Kudzu Scholar Volume 5, Issue 3 (2015).
By Madison Jones
I am pleased to be introducing another issue of Kudzu House Quarterly. This journal is a unique blend of ecological thinking, mixing creativity and theory with applications in pedagogy, art, and activism. This issue marks the second iteration of the Kudzu Scholar, our annual issue of scholarly writing, and already our issues have begun to reflect the vast array of work covered in what is called the environmental humanities. This issue offers an three essays that range from ecocritical interpretation of T. C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done, to a discussion of cloud technology, and from theorizing ecoLove to an essay cluster, guest-edited by Alison Lacivita, on teaching ecocriticism. The wealth of diversity in this group of essays reveals the powerfully interdisciplinary nature of this discourse, and the need to embrace more than one facet of the humanities in our response to environmental destruction and our interrogation of ecological thinking.
Lacivita’s introduction to our pedagogy cluster, Jana M. Giles’ “Dog-paddling Against the Tide” and Seth T. Reno’s “Teaching Ecocriticism and Green Writing with Weebly Website Creator,” weaves fascinating connections between the vast array of topics covered in this issue. More than anything, these essays serve as more than just a guide for teaching environments in courses ranging from first-year writing to graduate work, they reveal pedagogical choices, experiments, and interactions that anyone interested in teaching in the environmental humanities will benefit from reading.
Lacivita’s discussion of Richard Louv1’s Last Child in the Woods reminds me of Gareth Matthews’ Dialogues with Children (1984) in which he poses the question to a group of children, through the first half a story told at the beginning of class, of whether flowers can “be happy.” This question is particularly troubling to one student, Donald, who after two days of conversation is still plagued with this problem:
He thought flowers could be happy and that what Aunt Gertie said about
their being happy when the sun shone was, in a way, quite true. “But,”
he added with great emphasis, “how can they be happy without a mind?
How can they possibly be happy without a mind?” He was not suggesting
that I should solve this problem for him or make it go away. He
accepted the problem as his own. He would deal with it (10).
This question is an interesting one, especially because of the nuanced discussion of what it means to be happy, or further, what designates consciousness in the age of Ecocriticism and Object-Oriented Ontology. And if we cannot define happiness in the realm of the post-subject, how can we still experience it? Matthews applies Aristotle’s eudaimonia (“happiness” defined as “human flourishing) to plant life in order to help resolve the narrative he’d given them for the previous class. Nathan Frank’s essay brief “ecoLove in an Age of Already” does something similar, integrating “ecological interconnectedness into our Age of Already through the neologistic concept of ecoLove as a way to restore Love as a thing apart, a background against which ecology can happen.”2 Mike Petrik’s essay, “The Problem with the Baseline, seeks “a new way of establishing belonging that moves away from the idea of a temporal baseline and toward a valuation of diversity/biodiversity and positive engagement with the broader environment.”3
Yet, as digital technologies are increasingly being understood as embodied environments, not just as mere platforms for communication, but as vital, dialogic systems, I wonder if this Aristotelian model will suffice to explain happiness. Is Nature, as Garcia wonders, the “uncrossable boundary between the built and the natural worlds—conveniently put aside for the construction of a new highway or oil pipeline—suddenly reappears when questions about who and what causes global warming enter the frame.”4 Each of these essays questions the means though which we construct nature and even the concepts of ecology and systems. Is thriving, as Graham playfully asserts, no more than what something “modifies, transforms, perturbs, or creates”? 5 Frank’s essay resists what Timothy Morton calls “the recent philosophical impasse of essentialism versus nihilism,” 6 by asking “What is love, why does it matter, and what can it do at a point in time when we are accelerating, drifting, and crashing through the ‘exits to the posthuman future’ and facing ‘the ecological thought’?” The concept of ecoLove provides a background in which ecology can matter, neither as simple relational objects and subjects, nor as anthropomorphic symbols, but of very real, material objects of responsibility, and even, of love. Like Donald from Matthews’ course, we do not expect answers to our problems, but we will find in our conversation that these problems are our own, that we must accept responsibility for them so that we might come to understand them in some new way.
Thanks so much for reading, and as always:
may the Kudzu grow!
Frank, Nathan. “ecoLove in an Age of Already.” Kudzu House Quarterly, 5.3. 2015. p. ##. Web.
Garcia, Ava Tomasula y. “Empty Sky: Cloud Technologies in the Global Landscape.” Kudzu House Quarterly, 5.3. 2015. p. ##. Web.
Harman, Graham. Prince of Networks, Melbourne, Australia: re.press, 2009.
Matthews, Gareth. Dialogues with Children Harvard University Press, 1984.
Morton, Timothy “Here Comes Everything: The Promise of Object-Oriented Ontology,” Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 19.2, 2011. p.163-190. Print.
Petrik, Mike. “The Problem with the Baseline: Postcolonial Identity, Endemic Ecology, and Environmental Activism in T.C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done.” Kudzu House Quarterly, 5.3. 2015. p. ##. Web.
- See Alison Lacivita’s introduction to the teaching ecocriticism cluster. ↩
- Nathan Frank, p. ##. ↩
- Mike Petrik, “The Problem with the Baseline: Postcolonial Identity, Endemic Ecology, and Environmental Activism in T.C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done,” p. ##. ↩
- Ava Tomasula y Garcia, “Empty Sky: Cloud Technologies in the Global Landscape,” p. ##. ↩
- Graham Harman, Prince of Networks, p. 95. ↩
- Timothy Morton, “Here Comes Everything: The Promise of Object-Oriented Ontology,” p. 164. ↩