Ecocriticism Forum

Re: Eco-ambivalence
by Mike Mannix - Thursday, 25 October 2007, 03:20 PM
    These points are well noted and valuable. Ecocriticism needs to escape the image of white folks getting back into the wilderness. Its more than throwing on a backpack and a favorite neoprene pullover and heading to the Trinity Alps for a day of trail restoration projects. Urban communities in particular are a critical part of the ecocritical movement,as they are often victims of environmental racism. Hunter's Point in San Francisco and the neighborhoods surrounding the Chevron refinery Richmond, California are sites where African American activism has taken a role within ecocriticism, and it will be increasingly important to make sure these experiences with nature remain relevant. With the flexibility of ecocritical approaches and its ability to introduce other theoretical positions, this should not be an issue.

You bring up a good point. And it reminds me of what Chris said about ecocriticism. It's not just a focus on "nature" and "wilderness" but also on urban spaces, such as cities and industrial areas that may not have that same asthetic appeal or that same "value" that nature has but at the same time, these urban spaces influence the texts we read and the readers themselves. It is the belief of ecocritics that human culture is affected by the physical world and the physical world is also affected by human culture. From what little reading I've done, it seems important that people look around them and begin to ask the question, how has our perspective on nature influenced the environment around us? Those that live in Hunter's Point and Richmond are not the ones that created the environment around them, yet it is affecting their every day life. In an article called "A Shot in the Arm for African Ecocriticism, Evan Mwangi says, "In the West, eco-criticism focuses mainly on the 19th century literature which celebrated nature and wildness. In Africa, it would be more energetic because most of the literature has a rural setting or a degenerate urban background that expresses a longing for the lost rural peace." Are those living in neighborhoods damaged by the onslaught of industry and pollution desparately longing for "rural peace?" Like Mike said, in the west, we are more concerned with "nature" and "wilderness" and trekking into the wilderness to do our part to save something we value. Have we pigeon-holed ourselves in this notion of ecocriticism encompassing only that which is natural or are we going to justify our man-made environment as something worth analyzing? I think, bringing it back to the world of literature, that it is essential we broaden the scope of inquiry to include more than just the text and the reader. It must also include the world around the text (natural or otherwise), in the text, and of the reader. This does mean, as we've said before, that ecocriticism is one of the more eclectic modes of practice.