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Dark Ecology: Race, Gender & the Environment

English 252 @ Hunter College

Author

wrcadelina

Student at Hunter College. This blog was used for assignments related to the Eng 252 Dark Ecology Class of the Spring 2017 semester.

Trip to the Botanical Gardens (Blog Post #3)

It’s finals week for CUNY students. People are burning their candles late into the night, just to finish the third paper due, just to study a little more for their exam tomorrow. Anxiety rises among students quickly, causing nerves and emotions to fray easily.

These kids need a break. So, we went to the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx!

Upon entering the Mertz Library, we were treated to several, well-preserved works from multiple points in history that stuck to the theme of Dark Ecology, most specifically nature. My favorite book here was the one French work where the characters were humanized flowers — each “specimen” was made into a woman in a dress that fit the image of the flower itself; if I were a fashion enthusiast, I would have definitely used that book for inspiration. The work entitled Sea and Land was comprised of stories and descriptions of monsters and flora from the prehistoric era to the then-modern times of approximately 18th or 19th century. These accounts would be of great help to someone like me, with the almost storybook and fantastical-style of recounting this book had.

The Botanical Gardens were absolutely awe-inspiring and filled with plants I had never truly seen in person. It brought upon a weird feeling of being lost, even though I knew exactly where I was. I felt absolutely relieved of the stress finals was pressing onto us at that time.

I’m absolutely returning to the Gardens at some point this summer.

Through the Fallout

For the media-related blog post, I chose to relay the idea of Dark Ecology and what we’ve been studying in class to a media that I’m quite familiar with: video games. Specifically, the universe of Fallout.

The main story of Fallout is told through the eyes of a survivor after a nuclear fallout. As you trek through the remains of towns and modern civilization, you come across gross, hostile mutants that you must fight against for your life. Sometimes you come across raiders and other unfriendly characters that want nothing more than your life and whatever material possessions you managed to scrounge for on your search for stability. There are a few settlements that one can encounter throughout the game, doing their best to return to normalcy despite the conditions.

Now, we can consider Mary Shelley’s The Last Man. This is another story that takes place in the apocalypse. There are some notable differences that we must take into regard: Fallout‘s apocalypse is due to a nuclear bombing, Last Man‘s is due to a plague. There is also no threat from hostile beasts as much in Shelley’s work than in the video game.

However, both worlds hold the earth in a sort of weird sort of romantic sense of beauty. The world as humanity knew is gone, yet the nature around it still prevails in ways that man must ignore for the sake of survival. While Fallout natural environment does suffer in a vast contrast to Shelley’s, it still functions for basic resources rather than appreciation of the aesthetic.

In both media, most of humanity has lost the sense of order/civilization. Class systems depend on where the person is; a vagabond would be a valued member in a group because they know places that provide even temporary shelter and resources. In settlements, people fight and declare themselves leaders because they were either already in positions of power or are known to be the most efficient.

The idea of humanity vs. the apocalypse is explored in the reactions of the masses — where will humanity go from there? Will they make it? The narrator of The Last Man makes a point to say that he does not know why God would do this to the world, and that his uncertainty goes on to question what his own fate would be. In Fallout, the player/protagonist does his own investigations and contemplation through his/her interactions with others in the aftermath world of what happened. Uncertainty is a common theme as both stragglers and settlement heads alike show their skepticism and desperation despite whatever progress that they seem to have made.

The featured image is of a landscape from the game, Fallout 4. It, in my opinion, shows a perfect example of how the post-apocalyptic world still holds great natural aesthetic while humanity suffers.

The Tempest in Modernity

My group decided to take a certain moment in The Tempest and give it a modern spin.

The setting: In a one-floor house that looks even more dusty and less held-together than the one in “Courage the Cowardly Dog” and and just as isolated in the middle of of nowhere with a sparse bit of forest in the distance marking the city limits. A wooden shack, in even worse condition, is a few yards away.

Prospero (Usually sloppily dressed in whatever clothes he had (wrinkly dress shirts, dusty slacks, and torn sports jackets): A clever, manipulative man who once held a lot of power in the both the above and underground of the city. He knew the numbers and rigged them in his favor often. He’d often drag others to get dirty with him in the dark side of his business. He was eventually found out and voted out of the city by his “cleaner” colleague. Out of compassion, they let his daughter stay with him.

Miranda (Usually seen in dusty, light colored gowns, never seen in any modern city clothes): Prospero’s super sheltered, air-headed daughter. She thinks the world of her father and takes after him in some ways. She’s often lost in her daydreams and fantasies of princes and princess. As such, she’s almost guaranteed to fall in love with the first decent-looking guy that’s not her father or Caliban.

Caliban (burnt tan skin seen through tattered and dirty casual clothes): A young man who has some unknown ties to Prospero’s dark business dealings. Not very bright, so it is possible that the man easily manipulated Caliban to work for him when he was younger. He now, begrudgingly, does most of the manual labor around the land.

Ariel (Only ever seen on through a cracked smartphone screen, a picture of a elvish looking guy with green eyes): Prospero’s former right hand man. He didn’t get caught in the backlash and as such stays in the city. He keeps Prospero in the know of the events in the city and whatever seems to be heading his way. More of a yes man to Prospero than anything.

In terms of staging The Tempest, the group immediately agreed and liked the idea of modernizing the Shakespeare play, but took a while to find a theme that fit the character’s situation. I jokingly came up with the idea that Prospero, Caliban, and Miranda were hiding out there from the feds as a group of meth makers/dealers on the run. While admittedly just a joke, the idea of making Prospero some sort of kingpin stuck with me as I wrote out the roles. From there on, it was relatively easy to base Caliban and Miranda as the unfortunate benefactors of the elder’s fate.

Below is a somewhat modernized rendition of the moment we chose from the play in Act 1, Scene II (It was quite vulgar, I apologize. I took the liberty to censor where needed).

Miranda: *Yawning* Wow, Dad that’s a really boring story.

Prospero: Whatever, just wake up, we gotta go talk to Caliban again. *Walks out to the front porch and looking out towards the ruined shack nearby*

M: *Following her father* He’s smells really f****** bad though, and ugly as hell too!

P: I know sweetheart, but he still does the chores around here. *Opens the door and shouts out* Hey you ugly, sunburnt wankstain! I need you for a moment.

Caliban: *From far off, inside the shack* I did all your s*** for today, already.

Ariel: I got you on that favor, Prospero. I’ll keep an eye out. Talk to you later, sir. *Prospero hangs up his phone, end his call with Ariel*

In the Archive

(For the Alternate Assignment due to my absence from the NYPL visit)

Just from even looking at Prometheus Unbound through the Shelley-Goodwin Archive, it was extremely obvious just how difficult it may be to archive a primary source. The handwriting, to me at least, is difficult to decipher. In some cases, without any sort of contact with the creator of the primary source, it could be near impossible to decipher what the original work says.

The obvious advantage of archival research would be the fact that we have direct, corresponding sources that are relevant to a certain point. It is an unenviable job, but someone has to look through these aged works and make sure people are able to read and use them.

Act II, Pg 1 of Prometheus Unbound

Nature to an Introvert

I don’t go outside much. I go to Hunter College, literally a few blocks away from Central Park (the closest thing to full-on nature in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Manhattan), yet I’ve made no conscious effort to visit the place. I’ve either had to go directly home after classes or dedicated my free time to studying or doing personal work in the college library.

The word “Nature” to me feels subjective. What is nature for someone who absolutely enjoys spending his days indoors, writing stories and poetry to pass the time? To me, nature is anything that has to do with outside, I don’t necessarily have to be there to appreciate it’s beauty. In a way, nature is one of my greatest assistants as an introverted creative writer. I’ve spent many a late hour typing away at my computer, doing my best to combat writer’s block and and fight the urge to message my already-sleeping girlfriend to ask for help with an idea that I know she wouldn’t be able to fully assist me with.

So I turn to look out my window. The starlit sky above the fluorescent light-bulbs that could tell stories about the millennia through which they existed, what worlds and existences they shed light over, how they may have even been worshiped by other beings out there. This was nature to me; tranquility and and inspiration come to me easily in this state, as my mind wanders from idea to idea freely with every star my eye landed on whenever I wasn’t typing. As one would commonly lose themselves in nature, as the saying goes, I lost myself in the dark space between the stars to create minds and worlds and words and lines that could come together and help me write. Stormy nights are the best; I can’t sleep when it rains, thus I write until my eyelids drop out of exhaustion. The violent sounds and looming clouds help me write about times of tension and conflict. This is one of the pure shows of power that nature has that effects my writing.

The next thing I know, the sky has brightened into a soft blue, the white clouds wisp across the morning sun, and my writing stupor is shattered upon the sound of my cellphone alarm blaring rock music.

Nature is an escape from the cold and the restrictive, much like how Central Park’s natural liveliness stands out through the stone and metal of Manhattan. Perhaps it would help you as well, to follow what I do in order to write. Sometimes all you need is music, a quick binge watch of your favorite TV Show or Anime, or even a general break from writing in general. However, more often than not, just losing myself in the nature that is just outside my window yet too far to reach is what allows me to really become able to freely and smoothly create.

I sometimes listen to this playlist when I write

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