading a number of books to augment my course materials and gain a better knowledge base in order to present a cogent conference paper. Specifically, I have been reading the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty and Spinoza–the latter of whom I posted a link to last week.
This morning as I was preparing my children for their day, I heard an interesting story on NPR (link above). The story is about a ‘spectacle’ (their word) of music, light, and performance that is based on a post-modern pastiche of Eastern music traditions, Western stage production, and contemporary collaboration. I could not help but think of Spinoza and Curtis White and my own research interests. White advocates for an ethics of beauty that I think we all wish for but have difficulty finding. At first, I thought White’s book The Barbaric Heart was a bit idealistic in our contemporary context. However, as I listened to this piece on NPR I felt that presence of beauty and jouissance in this musical performance the White discussed in his book. It was a refreshing relief from the earlier news about North Korea’s attack on their southern neighbors.
This link offers a really understandable essay about Spinoza. In the most current books I have been reading about ‘deep ecology’, Spinoza’s ideas are often cited.
In a horse race, a trifecta is a specific bet placement in which a bettor places a bet that to win must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third in exact order. In our course discussions of the last few sessions, we have been in a race to cover some serious theoretical ground prior to the end of the semester. The three theorists we have discussed (in no particular order at this point) are Haraway, Mazis and Latour. For this post I will share some personal perspectives regarding each author and how I would place them in a trifecta of usefulness for me at this point in my studies.
In the third postion of my Eco-theory trifecta, I place Bruno Latour. I have three reasons for placing him in the ‘show’ catagory today. First, I had difficulty with his reappropration of already existing terms. I found his glossary to be somewhat circular in form as did a colleague of mind. To explain, some of the glossary terms referred to other glossary terms sometimes more than two were used in one definition. You had to look up several terms that he reappropriated just to attempt to get at his ‘new’ definition. I find this style of writing is not only not directed at the laity, but it became tedious to me at times. It made me empathize with Sokal in his critique of the style of writing that borrows the language of ‘science’–however one interprets that–to make questionable claims. However, this is not to say that Latour has nothing of worth to say. On the contrary, he has a great deal to say about the political formations that direct the discourse of Science, which I appreciated. I found his use of Plato’s Cave to be a particularly compelling use of metaphor to ground his discussion. I think when I read more of his specific example his rank in my trifecta might change, but for now I find the style of his approach difficult to apply to my own thought process. Now that I understand that this book represents a major shift in his approach to the ‘nature’ problem, I can better understand why he makes the rhetorical moves he does. Yet, it was a difficult journey for this uninitiated reader to share with him.
Next, in the ‘place’ position is Mazis. Although, I must admit my sincere appreciation for the approach Mazis chose with this book. This book is more accessible than the other two author’s materials because it is purposefully meant to address a more general audience and as such the text is forgiving of a reader’s faults. In this regard Mazis demonstrates an ethics of care that is something I would like to foster as I write. I think Mazis and Haraway are in a photo-finish race to the ribbon for me because of his approach to the language we are using to discuss Ecotheory.
Finally, my ‘win’ is Haraway. I did find that I had to read her essays a few times to absorb what she was explaining, but I find that her ideas seem to resonate the most with my own additional research on Jane Bennett’s vibrant matter proposal. Haraway’s essays, “situated knowleges” and “cyborg manifesto,” that we read for class interpellate me because of her explanation of affinity politics and her reasoning that allows science, technology and animal to coexist.
Now that the smoke of the start gun has cleared, I’ll have to revisit each author and see if I my trifecta was a winning ticket for my research or if I’ll need to switch the order.
Last week, we ecocritters watched a documentary film about John Trudell. He is a Native American who was/is an active participant in the American Indian Movement. The documentary film was featured on PBS’s Independent Lens. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/trudell/more.html
While the film did have romantic overtones, I found it quite compelling for a number of reasons. First, I was only surficially aware of Trudell’s activism regarding the 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. His role in the release of two of the Native American men accused of killing two FBI agents was a clear example of community activism that was prevailent in the 1960’s and 70’s. Second, I have been reading an essay by Camus, a French-Algerian philosopher, entitled the Myth of Sisyphus. In this essay, Camus presents a theory of the absurd life. Sisyphus, you may recall, is doomed for eternity by the gods to repeatedly roll a rock up a mountain only to watch it roll back down again. It is his eternal punishment for attempting to give immortality to humans. He gets to live as an immortal but the price is eternal labor. What, you may ask, has this to do with Trudell. Plenty…
Camus asserts in his essay, which is partly about suicide, that the struggles of life are what give it meaning. Camus states that there is no proof of an eternal existence, and if there were, then it may just as equally represent despair as would hope. These two emotions are to be negated by contemplating the absurdities of life and existence. By doing so, Camus suggests that we live esstentially for the struggle. It seems to me that Trudell embodies that premise. The death of his wife and children, perhaps at the hands of the government, took away his hope. Yet, his despair has been transformed by what he refered to as ‘following the lines’–spoken word and poetry. Granted, Trudell asserts that the ‘lines’ were given to him by his dead wife. How he interprets the means of that transmission may vary from my interpretation, but nonetheless I am able to understand his poetry through Camus.
Do you have a preferred font for these two posters? The left image has a ‘paint’ or ‘brush’ font. The right image has a ‘leaf’ font. I’m not sure which is easier to read or provides the most appropriate feel for our purposes.
Anyway…I had fun!