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Towards Day 12 (Th, 10/8): Going Wild?

Anne Dalke's picture

Abby is placing us in Rhoads Dining Hall
Akane on for Tuesday after break;
reminder that the classroom is also just! fine!
(esp. for comparative purposes...)
and also that if you plan to use some other
public space, you should reserve it

I. 11:25- 11:50: coursekeeping
* your new set of keywords? (write on board or sheet of paper)

* naming?

* tonight! Cheryl Strayed @ 7:30 p.m. in Goodhart!! plus dessert! don't miss it!

* next week: fall break! TAKE ONE!

* when we return, we will focus on "Expanding Our Contact Zones":
for Tuesday, 10/20, read Chapter 4 of Take Back the Economy:
An Ethical Guide to Transforming our Communities 

During class, we will work together in pairs to design six-week-long projects
focusing on some extension of this contact zone. These might include projects
like those described in "Take Back the Market," documenting y/our activities of
consumption; it could also include archival work or interviews, contributing to
the development of more histories of Bryn Mawr. in preparation...

* By 5 p.m. Mon, 10/19: seventh short posting, a paragraph suggesting
an idea you might want to pursue for your six-week-long project;
we'll use these postings to structure our class discussion (and for you
to locate partners in your research)

also by Mon, 10/19 @ 5:
please give us some feedback on our chapter,
by completing --with thanks!

Also a heads up that, on Thursday after break, we will begin discussion
of Ruth Ozeki's novel, All Over Creation. We will take two weeks for this
book, discussing about 100 pp. per class (it's 417 pp. long)-->
so you should start reading ahead...

* catch me up on what happened Tuesday?

II. 11:50-12:20: continuing our discussion of Strayed's memoir:
How might we respond to this book as an environmental text?

Going to read a couple of provocative quotes,
ask you to write in response to them,
then discuss in pairs,
then in full group:

* Don't Hike Like Hike Far, Hike Responsibly-->
“The last thing we need is a bunch of ill-prepared people who aren’t thinking clearly and who are trying to find themselves....How much the actual physical wilderness is integral to this tale of suffering and redemption is questionable. Strayed seems most ecstatic when arriving at a post office to recover boxes of supplies and cash she mailed in advance, snacking on Snapple and chips, enjoying dinner with her fellow hikers at a restaurant off the trail, and having sex on a beach with a man she meets in Oregon.”

* re-consider Strayed's work from the perspective of an ASLE colleague/Swat graduate, Sarah J. Ray, whose book The Ecological Other: Environmental Exclusion in American Culture talks about how the seemingly progressive politics of wilderness preservation and the repressive policies of national purity were part of the same impulse (those who founded the wilderness movement were also strident about racial purity). Sarah argues that  the "wilderness plot" (going out into the wilderness to prove/purify yourself) was part of that, and analyzes how all of this circles around keeping certain bodies out--raced, classed, immigrant and disabled.

* yet also cf. Robert Lugg's paper (presented @ ASLE), "Reading Cheryl Strayed's Wild: Towards a 'Basic' Environmentalism":
Acknowledging that Wild has been denounced as "bourgeois travel pornography," the "Eat Pray Love of the PCT," Lugg argues instead that
Wild is situated in the nature writing canon as a working class, feminist, post-structural re-visioning of wilderness spaces …. Strayed uses a standard comedic move to perfection: that of moving from outside to insider, a journey that mixes pathos and slapstick humor in a way that resembles the work of fellow orphan and tramp Charlie Chaplin. She begins the book by portraying herself as a bumbling, but endearing fool, before gradually assimilating into the PCT hiking community and becoming an insider herself, earning the nickname ‘The Queen of the PCT’…    Thus Strayed forms a community with her readers rather than alienating them, which then … allows her … to deliver a more radical message about gender roles, about class roles, and about nature writing: that non-experts, that women, that folks from working class backgrounds, belong in the wilderness-stuff that academics have been talking about for a while now, but have not always successfully communicated to as large an audience as Strayed has."

How would you locate Wild in response to these analyses, as an example of an environmental text? (or: does it belong in this course?!?)

III. 12:20-12:35: Turn back to your pairs, to generate two questions you could ask her tonight!

IV. 12:35-12:45: in same pairs-->a little more work on your keywork assignments?

V. Just FYI: a few excerpts from Strayed's advice column, "Dear Sugar"
[very focused on the power of the individual will,
with lots of hopeful encouragement re:
the possibilities of getting 'unstuck']

[to a woman who has been unable to recover from a miscarriage:]
This is how you get unstuck, Stuck. You reach….That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really fucking hard to get there, but you can do it, honey. You’re a woman who can travel that far. I know it. Your ability to get there is evident to me in every word of your bright shining grief star of a letter.

[to a woman writer who can’t write:]
Do you know what that is, sweet pea? To be humble? The word comes from the Latin words humilis and humus. To be down low. To be of the earth. To be on the ground….We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor….The unifying theme [of women who write] is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve, deny you –,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig. You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug. That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do. And when people are here to do that they almost always tell us something we need to hear. I want to know what you have inside you. I want to see the contours of your second beating heart. So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.

[to a woman defined by her heavy student loan debt:]
I’m a socialist at heart, but when it comes to the actual, individual way we live our lives, I adhere to an entirely pull-oneself-up-by-one’s-bootstraps creed. Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. Self-pity is a dead end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.…So here’s the long and short of it, Wearing Thin: there is no why. You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.