Annotated Bibliography – Ecocomposition

By: Sarah Hildebrand

These sources are mostly part of a project for my course on Postwar Women Writers and Intellectuals where I will be examining the “place” of women writers. I am interested in using theories of ecocriticism, ecofeminism, and ecocomposition to draw attention to how the materiality of location affects the writing process and creative production of female intellectuals such as Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich.

Aronson, Anne. “Composing in a Material World: Women Writing in Space and Time.” Rhetoric Review 17.2 (1999): 282–99. Print.

Aronson compares the views of Virginia Woolf and Ursula LeGuin in terms of the material circumstances required for women to write. While Woolf is famous for her claim that a woman needs both an independent income and a room of one’s own, LeGuin argues that a woman can write so long as she has pen and paper, and that any interruptions she may experience only add to the depth of her writing. Taking up a case study of adult female undergraduates, Aronson explores the gendered conditions of space and time that encapsulate their writing processes, ultimately siding with Woolf by concluding that the material conditions of women’s lives often negatively impact their experiences as writers due to their lack of privilege.

Connolly, Colleen. “Ecology and Composition Studies: A Feminist Perspective on Living Relationships.”   Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches. Ed. Christian R. Weisser, Sidney I. Dobrin, and Marilyn M. Cooper. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 2001. 179–91. Gale. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Connolly integrates ecofeminism into her take on compositional pedagogy, drawing awareness to issues of diversity and difference. She provides an overview of ecofeminism that explains the connection between the oppression of nature and that of women, suggesting that these oppressive structures are interrelated and often reinforce each other. Pedagogically, she believes that by assigning writing assignments that address practices of “othering” not only in terms of the social world, but the natural one, students will gain an increased understanding of hegemonic power structures and of their relationships to the world in which they live.

Cunha-Giabbi, Gloria da. “Ecofeminismo Latinoamericano.” Letras Femeninas 22.1/2 (1996): 51–63. Print.

This article provides an overview of ecofeminism from the perspective of the United States and explains why its framework does not necessarily translate to Latin American literature due to the different cultural conceptions of nature between these two regions. Although in Latin America nature is also feminized, its conception has otherwise gone through two phases, the first of which envisioned that same nature as capable of trapping or destroying man, while in the second wave, nature came to be imagined as a savior that protected man from social injustice. When nature is oppressive, it oppresses everyone, not only women. And when it is being destroyed, it is by both genders. The author also describes the role of many indigenous churches in fostering a view of nature that is inextricably tied to the survival of man, which is not as prevalent in the U.S. where ecocritics struggle to collapse the nature/culture binary.

Dobrin, Sidney I. “Writing Takes Place.” Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches. Ed. Christian R. Weisser, Sidney I. Dobrin, and Marilyn M. Cooper. Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 2001. 11–25. Gale. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

Dobrin offers a discussion of ecocomposition and crafts the catch phrase “writing takes place,” suggesting that the writing process is inseparable from the place in which it occurs. He argues that the location of writing affects the type of writing that is produced, as no writer can ever remove him or herself from the environment physically, culturally, socially, or often legislatively. Dobrin makes a case for ecocomposition within the field of rhetoric and composition studies, encouraging these scholars to engage with the “hard” sciences more fully, as an ecological framework has already pervaded the field via place-based metaphors (“the nature of writing,” “the classroom environment,” etc.). Writers are affected by location, and their discourse is subsequently altered by it.

Dobrin, Sidney I., and Christian R. Weisser. “Breaking Ground in Ecocomposition: Exploring Relationships between Discourse and Environment.” College English 64.5 (2002): 566–89. Print.

This article traces the history of ecocomposition and its ecocritical roots, providing a literature review of works that have taken up the subject thus far in order to preface the authors’ own present working definition. Dobrin and Weisser usefully posit that we must preserve natural places in order to preserve our own depth of discourse as the natural world and our writing process/language systems are mutually dependent. They encourage thinking ecologically about composition – the process of writing as part of an ecosystem of writers/readers/teachers, and of course places. However, Dobrin and Weisser also problematically attempt to wholly separate ecocomposition from ecocriticism (despite the former’s admitted roots in the latter), refusing to label it as a subfield and claiming arbitrary (and often inaccurate) differences in what seems an unnecessary attempt to further legitimize their own field.

Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011. Print.

Rob Nixon calls readers’ attention to what he defines as “slow violence” – violence that occurs without spectacle and often over an extended period of time. While particularly highlighting the prevalence of slow violence in the context of environmental catastrophe, such as climate change, he also connects it to trauma studies and issues of domestic abuse and PTSD. Nixon points to the often overlooked nature of slow violence and its victims while raising the question of how we might develop more compelling narratives of these events in order to increase awareness and inspire people to take social and political action. I am especially interested in his claim that “A locked door can be a weapon” (16), as this is a recurring image in the work of Virginia Woolf.

Puleo, Alicia H. “De ‘eterna ironía de la comunidad’ a sujeto del discurso: Mujeres y creación       cultural”. Nuevas masculinidades Ed. Marta Segarra and Angels Carabí. La Coruña,               Spain: Icaria, 2000. 65-82.

This article traces the feminine voice over the course of the past fifty years in Western society from a place of marginalization to one where it has become a subject of discourse, ultimately forcing men to redefine what it means to be human. Puleo points to the exclusion of women in the sphere of cultural creation, which in turn affected female identity. She uses Hegel to frame readings of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex to confront the issue of female identity. Puleo also touches on ecofeminism and how our systems of hierarchies have reinforced gender inequality. Her ultimate goal is to prove that by allowing females to become the subject of discourse, we provide men with a mirror in which to reexamine themselves; thus reconstructing both male and female identity.

Reynolds, Nedra. Geographies of Writing: Inhabiting Places and Encountering Difference. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004. Print.

Reynolds examines composition through the lens of cultural geography, contemplating how our movements, travels, or lack thereof contribute to the writing process. She draws attention to the materiality inherent in composition as our locations affect our knowledge and modes of production. Reynolds takes up the issue of how technology has affected our public spaces, and discusses maps/mapping our movements as useful tools for rethinking education. While she doesn’t provide many examples of pedagogical practices that could help bridge the perceived divide between writer and place, she usefully draws attention to the ways in which we live, and write, through geography.

Solomon, Julie Robin. “Staking Ground: The Politics of Space in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas.” Women’s Studies 16.3/4 (1989): 331. Print.

Solomon explores Woolf’s spatial metaphors in A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas to comment on the social and political importance of space in the lives of women. She draws attention to the contradictory ways these metaphors are deployed in Woolf’s works, claiming that while in the earlier work Woolf encourages women to work from within the patriarchal system through adaptation, in the latter she rejects the system entirely in order to form the Society of Outsiders and accomplish equality through subversion. Solomon grounds her arguments in the theoretical frameworks of Michel de Certeau and Claude Levi-Strauss and their concepts of tactics and bricolage.

Weisser, Christian R. “Ecocomposition and the Greening of Identity.” Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches. Ed. Christian R. Weisser, Sidney I. Dobrin, and Marilyn M. Cooper.  Albany, NY: State U of New York P, 2001. 81–95. Gale. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.

This article focuses on the relationship among composition, identity formation, and the environment. Weisser claims that not only are we (and our writing processes) affected by our social relationships, but by the physical spaces in which we live. Although some scholars have begun to awaken to this idea, little has been done to integrate it into composition theory as the idea of language itself continues to be viewed as a human-centered affair. Weisser offers a brief history of the field of rhetoric and composition in order to hypothesize that to come to a greater understanding of our own identities we must more fully analyze the relationships our discourse has with nonhuman nature.