Human Language-Making as Environmental Praxis

Dr Camilla Nelson

published in Politics of Place • Green Connections • Issue 03


Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming” (91)

In “Towards a Natural History of Reading”, published over ten years ago, John Tallmadge asks: “where are our [literary] methods to match our mountains?” (283). Ten years on, his question still stands. The Winter 2014 special issue of ISLE explicitly calls readers and writers to creatively and critically engage with global warming. Kathleen Moore and Sco Slovic’s “Call to Writers” promotes a range of forms in which writers might respond. What is conspicuous within this call, and throughout the issue, is the relative ina ention paid to the environmental impact of compositional method in contrast to the importance a ributed to form and subject matter. This blindspot with regards to compositional method is symptomatic of what Christina Haas has identi ed as a “gap” in our understanding of “the murky, always- assumed but never speci ed relationship between writing as cognitive process and writing as cultural practice, and the relation of both to the material world” (37). This paper develops upon the work of a growing tradition of writers and thinkers who understand the emergence of the human, writing and environment as a process of enmeshed mutual infuence, in order to emphasise that how we write is as much part of the process of environment formation as what we write. There is a continuing need for the development of environmentally- engaged compositional methods in order to be er diversify literary production as a “making of the self and a making of the world” (Bate 282).

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