Archive for January, 2010

Thomas Cole’s “The Course of Empire”

Posted in Rhetoric on January 28, 2010 by Sarah

Thomas Cole’s “The Course of Empire” reflects the Western teleology from which so much environmental sentiment and discourse emerges.  We may be so unaware of how imbricated these views of civilization are in Western culture that these images may seem “obvious” to you.  But one of the things I want us to become critical about is the fact that this view of civilization’s rise and fall— and the various relationships to nature each stage presents– is uniquely Western, and uniquely American.  Our notion of time and where we are in these stages of the course of empire shape our politics and our environmental values.   What kind of eschatology does this narrative present?  What ‘moral’, if any, is implied?

Cole Thomas The Course of Empire The Savage State 1836.jpg

Cole Thomas The Course of Empire The Arcadian or Pastoral State 1836.jpg

Cole Thomas The Consummation The Course of the Empire 1836.jpg

Cole Thomas The Course of Empire Destruction 1836.jpg

Cole Thomas The Course of Empire Desolation 1836.jpg


Apocalypse: CJ Reeves II

Posted in Popular Culture, Religious Roots, Rhetoric, Uncategorized with tags , on January 27, 2010 by Sarah

Is it just me, or does it seems like the idea of an impending apocalypse is the hot topic of conversation now days? Everywhere we turn the notion of proleptic danger looms steadily closer to our stratosphere. To put it bluntly, the phrase “The end is near” doesn’t hold a candle to the extensional melt-down that we seem to be facing in our sooner rather- than- later future. Gone are the days of scholars and academia burrowing into their books to crack the long encrypted code of our earths end. This is something everyone (and I mean everyone) is talking about. From movies, books, YouTube videos, essays, and media coverage, the apocalypse (also known as 2012) is exploding faster than our planet. But where does this mass mania come from? When and how did we even begin to think of an end to our planet?
Author Greg Garrard has one possible answer. In his fairly recent book Ecocriticism, Garrard makes it clear that some of human’s most ancient text are to blame. He claims widely accepted religious works (such as the Bible) helps enforce the idea of a rather violent apocalypse. This in turn causes the veil of social psychology to become rent and the magnitude of believers of this crisis thrives.
So why not save ourselves from a whole lot of headaches, and simply come to terms with not believing. This answer is not as easily done as it may sound. In Earth First: Environmental Apocalypse by Martha F. Lee, she references another critic whom states it is because America was built around the very notion that we were chosen by God that faith in such religious aspects persist. We can then assume that it is in our very nature to hold accountable some form of that faith, and use it to map out the continuation of our world.
Though many scholars debate the idea of religion blazing the trail of apocalyptic studies, it is not up to debate that some sort of dynamic change of our solar system will enviably take place. Whether it is 2012 or later; the world at large is cautioned to fasten our seat belts in hope to survive this bumpy ride.

Charles’s Job Part I

Posted in Rhetoric, Risk & Fear with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2010 by Conor

Charles’s eyes fluttered open. He lay on his cot, the lights slowly rising as the sensors in the cot’s frame detected his increased heart rate and breathing. Sleeping in wasn’t an option. He sat up, groaning, and swung his spindly legs round, placing his feet on the cold concrete. Shuffling into the ablutions chamber, he mumbled “Eucalyptus” into the Uni-Port in the wall and listened to the glockenspiel’s clear notes ringing in the chamber. Leaning his head against the wall, mist spraying all over his brittle and spotted skin, Charles thought about his dreams.

Fragments swirled through his head, half memory half the ineffable motivation of the unconscious. He remembered the summit, the meeting where mankind was supposed to save itself. He remembered Dr. Daniel’s speech to the summit, and the world who, where there was still electricity, sat around their computers streaming the talks and waiting for the promise of sanctuary from the poisoned air that attacked them and the droughts that starved them and the tainted water that made them sick. Charles had been briefed on her speech before she made it, had the matter explained to him, its reasoning and necessity.

She had developed the first colony of the air-scrubbing bacteria that fed off the poisons in the air, cleaning it before it entered peoples homes. She had resurrected the idea of the home as a safe haven, as the family castle that was safe to sleep in. The world loved her. They loved her like Christians loved Jesus because she was their savior, their shining star in the quickly darkening sky. And she, Dr. Daniel, was about to tell the people of the world that they were going to die.

Because they were. She was the one chosen to make the announcement because the world would believe her. The PIC wanted as much widespread acceptance as possible. Her job was to destroy their hope, to crush it, and to facilitate their passing. She described the various government programs designed to kill gently and with a small measure of dignity, while the people began the global wailing.

Guerrilla Gardening

Posted in Atwood, Post-Apocalypse with tags , , on January 26, 2010 by Sarah

When we get to reading The Year of the Flood, we’ll find this link to “guerrilla gardening” of interest.    Gardens have a long history of utopic possibility.  One of the spaces of resistance and possibility is the garden, which impossibly emerges in the otherwise blighted, dangerous, post-industrialized scene of the novel.  How does the garden evoke utopic possibility in the novel?  What does the idea of garden evoke to you?

For one, as the rise of guerrilla gardening suggests, the garden in postmodern life can be seen as representing resistance to the enclosure of public space, a “taking into our own hands” of the systems of production and consumption (i.e. subsistence) that modernity has otherwise taken out of our hands.  The industrialization of food production that accompanies postmodernity has served to exacerbate gaps between wealthy and poor, the global north and the global south, and communities of color (often urban) and whites, for instance.    Around the theme of “food”, then, we can articulate the contours of modern injustice, which the novel’s focus on the garden may be attempting to do.

How did the garden become a leitmotif of ecological resistance?  With the increasing real-life loss of public spaces in which to protest, debate, speak freely, perform, etc.– a loss that Atwood dystopically dramatizes in the novel–  the real-life “guerrilla gardening” movement has “cropped up”, so to speak, in resistance to the industrialization of food and as a reclamation of civil society vis-a-vis public space.  

How does Atwood address this tension between lost public space and resistances to that loss through her focus on the garden?   How does this relate to the Biblical “garden” to which she is also clearly referring?  How can we bring all these typologies of “the garden” to deepen our reading of the novel?

Climate Change Perceptions

Posted in Climate Change, Risk & Fear on January 21, 2010 by Sarah

A fellow colleague of mine, Anthony Leiserowitz, has been doing research since I knew him as a fellow graduate student in the Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy Program at UO on “Climate Change in the American Mind.”  Now at Yale, he continues to produce some of the most cutting-edge analyses of the relationship between human psychology, risk perception, and environmental problems.   Working among disciplines (psychology, public policy, communication, geography), Leiserowitz and his colleagues produce documents such as this, which are provocative and hugely relevant to literary and cultural studies.   In this document, the authors outline six categories of Americans (i.e. “the cautious,” “the alarmed,” “the doubtful”–sounds almost apocalyptic, eh?), and investigate the perceptions, attitudes, and values of these different groups.   Take note that this report comes from the same milieu of our “Apocalypse Fatigue” article (Yale).  It’s Leiserowitz and his Yale Climate Change gang who are doing the major research on climate change perceptions….

The report opens with the following quote, which is a fundamental issue for our class:

Communication about the risks posed by climate change requires messages that motivate constructive engagement

and support wise policy choices, rather than engendering indifference, fear or despair.

— Howard Frumkin & Anthony McMichael (2008)

What do we think?

Margaret Atwood- Year of the Flood

Posted in Post-Apocalypse on January 21, 2010 by Sarah

Just thought you’d be interested in the following call for submissions to the Margaret Atwood journal, specifically for pieces related to the text we’re reading in class, Year of the Flood.  If you’d be interested in submitting something, let me know. I’d love to answer your questions about publishing, and, should you want to pursue it, to help with that process for this call.  

CFP :  Margaret Atwood Studies, the refereed journal of The Margaret Atwood Society, seeks submissions–article length or briefer–on Atwood’s The Year of the Flood for special issue (volume 4, number 1) devoted to that novel. All approaches are welcome, as are established Atwood scholars, newer Atwood scholars, and those with an interest in this latest novel because of either its genre or its commentary on environmental or gender issues. Send submissions electronically to the editor at Queries may be sent to same e-mail address.

For Our First Class Tonight

Posted in Uncategorized on January 21, 2010 by Sarah

Please read the “Apocalypse Fatigue” article available on the blogroll by direct link.    This article will give us a starting point for the class.  It’s short and easy to read, and should be a good read too.   Also, you can find the syllabus on the UASOnline course site now.