The present article develops an aesthetic signification for the idea of an ecological self proposed by Arne Næss and for its underlying relationship of identification. It is based on a discussion of a model of environmental aesthetics – the mystery model – by Stan Godlovitch. Godlovitch has presented his model as an alternative to the cognitive paradigm developed by Allen Carlson. While showing the value of this acentric aesthetic, I am proposing a different version of this model founded on a phenomenological approach – by French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty. This perspective provides a better understanding of a subject's attitude of insignificance and aesthetic aloofness inherent in an acentric aesthetic experience of nature. It also shows what brings together and separates this experience, first from death, and secondly from mysticism. In so doing, it helps establish the legitimacy of the concept of the ecological self by looking at it in a new way.
This paper argues for the development of new methodologies for studying animals and human-animal relationships that take qualitative and hermeneutic considerations into account. Drawing on the traditions of anthropology, depth psychology, and somatic studies, the paper advocates for the use of a trans-species ethnography that situates the researcher as a participant-observer in the field, in relationship with the subjects of study. This theoretical framework is illustrated by case study in the form of the author’s fieldwork on human-elephant communication at an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.
In “Poeticizing Ecology/Ecologizing Poetry: Reading Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Poem’ Ecologically,” we argue that ecological poetry is a kind of ecopoetry that undergirds “nature poetry” and environmental/activist poetry. Ecological poetry is also best put into conversation with deconstruction. This argument, informed by Timothy Morton’s claim that “deconstruction and ecology should talk to one another,” entails challenging previous arguments about what counts as ecopoetry but also the status of the lyric in general. We synthesize James Longenbach’s position in The Resistance of Poetry with Nick Selby’s argument in “Ecopoetries in America” to examine the relationship between close reading and reading ecologically. Rather than an ethical stance perceived in the content of the poem, to read ecologically requires attention to form and linguistic indeterminacy, not only because deconstruction and ecology are alike, but also because poetry is comprised of language, the usage of which “revels in duplicity and disjunction.” Deconstruction is the best approach to divergent perspectives on nature, or the way a poem offers, in Nick Selby’s view, not a clear purchase or single overarching view, but “a struggle to get nature right.” We contend that to give space to alterity, to allow the otherness not only of nature but also of language itself in its capacity for referentiality is to expand the “marked” space of ecology (in the terms set forth by G. Spencer Brown’s Laws of Form). We support this claim with a reading of Bishop’s “Poem,” which we acknowledge as an atypical choice for what constitutes ecological poetry. A borderline ekphrastic poem, “Poem” allows us to talk not only about the space inherent in nature and language but between text and image, or poem and painting. What we find in our reading of Bishop’s “Poem” is a contingency between the poem and the painting, rather than a classical attempt of one to overpower the other, to speak for the other as the more authoritative sign. We find the uncanny or strange quality of Bishop’s ekphrastic approach to an amateurish painting that she calls “sketch” a way to further substantiate Morton’s claim about the relevance of deconstruction to ecology. Through our reading of the poem we argue that no entity completely coincides with itself because ecological thinking has helped us to see how every entity is shot-through with traces of the other; we ourselves are made up of other lifeforms; life is made up of nonlife. To think ecologically is to think the other within the self (especially including all the nonhuman others), within any entity whatsoever.