Jeffers, Carson, Elkhorn Slough, Plankton, and Cannery Row…
In preparation for future discussions, tying ideas, readings, lectures together, I throw out this as a beginning, ground for discussion.
1. On Jeffers and place: “If the soul were to choose an area in which to stage its agonies, this would be the place for it. One feels exposed—not only to the elements, but to the sight of God. Naked, vulnerable, set against an overwhelming backdrop of might and majesty, one’s problems become magnified because of the proscenium on which the conflict is staged. Robinson Jeffers is unerring in highlighting this aspect of his narrative poems. His figures and their manner of behavior are not falsely exaggerated, as some believe. If his narratives smack of Greek tragedy, it is because Jeffers rediscovered here the atmosphere of the gods and fates which obsessed the ancient Greeks. The light here is almost as electric, the hills almost as bare, the community almost as autonomous as in ancient Greece. The rugged pioneers who settled here needed only a voice to make known their secret drama. And Jeffers is that voice.” “Jeffers’ Big Sur,” by Henry Miller
2. On the slough and consideration of change/place of humanity: “Two themes will be developed throughout this volume. The first is that of change: estuaries are dynamic environments shaped by such factors as changing tides, freshwater inflow, climate change, anthropogenic inputs (the result of human impacts), and introduced species. Elkhorn Slough is no exception…”
“The other major theme of this book is that human activities have a significant impact on how estuarine and terrestrial ecosystems function. Elkhorn Slough’s hydrology, chemistry, and biology have been highly modified by human activities over the last century.” (9) Consider how each writer we’ve read considers human impact on nature.
3. Consider how the “History of Land Use” at Elkhorn Slough tallies with what you’ve learned about Monterey history. Any significant differences you note?
4. "The 'control of nature' is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man."- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962), p. 297. Consider and relate.
5. Did the title of Carson’s opening chapter, “Flood Tide,” mean anything different after visiting Elkhorn Slough?
6. Do the “ecosystem components” in Nybakken, pp. 20-21, have bearing on the reading of literature? How do these differ from a definition of deep ecology? How compare to the “Four Levels of Ecology” by Ricketts?
7. In preparation for John’s talk tomorrow afternoon, you might walk down Cannery Row, from Drake Ave. to Hopkins. Jot down a few notes. What do you think of today’s Cannery Row?
8. Before Chuck speaks, consider the meaning of pantheism. Is Jeffers a pantheist? Is Steinbeck? Is Ricketts?