Wednesday, July 23, 2008

postmodern pastoral

I'm drawn to pastoral as one of the oldest literary modes of mapping, which is simultaneously a troubling of the territory: where does nature end and culture begin? And as I immerse myself more deeply in ecocriticism I recognize its attempts to think space, place, and history in a fresh way. Struck by the mutual hostility and incomprehension of mainstream ecocritics and postmodernists, and by the similarity of their projects: deep ecology, which seems to be the most influential ecocritical impulse (versus the shallowness of "environmentalism" as just another attempt to manage nature), takes a post- or anti-humanist stance that Foucault might recognize in its decentering of the human subject. The difference is that Foucault, et al, would say that there is only discourse (il n'y a pas hors de texte) and the power relations that generate and situate subjects, whereas the deep ecologists privilege the nonhuman and in their more enthusiastic moments claim the nonhuman as a kind of ur-discourse (mystical, scientific, or both) through which we can access reality directly. I'm too far gone in postmodernism to go there: I think all our claims about nature are saturated in ideology, even and especially when they're made in scientific language. The virtue of pastoral is the transparency of its relation to ideology, and a properly postmodern pastoral will deconstruct its own claims about nature while its powerful affect remains intact.
Joshua Corey, "Poetry as Navigation"

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