An eco-critical reading is one which looks at the relationship between humans and their environment. Many texts lend themselves to this sort of reading, particularly many of the poems by poets listed in the Literature syllabus. Taking an eco-critical reading does not mean necessarily taking an environmentalist perspective.
When we read eco-critically, we are looking at
the way the natural world is described.
how humans are portrayed in relation to the environment.
how environmental issues are treated in the text.
the privileging of the built environment over the natural world.
the way that the natural world is often idealised and mythologised.
how the idea of 'wilderness' is treated.
the importance of 'place' and belonging.
the privileging of human values and needs over all others.
the way that cities are often depicted as cold, soulless worlds where misery abounds.
the pursuit for resources.
the connection between human emotion and the natural environment.
When we read a text in this way, it does not mean that we have to become a mouthpiece for Al Gore. It is perfectly acceptable to be questioning the depiction of the environment as idyllic and nurturing, even suggesting that it is naive, left-winged, or unrealistic to do so if you choose.
Much of Judith Wright's poetry lends itself to eco-critical readings as it promotes a view of a harsh and unforgiving Australian landscape, while at the same time celebrating this violent and unrelenting character. Die, wild country, like the eaglehawk, dangerous till the last breath's gone, clawing and striking. Die cursing your captor through a raging eye. (Australia 1970)
After reading the full text of this poem, what contrasting views of nature can you see depicted? What role do humans play in Wright's portrayal of Australia? What ironies are implicit in this poem?
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