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The Vilification of Wilderness and Its Relation to the African Experience in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness: An Ecocriticism

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First-wave ecocriticism, while studying the relationship between humans and the environment with the focus of emphasizing the value of nature, maintains a categorical divide between these two highly connected subjects.

First-wave ecocriticism, while studying the relationship between humans and the environment with the focus of emphasizing the value of nature, maintains a categorical divide between these two highly connected subjects. However, second-wave ecocritical studies reduce this gap between nature and humans by analyzing the environment’s ultimate self, humans as part of that environment, and comparisons between the treatment of enslaved bodies and the land. A second-wave ecocritical approach is used to examine the vilification of wilderness versus the claim of the cultivated environment despite its violent history and its impact on other captive bodies within Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899) and Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987). It finds the perception of the wilderness is used to define other enslaved entities, characterizing them as villainous and so excusing their exploitation and mistreatment. Conrad's novel follows the story of Marlow and internally, the story of Kurtz, both of whom are members of The Company that goes on expeditions to find ivory in the Congo. The jungle, which is seen as a possession and exploitable by other colonists, differs from Kurtz’ view after living with the Natives in the Congo. Rather, Marlow finds that European colonists possessive hunt for ivory, a sought-after commodity, into territory they claimed for themselves after brandishing it wild, reflected their perceived darkness of the jungle back onto themselves. Morrison’s novel introduces Sethe, who kills her child, Beloved, to spare her from the life of a slave. In both novels, the utility of the enslaved body is regarded as more important than its selfhood, which serves to not only categorize slaves as lower than both humans and animals, but removes their ability to represent themselves through communication, further disallowing them to own themselves or speak against actions that have been taken against them.

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  • 2021-05

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Popularity, Technology, and the Pacific Crest Trail: 20 years of Change

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For many, a long-distance hike on the 2,650+ mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the adventure of a lifetime. The federally designated National Scenic Trail passes through 48 Wilderness Areas

For many, a long-distance hike on the 2,650+ mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the adventure of a lifetime. The federally designated National Scenic Trail passes through 48 Wilderness Areas in California, Washington, and Oregon on its way from Mexico to Canada. The trail experience on the PCT has been changing rapidly over the last 20 years due to two main factors: a four-fold increase in hikers attempting the whole trail each season; and hikers’ rapid adoption of digital technology like smartphones, GPS, and satellite messengers. Through a literature review and accompanying hiker survey, this study aimed to determine how these two factors have combined to alter the trail experience. Despite increased traffic on the trail, hikers appear to still be able to find ample solitude and a feeling of escape from society, and they reported being more likely to form lasting friendships as part of a “trail family”. However, increased traffic has altered many of the sensitive natural landscapes along the trail, contributed to the retirement of some iconic “trail angels” and led to increased conflict between subcultures within the community. Digital technology usage, particularly the use of smartphones and GPS-capable mapping apps, seems to be linked to decreased feelings of solitude, self-sufficiency, and escape. However, digital devices have helped democratize long-distance hiking by simplifying the logistics of long-distance hikes. Users of the devices also did not report reduced feelings of freedom or challenge from their hikes. Moreover, device users still felt that they were disconnecting with technology when hiking on the trail. Acknowledging both positive and negative effects of the changing trail experience, hikers can make more informed decisions about how to mitigate the negative impacts and maximize the positive impacts on the aspects of the trail experience they care the most about.

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  • 2021-05

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Hiking and Hegemony: Destabilizing the nature/culture and gender binaries through outdoor recreation

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This paper explores the contested relationships between nature, culture, and gender. In order to analyze these relationships, we look specifically at outdoor recreation. Furthermore, we employ poststructuralist feminist theory in

This paper explores the contested relationships between nature, culture, and gender. In order to analyze these relationships, we look specifically at outdoor recreation. Furthermore, we employ poststructuralist feminist theory in order to produce three frameworks; the first of which is titled Mother Nature’s Promiscuous Past. Rooted in Old World and colonial values, this framework illustrates the flawed feminization of nature by masculinity, and its subsequent extortion of anything related to femininity — including women and nature itself. This belief barred women from nature, resulting in a lack of access for women to outdoor recreation.
Our second framework, titled The Pleasurable Potential of Outdoor Recreation, cites second-wave feminism as a catalyst for women’s participation in wilderness exploration and outdoor recreation. The work of radical feminists and the women’s liberation movement in 1960s and 1970s empowered women at home, in the workplace, and eventually, in the outdoors; women reclaimed their wilderness, yet they continued to employ Framework One’s feminization of nature. Ecofeminsim brought together nature and women, seeking to bring justice to two groups wronged by the same entity: masculinity. In this context, outdoor recreation is empowering for women.
Despite the potential of Framework Two to reinscribe and better the experiences of women in outdoor recreation, we argue that both Frameworks One and Two perpetuate the gender binary and the nature/culture binary, because they are based upon the notion that women are in fact fundamentally different and separate from men, the notion that nature is an entity separate from culture, or human society, as well as the notion that nature is in fact a feminine entity.
Our third framework, Deer Pay No Mind to Your Genitals, engages poststructuralism, asserting that outdoor recreation and activities that occur in nature can serve to destabilize and deconstruct notions of the gender binary. However, we argue that care must be exercised during this process as not to perpetuate the problematic nature/culture binary, a phenomenon that is unproductive in terms of both sustainability and gender liberation. Outdoor recreation has been used by many as a tool to deconstruct numerous societal constraints, including the gender binary; this, however, continues to attribute escapist and isolationist qualities toward nature, and therefore perpetuating the nature/culture divide. Ultimately, we argue outdoor recreation can and should be used as a tool deconstruct the gender binary, however needs to account for the fact that if nature is helping to construct elements of culture, then the two cannot be separate.

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  • 2016-05