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"All Over Creating": Notes Towards Day 16 (Thurs. Oct. 27)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping

* Morine is "setting the scene" in our classroom.
Princess is on for next Tuesday
Reminder to post about your decisions/the consequences....

By 5 p.m. on Fri, paper #8 is due: a revised version of paper #7.

* By 5 p.m. on Mon: eighth short posting, quoting three passages from
All Over Creation that interest you, and that speak to the relationship
between identity and environment

For next Tues, please read the middle 1/3 of All Over Creation, to p. 309.

II. your reactions to S-L Parks last Thursday night (Morine to start)

III. your postings about our trip to Norris Square (Beatriz to start)
[still missing 3 of these: Cathy, Katarina, Rachel....?]

IV. for today, we asked you to read the first 1/3 of Ozeki's novel
go 'round and share initial reactions
what was your reading experience like?
what engaged/enraged/amused/intrigued/puzzled you? (Melinda to start)

V. Look now @ one passage that demonstrates
the intersection of identity and environment
(as we are asking you to do for your posting):
does it lay out a problem? make an argument?

from Lloyd's newsletter, p. 67:
"there is an idea in circulation that...'aggressive' non-native plants are harmful, invasive, and
will displace 'native' species. How ironic to hear these theories profounded by people of European
ancestry in America!...Our plants are as immigrant as we are!...anti-exoticism is Anti-Life...I do not
intend to promote Third Reich eugenics in our family garden......[they] are being promoted by
Agribusiness and Chemical Corporations as another means of peddling their weed killers."

anticipating Yumi's conversation with her mother, p. 118:
"'What are these?' Momoko looked at the large, mutant squashes and shook her head.
'I don't know.' Then she started to giggle...She...pointed to Ocean and Phoenix....
'Like them. All mixed up'....'What did she say?' Cass asked....'She said squashes were promiscuous.'" ***

to discuss: "how to read a novel"--> how do you do that?
cf. our laborious, step-by-step analyses of
"Playing in Industrial Ruins" and "Ravens @ Play,"
looking for the thesis, identifying how the essays
were structured to support those claims, etc.
how do novels work? how were you taught to read novels?

Ozeki in an interview: "Agenda-driven fiction is antithetical to inquiry.
Agenda-driven fiction has its mind already made up....
Writing is how I think, how I interrogate the world, and
the novel is my medium...It's a thought experiment....
The novel is not, and should not be, a Trojan horse....

However, I have tons of opinions...We ought to be terrified!...
I have a lot of remorse about the myriad ways that I am
contributing to the [environmental] problem. All my novels...
have been written from remorse...The good that
I'll never run out of things to feel remorseful about. The
bad that I am not willing or able to eradicate
all the many causes of my environmental remorse..."

VII. (by 12:35): write a mid-semester evaluation of this course, to hand in:
what's working? what needs working on?
what's playing well? what needs playing with?
both in our class dynamics generally, and your own particular role in them?

additional notes, from a critic who wrote about Ozeki's insistent equation of mixed race and hybrid plants,

Melissa Poulsen. Hybrid Veggies and Mixed Kids: Ecocriticism and Race in Ruth Ozeki’s Pastoral Heartlands. Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies 2 (2011) 22-29:

twenty-first century, literary and environmental studies must recognize and engage with the interdependence of spaces traditionally opposed: the natural and the human built, the country and the city, exurbia and the urban….more complex imagining of the environment….Written with and against the pastoral tradition, Ozeki’s novels merge country and city…use modified food to interrupt the possibility of a dichotomous country and city…. And attend to the deep-seated connections between the language of race and the language of biology… through the lens of …toxic discourse…Ozeki questions the silences in the pastoral imagery…

As Lawrence Buell points out…”what we loosely call ‘nature’ has often long since become ‘organic machine’” as the “physical environment is being increasingly refashioned by capital, technology,  and geopolitics.” Such blending of nature and technology is key to the counterpastoral developed in All Over Creation…. heartland farm life is a complicated capitalist engagement…. the toxic reality of their seeming pastoral spaces are revealed…

All Over Creation highlights the presences of racial others and simultaneously exposes how they are written out of the pastoral…. the pastoral as an idyllic space only for those of a certain color…. the most radical and largely unfamiliar move of the text is its unification of toxic discourse and racialization through the question of bioethics, and an entanglement of plant genetic modification and human multiracial identity….The parallel between biodiversity and cultural diversity emerges in arguments laid out through the Fuller’s seed company.…Momoko’s seeds…embody the migrations and drifts of people in the United States; her “heroic efforts to preserve the rich diversity” of plants is paralleled to the preservation of the cultural diversity brought through migration. Such dedication to diversity stands in contrast to the farmer of the pastoral heartland, the “large-scale potato farmer, a monoculturalist” made “nervous [by] all that diversity”…. Lloyd attempts to interrupt the imagined pastoral heartland through a questioning of the plant and racial nativism it projects…

Through the sexualized, fertile imagery of crossbred human-plants All Over Creation tracks the lives of multiracial characters and interracial relationships while developing a bioethical argument against genetically modified organisms…. An uncomfortable moral ambiguity begins to emerge as the imagery of plants and humans, and cultural and bio-diversity, merge….genetically-modified potatoes might be read as a form of hybridity….Momoko’s garden requires careful fertilization…to preserve the integrity of the various endangered plants….to preserve the diversity, Momoko has to avoid further diversity…. the uneasy ambiguity Ozeki produces through the simple but insistent equation of mixed race and hybrid plants serves as a reminder of the potential of such slippages…. setting her interracial families in the United States’ Midwest, she pushes readers towards new ways of conceptualizing the crucial but often disconnected meanings of emplacement….