Freshman Seminar: Writing Ecology

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Bello, Whitman, and Sarmiento

Filed under: Uncategorized February 12, 2008 @ 9:21 am

All people have direct experiences with nature and the world around them; it is how they choose to view these experiences that defines who they are.  In Whitman’s work “Song of Myself” Whitman sees the beauty of the world around him, relishes in it, and sees himself as a better person because of nature’s direct influence rather than literary devices. This differs from the other authors we have read thus far that believe in the importance of reading highly esteemed novels to better themselves. Whitman scoffs at the man who tries to understand the meaning of poems. He says:

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.


This view makes Whitman very different from both Emerson and Thoreau who believed that being scholarly was important. Where Whitman believes in going out and experiencing the non-human world rather than trying to decipher the meaning of nature in a poem, Thoreau and Emerson believe that you have to have the ability to decipher the poem before you can appreciate nature.

Whitman is so close to the nonhuman world that he refuses to see it through any eyes but his own. “A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.” We must take pleasure in the world around us.             Bello agrees with Whitman’s sentiments on the pleasure that comes from nature. He says, “Go breathe the mountain air, that gives lost vigor to the tired body, and retards fretful old age, and tinges pink the face of beauty… is beauty less attractive without false ornament and lying paint?” Bello believes in a simpler life close to the nonhuman world such as the life of a farmer; a life free of gluttony and pure with labor.            Whitman’s perspective on nature is that it is beautiful and wondrous and makes him a greater person. He loves himself above all else and takes in the world around him simply accepting that he is and that nature is. He does not judge nature for he is all-accepting.I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious,
Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy,
I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my
faintest wish,
Nor the cause of the friendship I emit, nor the cause of the
friendship I take again.
Whitman simply enjoys the world around him without questioning the causes of it all, he just lets it make him himself. He describes nature not as something that needs saving or that is divine but simply as he sees it. He observes nature and it makes him happy.

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Cooper and Emerson

Filed under: Uncategorized February 12, 2008 @ 9:20 am

There are quite a few similarities between Emerson and Thoreau’s texts. They both view nature as something grand that ordinary men lack the ability to see.  They believe that a learned, insightful, well-read man can truly understand and appreciate nature. Emerson states, “It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood cutter from the tree of a poet… There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet.” Thoreau too looked down upon the woodcutter and believed that being intellectual was important.

Emerson believes that “(nature) is made to serve.” He compares man using nature to man using a donkey to ride on. “It offers all its kingdoms to man as the raw material which he may mould into what is useful.” Like Thoreau he acknowledged the need to use nature in moderation, but I think he goes a bit further than Thoreau did and believes that man is so much above nature that we should utilize it to the fullest.

Cooper’s writing style is much different from Emerson’s and Thoreau’s.  When reading Emerson’s writing you get the sense that he believes he is better than other people. He writes about God and morals as if he himself is Godly enough to do so. Cooper, on the other hand, writes in a humbler way. She writes in a simple diary and describes the beauty of the world rather than analyzing it. I think that this form of writing is better because it lets the reader take what the want out of the work rather than trying to force their views down our throats.

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Filed under: Uncategorized February 12, 2008 @ 9:17 am

Thoreau’s outlook on life is from a simplistic perspective. He removes himself from the civilized society into the woods by Walden Pond to escape the falseness of the society he so despises. Despite this, he still realizes that he must interact with the civilized world, yet he does so minimally. He works a bean farm and buys supplies from the city to build his house; these are very minimal things that he needs to do to survive. In spite of Thoreau’s isolation from the civilized world, I do not believe he was lonely. Cronan’s reference to Thoreau’s “stern loneliness” is one I believe to be unjustified and I am surprised that he would make a remark like that. Feeling lonely is just that, a feeling. It may come from being alone or isolated but he specifically states that he never felt lonely. Thoreau had his simple lifestyle to engage him; all he needed was the nature around him and his books to keep him company. Furthermore when Cronan mentions Thoreau’s stern loneliness he is saying that Thoreau found God through his stern loneliness. I think Cronan is reading too much into it as Thoreau doesn’t focus on God as much as Cronan does.

Although Thoreau is close to nature in his stay at Walden Pond I don’t believe he has truly found wildness based on the fact that he can still hear the train go by, he has several encounters with other people, and he reads his books. To me the fact that he reads books is enough to keep him from being completely submerged in the wildness because it makes him feel superior in knowledge that he is reading great classics. This is not a bad thing because I don’t believe it was Thoreau’s idea to completely submerge himself into the wild. Rather, he went to Walden pond to find himself and better himself, which he managed to do by escaping all the frivolousness of the civilized world and letting his mind escape into his books.

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Filed under: Uncategorized February 12, 2008 @ 9:14 am

Cronan uses a lot of biblical references, which to me is a big mistake. All I will say of this point is that I do not believe in God, nor do I believe that the bible contains absolute truth so his incorporation of biblical references did nothing to persuade me. I think that Cronan’s main point involved God being part of wilderness and man no longer being in awe and terror of the vast grandness of the wilderness that He possesses. Disregarding the fact that I do not personally believe this to be true, perhaps it is not people’s view of wilderness that has changed, but their view of God. People are embracing God’s beauty instead of fearing His power. Furthermore, Cronan never really states why he thinks that the transformation of nature from terrible and frightful to beautiful and peaceful is negative.

Despite all of Cronan’s talk about the meaning of wilderness changing I think that is his solution. He wants the meaning of wilderness, and the peace and serenity that people associate with it, to change. He doesn’t want it just to be about the mountains and forests but about the little bits of wilderness all around us. I agree with this sentiment. If people can appreciate the wilderness in their own back yards then they will be happier. We cannot run away from our lives, our civilization, into the wilderness so we must have a medium where we use the wild and save the wild. “If living in history means that we cannot help leaving marks on a fallen world, then the dilemma we face is to decide what kind of marks we wish to leave.” I agree with this statement whole-heartedly. We are humans and we live here too, but we must be responsible with the environment. I like his idea that we can incorporate wildness into our every day lives.

Personally, I fall into the category that Cronan describes as being a romantic. I have not been amongst the wilderness so I often fantasize about its beauty. I think of the day where my life will truly be my own to do with what I please. When that time comes I will see the sun set in every country, I will see the lake that the wild cat drinks from, I will sit against the trees that have lived far longer than the oldest man.

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Filed under: Uncategorized January 23, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

Hello! My name is Mary Elizabeth McClellan. I was born in South Carolina but Ive been in Virginia for eight years now. I wanted to come to Mary Washington because of its small class sizes and its biology program. Ideally I want to work in a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center with lions, or perhaps in a zoo. I suppose that working with animals would require a biology degree but I really love chemistry so I’m thinking of double majoring in Bio and Chem… By the end of the year I will probably want to shoot myself but that’s the plan for now! I have an eleven year old brother, Aaron who I absolutely adore, and two cats. My hobbies include anything with animals and palying the trumpet and lacrosse. So far I have had a great time at Mary Washington! I’ve met the most amazing people and learned so much! I look forward to this class because its so different from all the other classes I’m taking and I just love wrapping my mind around abstract ideas.