Dissertation > Literature > Literary Theory > Literary criticism,literature appreciation

The ecocriticism scope and methods

Author LiuWenLiang
Tutor ZuoRongBen
School Yangzhou University
Course Literature and Art
Keywords Ecocriticism Education Press Anthropocentrism Ecological environment Ecological awareness Between man and nature University Press People-oriented Ultimate concern View of nature
Type PhD thesis
Year 2007
Downloads 2296
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The category and methodology of eco-criticism are weak links in its present theoretical study. This dissertation intends to clarify its basic concepts and principles by defining and exploring its categories, and to establish the concept of methodology, which serves as guidelines for its practice by studying its methodology. Category and Methodology complement each other and serve as a modest spur to induce other people to come forward with valuable contributions in establishing a theoretical framework of eco-criticism that corresponds with its counterpart in the western countries and has a touch of China’s characteristics.The dissertation comprises of the preface, the first half (Category) including five chapters, the second half (Methodology) including two chapters and the conclusion. The preface gives a general idea of the concept, objects and the purpose of eco-criticism, analyzes the reason for its rise and then explores the status quo of its theoretical study in today’s China, putting forward the fundamental concept of the dissertation on the basis of summarizing its achievements and by focusing on the analysis of absence of its theoretical study.The first half is Category. Eco-criticism is a completely new subject or quasi-subject. The abstraction of categories has been still in the tentative phase. However, Some categories reflecting intrinsic features of eco-literature and eco-criticism can be identified generally such as harmony, nature, ultimate concern, grief and indignation, and ecology aesthetic discourse.The first chapter discusses the most basic category of eco-criticism—harmony. Harmony between man and nature, man and society, man and self, among people is the most fundamental implications in eco-culture and eco-literature, and what eco-criticism repeatedly searches for and advocates actively. Section One explores the ecological implication of nature-and-man combination in Chinese traditional culture, weighs the modern ecological value of“harmony”of great importance and makes a comparison between it and western modern ecological ethnics. Section Two and Three differentiate and analyze ecology centralism and human centralism, human oriented and ecology oriented concepts respectively instead of simply recognizing such radical theoretical ideas as ecology centralism and ecology oriented concept advocated by western eco-criticism. Some principles of ecology centralism can serve as an important reference to ecological protection and yet there is a great theoretical dilemma and realistic limitation while relative human centralism emphasizes the combination of human’s interests with whole ecological interests, which is the footing for the idea of achieving sustainable development and building a harmonious society and for the theory of eco-criticism. On the issue of which should be the foundation in ecological protection, the dissertation argues that human oriented and ecology oriented concepts don’t conflict absolutely. Only through regarding human oriented concept as the purpose and ecology oriented concept as the core can human oriented concept in a real sense be realized.The second chapter investigates the category of nature. Coordinating and handling the relation between human and nature is the key to the goal of“harmony”, which requires us to have a correct understanding of nature. Section One specifies the development course of concept of nature: organic natural view in ancient Greece, contemporary natural concept of opposition between man and nature, modern natural concept of harmony between man and nature, concept of nature of Marxist materialist dialectics, oriental natural concept of nature-and-man combination. Section Two concentrates on social and spiritual ecology assuming that internal and external nature complement each other. Eco-criticism not only guides people to treat and handle problems of natural and social ecology in a correct way but also explores problems in spiritual ecology more deeply so that people will focus on the return to internal nature. Section Three is mainly about the proposition of inspecting science and being in awe of nature from the perspective of the relation between science and nature, and confirms the proposition that holding nature in awe means real science based on the analysis of welfare and disaster which are brought about to man by science and technology.The third chapter inquires into the category of ultimate concern. Who am I? Where am I? Where is the way out? What is the meaning for living? All these questions are related to ultimate concern and are essential for dealing with the relation between man and nature. They also have to be solved in order to realize the goal of harmony. Aims of ultimate concern should be to relieve and eliminate ecological crisis, and to recover and rebuild ecological balance at last. Firstly, they can really recognize ecological system and possibly avoid or ease ecological crisis in a ultimate way only if human beings make a right judgment of their position in the whole ecological system-where am I. Secondly, it is necessary to figure out when man began to take the wrong road on earth and what the road is to such an extent that they hold great prejudice against modern culture, thus making clear where the way out is and searching for the ideal road to poetic living. Thirdly, What the meaning for living needs to be specified in order to make ultimate concern come true, which requires awakening people’s consciousness of ecological anxieties and responsibilities. Eco-criticism should intentionally encourage and advocate critics to read texts from the ultimate perspective and to pay attention to the underlying spirit of ultimate concern, leading readers to understand and accept it.The fourth chapter probes into grief and generous, which is the important style of eco-literature as well as eco-criticism. Section One analyzes the tragedy of eco-literature, which it points out that always takes this form by way of interpreting ecologically literary works, and awakens people’s ecological consciousness of seeking harmony by reflecting upon and criticizing the contradiction between man and nature. Section Two further explores the issue of tragedy and nobility in eco-literature, man’s and nature’s nobility. Human and nature are all noble. Conquering nature shouldn’t be regarded as a criterion of human’s nobility. It should be marked by man’s protection for nature and realizing value in the harmonious coexistence between man and nature. If the two correspond, a kind of more holy nobility will ensue and a more astonishing, solemn and generous atmosphere will be created. Section Three discusses distinct rebellious spirit in eco-literature in the background of contemporary aesthetic culture, that is, rejecting kitsch, promoting the serious, noble and courteous style, and advocating the return of literary spirit. The feature of rejecting kitsch determines the fact that eco-criticism should be vigorous and full of justice.The fifth chapter is about ecology aesthetic discourse. Ecological ideas tend to be very political and social. Eco-criticism is also noticeably social and political which takes ecological ideas as the foundation and eco-literature as the main object for eco-literature is strikingly critical and reflective. Eco-literature and eco-criticism can’t degenerate into the mouthpiece of politics and should concentrate on the image and emotion of ecological ideas and thoughts, adopting the aesthetic way to make a dialogue with ecology, although ecological discourse is strikingly political and critical. Eco-literature and eco-criticism should aim at making ecological discourse aesthetic by turning ecology into aesthetic things, which last in people’s mind and help people establish ecological consciousness gradually.The second half is Methodology. Eco-criticism, whose methodology is prone to greater extension and tension, is characterized by being interdisciplinary. This dissertation mainly inquires into methodology of eco-criticism in terms of disciplinary methodology and concrete manipulation.The sixth chapter explores methodology of eco-criticism from the aspect of disciplinary methodology. Eco-criticism may absorb nourishment from common methodology in the theory of art and literature such as methodology of culturology, the study of feminism, reception aesthetics, hermeneutics and reception aesthetics to enrich its own methodology. Section One: Poetics of culture (span several fields) argues that eco-criticism is cultural criticism in essence and must highlight its being cross-disciplinary, cross-civilization and cross-cultural. At the same time, it can’t ignore aesthetic principles and should seek harmony and integration between nature and aesthetics. Section Two: Eco-feminism (integration of perspectives) investigates special significance of the female perspective to eco-criticism and the ecological perspective to feminism criticism, and confirms that the integration of the two perspectives not only can infuse new vigor to the long-term feminism criticism by combining theoretical deduction and case analysis but also extend broader room for criticism to the emerging eco-criticism. Section Three: Interpretation of literary classics (combination of old and new) discusses eco-criticism‘s necessity and feasibility for the interpretation of literary classics and points out that two keys have to be attached importance to: Firstly, stick to the principle of giving priority to ecology and understand and interpret classics from the perspective of ecology and nature once more. Secondly, pay attention to the degree of interpretation and avoid excessive interpretation out of time and space. Section Four: Psychological analysis by life experience argues combining environmental psychological analysis and the analysis of literary texts concerning the ecological theme; it explores their psychological experience when authors are faced with nature, their appreciative mind when readers read texts, and further the important and positive influence eco-literature and eco-art have on people in shaping and enhancing environmental psychology. Section Five: Systematic theory (inspection as a whole) points out that objects of criticism can be examined by placing them in a whole situation, and that their ecological or anti-ecological connotations can be revealed by exploring a lot of works of an age or an author from the ecological perspective based on the relation between the whole and its parts.The seventh chapter explores methodology of eco-criticism in terms of concrete manipulation. Section One: Exploring in a positive manner (search for poetry) probes into nature and its way of existence through eco-literature, non-eco-literature with ecological implications or quasi-eco-literature. For one thing, search for poetry of nature to improve people’s ethics; for another, criticize people’s misconducts, which are equivalent to digging their own grave, and put their unbalanced mind to the question. Section Two: Judgment by default (devalued criticism) demands that eco-criticism should devalue judgment about anti-ecological works which convince readers with intense fighting spirit and make them full of the power to struggle with nature in order to promote the academic circles to make a reevaluation and reconstruction as a whole of the history of literary development. Section Three: Narrative analysis (infectious efficacy) holds that during the process of making the narrative analysis of eco-literature, the following five aspects are worthy of attention: ecological image, background materials, dialogue elements, non-narrative discourse and narrative perspective, thus helping to reflect eco-criticism’s infectious efficacy.The conclusion places high expectations on China’s study of eco-criticism and particularly indicates that native language is to be regarded as the foundation and western languages as the catalyst with the aim to establish eco-criticism discourse. Realization of the goal requires attaching importance to the translation and introduction of western achievements in eco-criticism and native innovation, text interpretation and theoretical development, dialogues to bridge the gap in academe, borrowing from others and innovating.In the process of writing, this dissertation puts a premium on summarizing the experience and theory of production of contemporary ecological arts and the practice of eco-criticism, the organic combination of theoretical establishment and critical practice, and the integration of history and logic. Moreover, borrowing from good western fruits in eco-criticism, it inquires into ecological wisdom in Chinese traditional culture, modern transformation from China’s traditional criticism and its combination with eco-criticism. As the theoretical study and the practice of the nascent eco-criticism deepen, its categories and methodology will be constantly improved and enriched without doubt. Consequently, to some degree, this dissertation is only an initial and simple exploration.

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