Annotated Bibliography

Sources for Ecocriticism and Ecocomposition 

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The Bioregional Classroom

 Anderson, Lorraine, Scott Slovic , and John P. O' Grady, eds. Literature and the Environment.
New York: Longman, 1999.

This collection, edited by noted environmental scholars and activists Lorraine Anderson, Scott Slovic and John P. O’ Grady provides essays, short stories, and poems related to the subject of humankind’s relationship to nature. The vast array of perspectives included in this text is truly noteworthy -- it includes works from authors ranging from bell hooks to Rush Limbaugh. An excellent primer on nature and culture, this book lends itself to the nature writing course or the ecocomposition classroom.

Dodge, Jim. “Living By Life: Some Bioregional Theory and Practice.” Literature and the
Environment. New York. Longman, 1999. 230-240.

In this piece, Jim Dodge, renowned poet and author, proposes a place-based approach toward ecology and toward life in general. Dodge calls for a decentralized, community-based way of life that takes into account the inexorable connection between human beings and their environments. Identifying a Bio-region only loosely, Dodge offers no firm definitions in this piece, calling instead for a practical, sensibly anarchistic adoption of bioregional theory and practice. A helpful text for clarifying the role of local concerns in ecology, and for understanding what the reinhabitation of space entails, including potential problems and difficulties therin.

Heaney, Seamus. Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001. “Mossbawn” New
York: Fararr, Strauss, Giroux, 2002. 3-15.

Writtten by master wordsmith and Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney, “Mossbawn” serves as an excellent example of a narrative essay about the personal significance of a particular locale. Heaney discusses the places of his childhood, reflecting on how his experiences in these places formed his personality and his writing, and at the ways in which his childhood memories still shape and inform his poetic sensibility. This piece is not only a useful read to anyone seeking an example of clear, elegant, and highly personal prose, it could also serve as a model for a place based writing exercise to be taught in the composition classroom.

Heaney, Seamus. Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001. “Place and
Displacement: Recent Poetry form Northern Ireland.” New York: Fararr,
Strauss, Giroux, 2002. 122-146.

In this piece, Heaney draws upon his experience with the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and upon his expert knowledge of his Irish contemporaries, to discuss the realities of place, belonging, and identity in the midst of political upheaval and outright war. Relating the tremulous sense of place to the poetry currently coming out of Ireland, Heaney reflects on the impact of political events on art, on poetry, and on the individuals and communities who create it. He also poses the problem in this piece as to what degree it is the responsibility of the poet to deal with political realities in poetry. This piece serves as a sort of case study in the effect on poetry and writing of the clash between conflicting cultures and religions in a given region.

Heaney Seamus. The Place of Writing. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989.

Discussing the late work of W.B. Yeats, renowned Poet and erstwhile Irish citizen Seamus Heaney examines the interplay between place and person, nation and identity. Heaney asserts that Yeats’ later work inverts the “filial” relationship between self and place found in his earlier work, imposing instead a highly individualistic conception of nature and nationality upon the landscape. Heaney sees Yeats’ restoration of a Norman tower at Thoor Ballylee as the ultimate symbolic expression of the poet’s enactment of his own human will upon the landscape. Besides being a fascinating read for anyone interested in Yeats, Heaney, Ireland, or any combination thereof, this piece investigates some subtle permutations of the relationship between human beings and the natural world.

Ni Dhomnaill, Nuala. “Dinnseanchas: The Naming of High and Holy Places.” The Geography of
Identity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan P, 1996. 408-432.

One of the preeminent female poets writing in Irish today, Nuala Ni Dhomnaill reflects in this piece on the traditional place-based nature poetry of Ireland known as dinnseanchas. Proposing dinnseanchas as an art form that reveres and honors place in terms that go beyond the political and the worldly, Ni Dhomnaill suggests that a return to the concept of place implicit in this kind of poetry may help to heal the ravages of the violent and territorial relationship that currently pervades in Ireland. This piece serves the reader to better understand the full significance of place based writing of the kind taught in an ecocomposition classroom, particularly in terms of the relationship between various kinds of nature writing and the broader political picture.

Owens, Derek, Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened Generation. Urbana,
Ill.: NCTE P, 2001.

In this excellent introduction to the “greening” of composition studies, Derek Owens, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Writing Center at St. John’s University, proposes an interdisciplinary classroom wherein writing provides a means for students to articulate testimonies about their relationships to the environment. Paying attention to the ways in which assignments that address the natural world are immediately significant and relevant for students, Owens text is an invaluable resource for composition instructors seeking to “green” their classrooms.

Potts, Donna L. “When Ireland Was Still Under a Spell: The Poetry of Nuala
Ni Dhomnaill.” Project Muse. Humboldt State University Library, Arcata CA.

An examination and further development of the ideas expressed in Ni Dhomnaill’s essay “Dinnseanchas…” this piece draws connections between the work of various contemporary authors and the traditional Irish form of nature poetry called dinnseanchas. While the piece focuses largely on the Ni Dhomnaill’s work, it also incorporates definitions and discussions of this form of nature writing by Seamus Heaney and others. This work is extremely useful as an example of an indigenous, cultural conception of mankind’s connection to place embodied in a traditional genre of writing.

Sessions, George, ed. Deep Ecology for the 21st Century. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.

Chairman of the philosophy department at Sierra Community College in Rocklin California, George Sessions edited this groundbreaking collection of essays on the philosophy and practice of environmentalism. Sessions traces the development of deep ecology from its inception during the environmental movement of the 1960’s to its current applications and permutations. The book defines deep ecology as a way of perceiving and relating to the natural world in a manner that respects the inherent rights and intrinsic value of nonhuman life. The articles in this book shed light on the origins, history, and philosophical framework of deep ecology as well as providing new insights and directions for the movement. For anyone researching any aspect of ecology, from biological conservationism to ecocriticism, this book is an invaluable resource.

Snyder, Gary, The Real Work: Interviews and Talks 1964-1979. New
Directions. 1980.

Renowned poet and activist Gary Snyder defines the concept of “reinhabitation,” a return to an older, healthier, and decentralized relationship to place than the one that currently dominates in developed western countries. Though it was written nearly 30 years ago, Snyder addresses in this work many problems still facing ecology and environmentalism today, such as the consideration of its applicability for urban dwellers, the poor, and for ethnic minorities. With many parallels to Dodge’s writing on Bioregionalism, portions of this book are useful in defining one’s particular eco-centric theoretical framework.

Weisser, Christian R., and Sidney I. Dobrin, eds. Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical
Approaches. New York: State University of New York P, 2001.

Another excellent text on Ecocomposition, this text provides a wide array of perspectives and approaches to eco-centric writing instruction. The common thread throughout this collection is the importance of place and relationship to environment in student writing; another invaluable text to the eco-centric teacher of writing.

Torrance, Robert M. Encompassing Nature: Nature and Culture From Ancient Times to the Modern World. Washington D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999.

A reader on Nature and Culture with a truly enormous scope, including texts from ancient China, Native America, and Rome, this book is encyclopedic. It provides a wide view of conceptions of nature throughout space and time, drawing upon examples from virtually every major culture known in human history. Perhaps a little imposing in length and level of sophistication for the introductory writing course, this text proves informative nevertheless to the ecocomposition practitioner, and could well be the central text of a more advanced writing course.