Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
My study utilizes ecocriticism, eco-Marxism, and posthumanism to discover how the sympathetic practices of both reading and ecology provide us with what I call an oiko-logic. Specifically, I read Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, and John Williams’ Butcher’s Crossing. In Gulliver’s Travels we see Gulliver as an ecological threat in every journey, and Swift says that this is because we forget ourselves and deliberately choose to not attune—sometimes even choosing destruction. For Swift, we bungle things no matter which system we try, and we create degenerative devolution despite the fact that we can help. Sterne’s fundamental ecological question is how people and the entities they dwell with (living and non-living) have real interactions—which means considering domestication’s bilateralism. Humans and animals can interact beneficently in Sterne’s work, and individualism becomes oiko-logically untenable since calculations of value and affordability must include others. In Moby-Dick the whale’s values are more moral than Ahab’s, and through comparisons available in the text of Moby-Dick we begin to see inside Melville’s eco-values to the impact of a heroic animal agency as Moby-Dick follows his values—while our conscience hangs in crooked corridors. In Butcher’s Crossing and representations of buffalo slaughter, correlative human-animal experiences of thirst, ferality, and slaughter are contrasted with western bison hunters on the plains and aliens in such a way that the alien is between humanity and itself. In oiko-logic, literature and ecology share a sympathetic practice similar to the Native American sensibility of Mitakuye Oyasin: “all my relations.”
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