Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Notes Towards Day 17 (Tues, Nov. 6) : How We Read? Ecologically? Multiculturally?

Anne Dalke's picture

Adonna Kare's images, via SarahC

* weather prediction:
42 %, 4 mph winds, 0% precipitation, clear
mtran i
s taking us to the lawn behind Carpenter (you'll write about why we are outside in the cold?)
* Thursday's site
to be selected by Cahier
* what about going to the Duck Pond?

I. coursekeeping
* a theme
in your site sits this week was how cold you are! (what can you do about this?)

* by 5 p.m. tomorrow, 
Rochelle, wanhong, Zoe and all 4 S's (SaraL, SarahC, Shengjia, and Susan) should post on Serendip any reflections on being outside/the discussions we've had/readings we've done since break; by Wednesday @ 5, the rest of you should read all these postings, and respond to @ least one of them.

* for class on Thursday
, either read the 4 sections I've copied for you from Marilyn Waring's book, Counting for Nothing; or watch the 90-minute video about her work, Who's Counting? (which I think you'll find more engaging....); Waring is a one-time New Zealand legislator, also feminist, environmentalist,
anti-nuclear activist and economist; I find her work very imaginative, and a very interesting extension of the range of discourses we are exploring here...this is another kind of representation/imagination of the world

* come w/ a written statement of what seem to you to be her central claims:
read/listen to extract her main ideas--bring in 2!
then: what you think is intriguing, mportant or problematic about her work?
what questions do you have for her? (come w/ 1 or 2 or those also!)
think also about how what she says connects w/ what else we have read (esp. Winona LaDuke)
these instructions are part of our attending more explicitly to "how we read"
(which I'll say more about in a moment...)

* the preface to Waring's book was written by Gloria Steinem (who also appears
in the video), & who spoke @ HC last Friday night--a report from CMJ & Rochelle?

* for your next writing assignment (#9--keep numbering in sequence!), due by 5 on Friday, you should compose 3-pp. reflecting on the possible intersections (or absence thereof) that you see among ecology and the hierarchies/varieties of oppression that are marked by gender, race, ethnicity, or class (several of you said already, in your report on your site sits, that you see none....); you would be well advised to set this up in conversation w/ one of the authors we have been reading (then, following our new arrangements, you will get a chance to revise this paper the following week)

* pairing you up w/ the 313'ers....

questions about course-keeping?

II. pair up w/ your writing partner to discuss your papers: tell her
what you learned (about writing, about her idea) from reading her essay
returning to the larger group: any insights to share?

III. you had asked for us to talk about/attend to "how we read"....
since I asked you to read quite a few short essays for today,
this is a good opportunity to do so...

in an essay by that title, Katherine Hayles says that the "essence"
of disciplinary identity/most valuable thing English (as a discipline) ever offered/
its most widely applicable skill/cultural asset is "close reading," now seen
in historical dicotomy with digital technology (fast reading, sporadic sampling)

the preferred/dominant alternative to "surface reading" (for overt messages),
and aesthetic appreciation, is "heroically" revealing, unveiling, resisting the ideology of the text;
but Hayles argues for a disciplinary shift to a broader sense of reading, to include hyperreading:
reader-directed, screen-based, computer-assisted ...searching, filtering, skimming, hyperlinking,
"pecking," fragmenting, juxtaposing, scanning, strategy of reading in an "F" pattern

deep and hyper attention have distinctive advantages:
hyper attention useful for its flexibility in
switching between different information streams;
it offers a quick grasp of gist of material, the ability to
move rapidly among/between different texts, while
deep attention is essential for coping with complex phenomena;
the problem is not hyper attention per se, but we need
to ensure that deep attention continues vibrant...

skimming and scanning can alternate with in-depth reading and interpretation,
seeking different distributions of patterns, meaning, context
each form of reading has distinctive advantages & limitations,
but can interact synergistically, and I'd like to help
you all to be "bi-textual/"multitextual,"
able to read/analyze flexibly, in different ways
literary studies should teach literacies
across a range of media forms, re-thinking what reading is

III. So, let's apply this!
For today, I asked you to read Jamaica Kincaid's "Alien Soil,"
Evelyn White's "Black Women and the Wilderness,"
Anthony and Soule's short essay on "The Multicultural Approach to Ecopsychology,"
and some essays from The Winona LaDuke Reader
these are all extensions/updates of the topic Spretnak put on the table for us last week,
focusing on not just on how ecology might be "gendered," but also raced, classed, encultured
(this orientation is variously called "eco-feminism," "social environmentalism," "ecological justice"-->
it focuses on the intersection of human location/oppression w/ ecological concern)

so let's start by doing a "close reading" of Kincaid's essay:
we're going to do this using an exercise called "thinkaloud"-->
in pairs, you are going to read a paragraph aloud to one another,
describing what you are thinking while you do so...
the point here is to model what reading is:
a conversation between the writer and the reader,
a transaction in which you don't understand a lot the first time through...
the 'text' happens in the exchange, and it takes time for this to emerge

then, tell one another: does your assigned passage
have a thesis? what's its main argument?
how does she support it?
are there any "cracks" in its construction?
where do you get lost/confused/puzzled?
where do you find yourself wanting to ask her some questions?
(for ex: what's happening @ the ending?
what's the difference between her gardening in Vermont, and Jamaican agriculture?
does she identify as American? what's the role of order and memory in her life?)
what can you say about the style? how would you characterize it? does it draw you in/shut you out?

coming back together, and breaking this down into several steps:
what is she saying? in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 4....?
try to "believe" it (think of reasons to support her claims);

then play the "doubting" game--what are the limits of her approach?
(what hasn't she seen/foregrounded?)
how does her tale intersect w/ what you know experientially, and/or from other readings?

IV. that's "close" reading; now let's do some "hyper-reading":
what is the argument of all of these essays, taken together (the 'big picture')?
ecological understanding is always raced, classed and gendered,
each author's particular p.o.v arises from their social positioning

what are the intersections that you see among these essays?
the larger patterns, independent of context and distinct meanings?

V. bring back LaDuke for Thursday's discussion; she intersects interestingly w/ Marilyn Waring....
SarahC's posting: "here is the key! This is the thinking we need!...we belong to the earth, to use wisely and lovingly....this is not just about our relationship with land, but about our relationship with each other....How can we honor and retrieve the way of life that we shattered?...our own way of life will have to be shattered for that to be possible....can we practice changing our ways, our thinking?"

report from one of my seniors, who heard LaDuke speak @ HC last fall, and asked her how to get people to care about these issues: "Get them outside!"
reading notes:

"Alien Soil":
the character of the English people...leads them to obsessively order and shape their landscape

gardens in which only flowers were grown made it apparent that they
had some money...outside space was sheer beauty

What did the botanical life of Antigua consist of at the time...Christopher Columbus first saw it? To see
a garden in Antigua now will not supply a clue....Antigua is also empty of much wildlife natural to it....

there is a relationship between gardening and wealth...the people of Antigua have a relationship
to agriculture that does not please them at all...they (we) were brought to this island from Africa...
for the free labor they could provide in the fields....a wretched historical relationship to growing things

contrasting lawns and massed ornamental beds are a sign...that someone...has been humbled

...what if the people living in the tropics...are contented with their surroundings, are happy to observe
an invisible hand at work...what if these people are not spiritually feverish, restless, and full of envy?

"Black Women and the Wilderness":
I didn't want to get closer. I was certain that if I ventured outside...
I'd be taunted, attacked, raped, maybe even murdered.

I believe the fear I experience in the outdoors is shared by many African-
American women and that it limits the way we move through the world...

I imagine myself in the country as my forebears were--exposed,
vulnerable, and unprotected--a target of cruelty and hate.

"Never be the only one, except, possibly, in your own house."

I could no longer reconcile my silence with my mandate to my students to face their
fears....I have taken wilderness an effort to find peace in the outdoors.

Anthony and Soule, "Multicultural Approach to Ecopsychology":
Given the public invisiblity and harness of their rural experiences, it is not surprising
that African Americans may have a different feeling about the land than privileged
people of European heritage. The depth of humiliation, the feeling of outrage...
lead to a feeling of detachment and avoidance of emotional engagement with rural life
....a psychological perspective that needs to be included in an enduring conservation ethic.

our response to urban realities is not divorced from our ancient fear of wild territories...the inner city
[can be seen as] a wilderness...fear comes from the lethal combination of being caught in darkness in
an unfamiliar world... How much...emotional reaction is an unconscious fear of retribution and guilt for
... the prodigious waste of abandoned sections of the city?

There is also the painful reminder that these are displaced people. They do not own their land, nor are they flourishing in this desolate urban habitat...urban populations by definition are people who cannot feed themselves.

The lessons of both social justice and ecopsychology are simple and the same. They involve living in connection...cities clearly teach us about interdependence....Ecology can be seen as a way of life...its range of relationships includes everyone....feeling more firmly rooted in one's sense of self...holding an ongoing intention to 'stand corrected' without being subsumed....Everybody's story is vital to the integrity of the whole....

Monoculture is...deadly...inclusivity is risky, but ...exiciting.

The Winona LaDuke Reader:
Trad'l Eco Knowledge and Env'l Futures
2 tenets essential to traditional ecological knowledge:
cyclical thinking and reciprocal relations/responsibilities
"take only what you need and leave the rest"
implicit: continuous inhabitation of place, and the need
to maintain a balanced relation between humans and ecosystem
"development" must be decentralized, self-reliant and closely based on carrying capacity of ecosystem
trad'l management based on consensual understanding and collective process
holocaust of America: intentional/unintentional genocide-->colonialism
forced underdeveloment of sustainable indigenous economic systems
["usufruct rights" =rights of enjoyment/ "use of the fruits" w/out ownership]
subsistence lifestyles invisible to economic analysis [see Marilyn Waring, upcoming]
conflict between paradigms of industrial and indigenous thinking:
development practices a war on subsistence

Who Owns America?
we belong to the land, in a collective relationship--
different from European concept of land ownership
land tenure pattern originated with church, handmaiden to colonialism
aboriginal title not on same par as legal private property
who has the right to name? (Christian process offensive:
aggrandize those who committed crimes against humanity)
direct relation between development of US and underdevelopment of Native America
most Presidents, Vic Presidents were land speculators, in the arena of the thief
"corporate welfare": support for exploitation
intergenerational dysfunctional relationship won't go away
compensation as payment: title 'cleared' by reparations in the court of
the thief, w/ thieves setting the price they will pay for what they stole
issues of justice and survival

Honor the Earth
Ojibwe is a language of verbs, for people of action
our people almost entirely disappeared in the Holocaust of America
core of belief: that we have choices/responsibility...and face consequences
cf. trading pollution credits, radiation standards, risk assessment
w/ the highest law: natural law
known via intergenerational residency and spiritual knowledge
cf. this cyclical approach w/ the linear world view/waste production
of technological advancement and economic growth
cf. also belief that most things are animate, have standing and spirit
forest w/ trees vs. "timber resources"; beneficial use of water vs. allocation of water rights;
corn vs. "agricultural products"--moved from animate to inanimate;
important to recover the language
last teaching: reciprocity
cf. unsustainable American practices of conquest, frontier, movement,
all causing extinction: the predator worldview

Seventh Generation Amendment
American public policy reflects short-term interests, pilfering that which is collectively ours
all of us carrying a "body burden of dioxin," whic bioaccumulates up the food chain
environmental laws are outstripped by poisons
need a seventh generation amendment, distinguishing
between (and defending both) private and common property
consider the impact of current decisions on the seventh generation from now:
"the right of citizens to use renewable resources shall
not impair their availability for future generations...."