EMBODYING ENVIRONMENTAL RELATIONSHIP: A COMPARATIVE ECOCRITICAL ANALYSIS OF ‘JOURNEY’ AND ‘UNRAVEL’

By Lykke Guanio-Uluru

Departing from Jane Suzanne Carroll’s contention that “Landscapes are at once geographical and historical, natural and cultural, experienced and represented, and present a spatial interface between human culture and physical terrain” (2), this article draws on game studies (Aarseth; Sicart; Yee; Isbister) and on discussions of game design (Schell; Chen; Sahlin) to analyse the landscape and avatar design of Journey and Unravel. Developing the term semiotic register as an analytical lens, the article seeks to pin-point the means by which the two games move the player to adopt distinctly different attitudes and relationships to the games’ natural scenes. The article starts by positioning the study in relation to previous ecocritical analyses of games (Backe; Bianchi; Bohunicky; Chang; Lehner; Parham) and by discussing some aspects of indirect player management before analysing and comparing the two games in more detail.

Full text: https://ecozona.eu/article/view/3868

Wonderful theme next IRSCL

26th Biennial Congress of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) Congress Theme: Ecologies of Childhood: Children’s Literature, Culture & the Environment Congress Venue: University of California, Santa Barbara

The Congress theme both reflects and prescribes young people’s relationship with the natural world. In our current moment of profound environmental crisis, we believe it has never been more important to consider childhood ecologies from diverse perspectives. 

We invite Congress participants to bring global ecologies to this international congress and engage the theme from the perspective of your own regions, cultures, and languages. We envision an event that celebrates the full cultural and linguistic diversity of our regions, both local and global. We hope to retain some of the benefits of the electronic form to enhance accessibility and global reach and to be environmentally conscious in the design of the Congress.

The 2023 IRSCL Congress logo was designed by award-winning San Francisco-based children’s book author and artist Maya Gonzalez to go with the theme. As she said, “whales have the largest hearts in the world and connect all continents through the sea.” We hope you feel the welcome it offers for our interconnected world to the 2023 congress.

Stay tuned for more information about the 2023 Congress on the newly launched website www.irscl2023.org.

Michael Marder: The philosopher’s plant. An intellectual herbarium (2014)

First, I must warn anyone thinking that this report will help them gain easy access to the book. I am in fact tempted to consider this more of a report on my reading of the book than a report on the book.

The first time I saw the title of Michael Marder’s book I was immediately fascinated because it made me curious about the link between two areas that have attracted me ever since I was a student. As a student in upper secondary school, I studied botany and part of the course was devoted to the collecting of 100 plants to complete a herbarium following certain predetermined criteria, such as it having a minimum of 20 species of moss (bryophytes). I loved that work, that is, I loved to walk in the woods, meadows, and moorlands, and to search for, study, compare, and speculate about species. The process of pressing and conserving was less interesting because I always felt that the plant was left alone on the paper, deprived of its context or natural environment. As a university student I studied the history of philosophy and specialized in aesthetics. Well, I was young and knew little about how to read the many companion texts that listed philosophers and explained their world views or their ways of turning the world into a system of thought. I remember that due to the monotonous style of the textbook authors, the various philosophers and systems almost merged into one and the same. Although Marder’s text manages to engage me as a reader in many ways, it still runs the risk of turning an exciting idea into an intellectual exercise following a standardized set-up.

Although, as Marder states, plants in philosophy are “consigned to a grey area between dead stones and living animals” (p. 210), the idea of the book is beautiful: Marder has walked the woods, meadows, and moorlands of philosophy and philosophers to study the role of plants in their texts and thinking. Or, as proclaimed in the prologue, “this book lifts the curtain on the significance of plants to the making (and growth) of thought” (p. xiv). To mention one telling example of how this works, I would like to mention Marder’s reading of Hegel and of how his philosophy of dialectics may be found in a passage about grapes: “In the transition from grapes to wine, nature is dialectically transformed into culture” (p. 153).

In addition to Hegel’s grapes, the vegetal life Marder has found in the philosophers’ texts is rich and promising, comprising the plane tree (Plato), wheat (Aristotle), the “great plant” (Plotinus), pears (Augustine), celery (Avicenna), the palm tree (Maimonides), blades of grass (Leibniz), the tulip (Kant), the apple tree (Heidegger), sunflowers (Derrida), and the water lily (Irigaray). Interestingly, the last one is the only female philosopher in Marder’s herbarium. This said, she is perhaps the most precious one if I understand him correctly. It seems to me that in Irigaray’s plant thinking Marder finds that “[e]verything Western philosophers from Aristotle to Hegel have discarded and devalued about plants is lovingly retrieved, reassessed, and cultivated” (p. 219).

The structure of the book is classic: one chapter is dedicated to each philosopher (and plant), and presented in historical order according to the time of the philosopher’s work. The opening of each chapter is characterized by the intention to connect the reader of the book with the key plant, text, or botanical setting of the philosopher. In my opinion, these passages are decisive in connecting and engaging the reader with the rest of the chapter.

So, what did I find in Marder’s herbarium, which plants, thoughts, or linguistic descriptions attracted me the most? An overall observation I made was how long lived and deep rooted a rather limited mindset about plants is in our conceptions of everyday life and values. Like the powerful metaphor and observable facts about seeds, growth, and potential, or the fascinating trope about stealing (forbidden) fruit (see the chapter on Augustine’s pears). By reading Marder I think I have learned that plants often represent a challenge to a philosopher’s main system of thought and hence have either been forced to fit in (usually at a lower stage in some sort of hierarchy) or been relegated to an out-of-place or system-external position, appropriate for saying something crucial about the world that cannot be said based on the fundamental principle of thoughts – such as in the case of Kant’s tulip, which Marder summarizes in the following way:

«A beautiful flower may be too weak to take on the entire system of thought, which has slotted it within the structure of aesthetic judgement and harnessed it to the demands of      purposiveness without purpose. Of one thing we can be nonetheless sure: it does not              succumb to the sinister influence of idealization that performs a magical disappearing act, causing everything singular, imperfect, and concrete to dissolve in the mist of indifferent    abstraction.» (pp. 150-151)

It is both easy and tempting to pick or cut out passages from Marder’s text and press and conserve them in other contexts, or to graft them with other words to see if new meanings will unfold. In particular, I find the chapter on Derrida’s sunflower to be such a meadow of pickable paragraphs, of passages worth lifting out of context to continue to reflect upon or bear in mind. One such cutting is the following reminder, which I find applies to Derrida’s philosophical practice, to Marder’s book, and to academic works to come:

«Our virtual intellectual herbarium is itself a supplement to the real gardens, fields, and forests where plants grow. But the supplement in deconstruction always comes first, before what it supplements. It is on the basis of the prevailing idea of the plant and its significance (or insignificance) on the scale of beings that the so-called natural resources are managed and agriculture is organized on the industrial model. To change these practices we would first need to alter the supplementary notion of the plant.» (p. 198)

Finally, and perhaps only as a footnote, I would like to mention that I sometimes find it a little hard to distinguish Marder’s own thoughts and ideas about plants and philosophy from his free continuation, or rewriting, of each philosopher’s thinking. But perhaps this is how an organic plant-oriented text works; others’ texts and thoughts grow into or are sown in new texts and thoughts, and this is perhaps how it will continue to function, since “[p]hilosophy is (…) like a plant that metamorphoses as it grows” (p. 167).

10.10.2021 by Nina Goga, Professor, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen

MA theses linked to NaChiLitCul 2016-2020

Click on title to access the thesis

2016

Espen Iversen: Klima, kriser og ulikhet. Om utsatte mennesker og områder i bildeboken Hvorfor er jeg her?

2017

Rebekka Hennum: Kjæledyr i realistisk barnelitteratur

2018

Marta Nagel-Alne: Naturuttrykk i fantastisk barnelitteratur – ein økokritisk analyse av tre norske barneromaner

Stine Bjerkhagen Standal: Posthuman Identities: Cyborg Characters in Young Adult Fiction

2019

Ole Henrik Lund: Snakkar du til meg?: Ein økokritisk studie av forhandlingar om ulike livsformers verdi i teikneserien Amuletten av Kazu Kibuishi.

Line Alvheim Åse: Når vi blir voksne er det for seint»: Klimaengasjement i to romaner for barn og unge

Kristine Aga Haugom: When Ludology and Narratology Meet: A Comparative Analysis of an Ecofictional Video Game and an Ecofictional Book.

Tora Eide Hodneland: Cities of Tomorrow – Urban Landscapes and Urban Sustainability in Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy

2020

Ingeborg Strandos: Å verte ein økoborgar. Ein studie av Ishavspirater og medvit om berekraftig utvikling.

Yvonne Kvellestad Skudalsnes: Lyrikk som tankerørsle omkring menneske og natur Økokritiske lesingar av diktsamlingane Eg er eg er eg er og Skogen den grøne av Ruth Lillegraven

IPCC – Sixth Assessment Report

The Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021:
The Physical Science Basis
is now out.  The report addresses the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, and global and regional climate simulations.

Read the report: https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/

Green Dialogues and Digital Collaboration on Nonfiction Children’s Literature

by Marnie Campagnaro and Nina Goga

ABSTRACT

Contemporary children’s literature has developed a growing interest in the interconnectedness between humans and the environment and in the ongoing exchange and negotiation of ways to be in the world. These new directions in children’s literature consequently challenge teachers of children’s literature in higher education. The study of contemporary children’s literature needs not only to be informed by new theoretical perspectives like ecocriticism, posthumanism and new materialism, but also to revisit, develop and explore the methodological tools and teaching practices necessary to prepare students to address these demanding issues. The aim of the article is to present and discuss the research question: How is it possible to secure scholarly dialogue and practical collaboration in an academic course on nonfiction children’s literature and environmental issues? Building on a cross-disciplinary theoretical framework consisting of theory of nonfiction, ecocriticism, dialogic teaching, environmental architecture and place-based teaching, the study reports on a pilot course which took place in the summer of 2020. Due to the pandemic situation the course became digital. Hence the digital challenges and  possibilities turned out to be a critical aspect of the planned practical collaboration between students, teachers and students and teachers. The main goal of the course was to help motivate students to engage in and negotiate about nonfiction children’s literature and sustainability, to enhance their aesthetic experiences and to foster their environmental consciousness through children’s literature. The course was characterized by its alternating blending of lectures and hands-on experiences with theoretical and methodological tools as well as nature or culture specific places.

Full text: https://ojs.uv.es/index.php/JLE/article/view/21019/19076