It was not the first time I was full of wonder at the waste of human ability in this world, as a botanist wonders at the wastefulness of nature, the thousand seeds that die, the unused portion of every sort. The reserve force of society grows more and more amazing to one’s thought.
Sarah Orne Jewett
From The Country of the Pointed Firs
I have been reading and rereading these sentences from Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs. They fuel my understanding of and vision for what education can accomplish.
What would happen if every person working in education, on all levels, grappled with the “thousand seeds that die” on a daily basis?—with how their work helps awaken the “reserve force of society”?—with how to unleash the locked-up potential as something alive and kinetic?
(That cone in Rebecca’s hand holds innumerable seeds for the Giant Sequoia—seeds that have the potential to grow, in the right environment, into a tree that has branches, 100 feet off of the ground, that are 7 feet in diameter and over 125 feet long . . . indeed . . . “the reserve force [of seeds and] society grows more and more amazing to one’s thought.”)
The endorsements are finalized for Zoopoetics: Animals and the Making of Poetry, as is the cover. It is now available.
“Zoopoetics is an original, lucid examination of how animals shape the human art of poetry. Drawing upon the foundational work of such scholars as Paul Shepard, Donna Haraway, and David Abram, Aaron M. Moe uses the Derridian concept of ‘zoopoetics’ to deepen our understanding of language and our understanding of what animals mean to humans. Without other species, we might be essentially voiceless. This is a significant study of ‘animality,’ one of the central paradigms in the field of ecocriticism.”
—Scott Slovic, editor of ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment
“Moe’s Zoopoetics lucidly demonstrates that poetry is a shared space in which human and other animals may ‘stretch toward’ each other, a space in which many of our best poets in English attend to nonhuman poiesis. This is a timely and important contribution to ecocriticism and animal studies.”
—Helena Feder, author of Ecocriticism and the Idea of Culture
Many American writers of the 19th century blurred the boundaries demarcating wilderness and civilization, nature and culture, animals and humans, as well as built and natural environments. At times, though, some of the same writers reinforced such boundaries. This course foregrounds the environments, both natural and built, of several longer works from the 19th century (and a few shorter ones too). As we explore concepts such as romanticism, naturalism, and realism, we also explore the tropes that racialize, spiritualize, genderize, personify, or animalize the environment. Doing so exposes some of the underlying assumptions of the time period. However, we will also examine how the writers undermine the assumptions, play with the tropes, and open up alternative perspectives. Throughout the course, we grapple with how writers reflect and yet shape human responses to the environment, both natural and built. The ways in which we think about the environment today have roots that pass through the 19th century. Those roots contain both the poison and the cure for today’s environmental challenges.