Thursday, August 26, 2010

mary robinson sources and related issues that I'd like to talk about more

Several people at the conference asked me for more info about Mary Robinson so I thought it might be easier to post that here:

Pascoe, Judith, ed. Mary Robinson: Selected Poems. Peterborough: Broadview, 2000.

Robinson, Mary. Poems, 1793.

---. Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson Written by Herself. 2 vols. London: Richard Phillips, 1803.

---. Poetical Works, 1806.

The Robinson works are all accessible through online sources, maybe all through ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online) - most university libraries subscribe to this.

The Pascoe text is great, very helpful bio and cultural context stuff and comprehensive selection of poetry from all of R's collections.

Pickering and Chatto also has published an 8 vol. complete works that also includes the novels (Walsingham;Or The Pupil of Nature is the most famous). General editor is William D. Brewer.

I teach a wide variety of Robinson's poetry and many of her poems are well-suited to ecocriticism classes especially as part of 'green romanticism'. I like teaching "Oberon's Invitation to Titania" and "Titania's Answer to Oberon", "The Negro Girl", all of the poems that deal with marginalized (aka feral?) figures - there are many, including the two I presented on - "The Maniac", "The Savage of Aveyron" ("Poor Marguerite" and "The Fugitive" are good too). There are also sonnets that celebrate birds and flowers, etc.

There are also some schlocky biographies and historical fictions that feature Robinson. These mostly focus on her affair with the Prince of Wales but if you like reading that sort of thing...


There were, though, a couple of things that I raised in my paper and hoped to get more feedback on but didn't really. I think these are important things for us to discuss - especially in reflecting on our first ALECC conference (and where we're going with this).

The first issue was what I call "feral ecocriticism". My view is that in defining the field and finding our places in and out of the academy as ecocritics, we might want to resist merely 'fitting in' and I wondered in my paper about what a 'feral ecocriticism' might look like.
Is it an institutional resistance?
Is it beautifully bad behavior?
Is it unapologetically bringing environmental justice issues to the forefront of literary studies?
I'd love to talk about this more!

The second issue I really wanted to sink my teeth into at the conference was ecofeminism which wasn't raised in any of the sessions I attended (although I heard that someone talking about Atwood's new novel did talk about ecofeminism). My ecofeminist contribution in the Robinson paper was mostly just to say that Robinson's feminist critics up to now have engaged in recovery work and canonization and that I'm trying to get to the next step and read individual poems using ecofeminist methodologies.
Currently my fallback ecofeminist methodologies are:
"interlocking oppressions" which I use to read women and nature as critically intertwined: marginal/other/oppressed/powerful
"strategic essentialism" which came in really handy when talking about Robinson's orientation to the feral both as a beauty (with a self constructed by the public gaze) and as a disabled woman
I'd be very interested in other tools that ecofeminist critics are using to read women's literary and cultural productions.

Bring it on...
p.s. I had lots of fun at the conference too! Thanks to everyone who made it happen so smoothly!


  1. More later, Anne, probably in an email, but these two things (feral ecocrit, and ecofeminism's invisibility) could each stand a separate discussion thread.

    I did namedrop Cate Sandilands's book about ecofeminism, but I left off the subtitle that actually used the word, and yes, I too was surprised not to hear the word once during the conference. One could conceivably argue that it's just part of the conversation now and hence doesn't need to be singled out, but I don't buy that. It's a distinct area of study or method of analysis, as well as possibly an ethic or stance, so it was a surprise not to see it more visible than it was.

    And feral ecocriticism: cool idea, and Google tells me that your use of it here is the ONLY place it appears online. We need to talk about it a little more. For now, let me note that it seems to me to line up reasonably well with what Timothy Morton calls for in his flawed but interesting Ecology without Nature, namely a position that is constantly on the move, neither inside nor outside, marginal nor central, but ceaselessly self-aware. I'm still rereading Morton, and there's less to like about the book than I wish there was, but yours seems to me a really useful phrase and insight.

  2. The lack of discussion focused on ecofeminism is just downright disturbing as far as I'm concerned.

    I gave a paper on feral ecocriticism at the ASLE conference in Spartanburg in 2007 which got a lot of positive "I loved your paper" comments but no real further discussion or action. I also presented a "feral paper" at one of the preconference workshops at the same conference. It was an almost entirely visually-based paper where I layered text, used colour coding, different style and sized fonts, etc. Parts of the paper were intentionally unreadable and other parts consisted of competing visual textual discourses. I intended it to be provocative. The response was mixed from delight to confusion to outright hostility but overall it helped me to connect with a couple of other people who I still am in irregular contact with. But I've never really had a chance to talk about why I did it and what kind of work I think it performs. I considered doing something similar at ALECC but chickened out. I do want to write a book on the feral and I have an article coming out on feral bioregionalism in the forthcoming Glotfelty, Armbruster, Lynch collection on bioregionalism. I too have been rereading Timothy Morton's book but it's bogging down now that I've gotten over my initial exuberance about his critique of 'green romanticism'. (I was actually thinking that the moment at your ASLE conference when I turned around and saw David Suzuki sitting behind me was a moment ripe for feral ecocriticism. I wish we had been able to do more with Suzuki's presence at the conference...)

  3. Well, it's hard to get lastingly excited about someone else critiquing green romanticism these days, when you and I presented conference papers doing exactly that in, like, 1997 or something. Morton needs to show more than that, and his approach isn't easy for me to imagine building on.

    We're going to have to find time to talk about feral ecocrit, and what to do with it. Let's maybe go to email and talk about plans for Bloomington, if you're going of course?

  4. And yes, Suzuki! One day I'll tell you about meeting him in the publishers' room, which was very funny, and about meeting his wife with him, which was really positive.