Friday, June 29, 2007


Title: Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin's, 2002)

Author: Matthew Scully, who, in an alternate universe, used to be a "special assistant and senior speechwriter" for George W. Bush. That George W. Bush. Apparently he wrote the post-9.11 presidential addresses - and, what's more, is proud of that fact. He's also involved with the National Review, and writes for other pubs including the NYT, the WaPo, and the WSJ.

Argument: Arguing from Scripture, Scully holds that because God put humans in "dominion" over the non-human world, we are obligated to exercise "stewardship". This means that we must not treat animals as though they are there for our pleasure and our pleasure alone. Scully believes that our motivations towards animals could be called "love", and that this speaks well of our humanity - and that cruel actions toward animals, on the other hand, indicate that some part of our morality has been lost. (This is very similar to the arguments of early animal rights activists, who thought that animal cruelty would lead a human down the road to worse and worse crimes against their own Christian nature.) Scully sometimes veers close to making a critique of consumer culture and capitalism as a whole (!), but always somehow steers clear.

The Things That Are:
An exploration of the phenomenon of fellow-feeling between men and animals. Scully looks back at previous Christian thinkers who have spoken out against cruelty, and wonders why today's church doesn't have a stance on the issue. In a section called "Practical Ethics", he points out that "traditional" animal rights activists seek to place animals on a level with humans, but that his own thought is based on the idea that animals are "less" than humans - weaker, more vulnerable - but that this must require more care from us for their welfare, not less. He then makes the case for his inclusion of farm animals in the book (even though, as he says, he feels like it'll lose him readers). Looking at animals and deciding "right action" toward them, he says, "requires discernment and care and humility before means understanding that habits are not always needs, traditions are not eternal laws, and the fur salon, kitchen table, or Churchill Room are not the center of the moral universe" (45). In other words, refraining from animal cruelty is, for him, an act of rational morality.

The Shooting Field:
Scully gains access to safari club conventions, and interviews several safari club outfits and patrons. (This is a good example of a reporting situation in which I bet it really helped to have the Republican connections and credentials.) Lots of details about the fetishization of particular animals, the masculine society, the money it costs, the videos they watch of "greatest charges" or "chases", etc. Scully goes OFF on the "canned hunts", in which animals who are fenced in and unable to get away are shot. Describing one patron of the canned hunts, Scully writes, "These are his needs, his demands as a paying customer, and of course all things of the earth must be reordered to meet them - whatever creature Ray Baxter desires located, seized, trucked to Arkansas, and brought before him for a quick and convenient shot" (65). This is one of those places where Scully is almost, almost, almost anticapitalist. Sort of. I like the way Scully ends the chapter by interviewing professional hunters - the men who take the customers out, find the animals, and arrange the kill.

Matters of Consequence:
Returning to "the beginning" (this he means biblically), Scully looks at the concept of "dominion" and asks "where on earth they [the people at the Safari Club, etc] got this idea of dominion as a relentless, merciless merchandising and pillaging of our forests and their inhabitants" (90). Scully faces right up to the inherent contradiction of his being a conservative who supports animal rights, saying "habits, customs, and impulses, just because they are ancient, are not necessarily venerable" (doesn't sound very conservative to me!) (101)

Riches of the Sea:
What better place to explore the ethics of "resource harvesting" than when it comes to fishing? Whaling is where Scully focuses most of his energy here, going into International Whaling Commission business and into issues of indigenous whale hunting rights (he's not for them). But he also has some interesting things to say about the WTO, which he writes creates a "kind of mania" for fair trade, which becomes "not just a good but the highest good", stripping us of our ability to have moral standards (184). Yeah, it does.

The Laws:
Here Scully looks at the current research on animal "thinking" and "feeling", asking how, if at all, this research has an impact on our understanding of what animal cruelty laws should entail (for he now believes that our system of laws doesn't go far enough, because as it is, "the creatures under our dominion thus inhabit a moral void of subjective human desires and situational ethics" [192]). Some theorists of animal intellect, like Stephen Budiansky, are actively trying, according to Scully, to prove that animals can't think, and therefore that we should not have laws to keep them from being killed. "I am not sure which is the worse evil, the kill or the theory," he writes (229).

Deliver Me From My Necessities:
Here we have an unusual thing: Scully actually manages to get inside a pig farm in North Carolina, where he writes vividly about the physical experience of entering the place where all the pigs are kept, and also about the people he meets who work in the industry ("Gay embodies in her ample frame all of humanity's contradictions about animals, capable of touching solicitude one moment and staggering disregard the next" [266]).

Nature and Nature's God
and Justice and Mercy: "When our own fundamental interests are at stake, in short, and our suffering in the balance, we are moral absolutists, and with animals and their suffering we are moral relativists," Scully writes, pointing out the hypocrisy of humanity in his final appeal to change (298). He writes that if we need to find a moral basis for defining our approach to animals, we should look at the plan of "the nature of things" for a guide, striving not to transgress against what would seem to be the program of each organism by torturing it into a "machine of our own invention" (303). "For me," he writes, "it comes down to a question of whether I am a man or just a consumer" (325).

The book won the PETA award for "Book of the Year", after it came out, though this fact is not on the book jacket! Positive reviews have come from a motley crue, everybody from Michael Pollan to Christopher Hitchens to Peter Singer to Charles Colson.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Howard Pyle, The Salem Wolf, 1909 (painting used on the cover of Coleman's book)

Title: Vicious: Wolves and Men in America (New Haven: Yale UP, 2004)

Jon T. Coleman, now of the department of history at Notre Dame, got his PhD from Yale (I think in history, not AMS). This book was his dissertation. There's not information on this site about his possible new project, but I heard from somebody at some point that he's writing about bears now (scuttlebutt, possibly). He writes often and entertainingly for the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Argument: Telling the story of wolves in America, Coleman argues, entails creating an "interdisciplinary mutant" of methods from biology, folklore, and history in order to answer his operative questions: Why did European settlers in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, bent on colonizing the "new" world, kill wolves in such a "vicious" manner? And when and how did the balance of opinion shift such that wolves are now conserved instead of slaughtered? Coleman argues that "livestock, folklore, and sex underpinned the longevity of wolf hatred" - the first two being categories of property and cultural heritage that humans "designed to endure"; the third, biological reproduction, creating fodder for the cultural reproduction of the importance of these categories (11).

Part One: Southern New England
1. Howls, Snarls, and Musket Shots: Saying "This is Mine" in Colonial New England:
I love the way this chapter opens with the way that the *sound* of wolf howls severely disconcerted and upset English settlers upon their arrival in New England. Coleman sets the tone for the book's focus on animal communication and animal-human misunderstanding. Communication is allied with concepts of territory - Coleman points out that Indians, settlers, and wolves were the top three groups of predators in the region, and each had different ideas of territoriality. When combined with miscommunication and mistrust, these overlapping territories led to strife and hate (see Lepore, as well as Virginia deJohn Anderson's Creatures of Empire). Wolves, who killed livestock, were seen as dire threats to European survival in the region: "The English colonists' concept of territory - the idea that land, animals, and even people were property - ambushed wolves" (36). Here there are also stories of the European use of mastiffs as instruments of control (33).

2. Beasts of Lore: How Stories Turned Fearsome Monsters into Skulking Criminals:
This is the Folklore Chapter, which fills out the picture of what ideas the Europeans had brought to the New World about wolves. Here, Coleman addresses interpretive questions: why do certain stories survive, while others are lost? Why are some seen as more important than others? Important sources of English wolf lore included the Bible, in which wolves were seen as threats to the pastoral ideal. Coleman also tries to suss out some ideas of what Native Americans thought about the wolf. These come to us via English sources, so are necessarily somewhat commercial: their hides were ceremonial gifts or currency. Englishmen didn't probe far enough to figure out the Indian's cultural interest in the wolf, if any, though one of them recorded that the Indians thought wolves who allowed themselves to be killed did so because they were atoning for past misdeeds (another interesting tidbit about Indian hunting practices and their possible ecological or non-ecological effects; see Krech).

3. Wolf Bullets with Adders' Tongues: How to Kill a Wolf in Colonial New England:
Here we get to the nitty-gritty of how Englishmen carried out their campaigns of extermination. Coleman writes that, although Englishmen tried a variety of individual and social measures to extirpate wolves from their territory and keep them from threatening livestock ("dug traps, offered bounties, erected fences..." [52]), "humans and wolves coexisted belligerently for more than a hundred years in a patchwork landscape of agricultural strongholds and feral woods" (53). It's the record of this coexistence that Coleman examines. Interesting Indian-English relationships ensued: although many Indians killed wolves, they found it unproductive to try to collect bounties, as they were seen as deviant and false and needed white proof of their kill in order to cash in (61). In the end, Coleman writes, white colonists eliminated both wolves and Native Americans, sometimes by "offering rewards to one rival to hunt the other" (65).

Part Two: The Northeastern Woodlands
4. Predator to Prey: Wolves' Journey Through the Northeastern Woodlands:
This chapter takes a broader chronological view of human cruelty to wolves, making the point that although wolves were mostly extirpated from the northeast by the eighteenth century, Americans have continued to kill them viciously through the 1950s (and even now). Coleman describes some myths about how wolves kill their prey (they suck blood! they hamstring!) These myths have allowed the animals to be categorized as "savage" and thus worthy of wrath. Coleman then describes how scientists such as Adolph Murie and L David Mech studied wolves in the 1940s and 1950s, using airplanes and radio collars, and finally put many (though not all) of the myths to rest. Returning to the eighteenth century, Coleman tells the stories of big-time wolf bounty hunters in the Northeast - their social standing tended to be high - and establishes the strong agricultural context of these killings.

I really like this portrait of L. David Mech, pioneer of radio telemetry, by photographer Layne Kennedy.

5. Surrounded: Fear and Retribution in the Northeastern Forests:
Here are stories about northern settlers and wolves, with Coleman's attempt to place them in a fuller social context, despite the sometimes overwhelming lack of available clues about where the stories came from and what they meant to those who created and heard them. In these stories, Coleman says, Europeans, the "top predators" of the ecological niche, "an aggressive group of animals intent upon expanding their territory, transplanting their culture, and growing their wealth expressed their frustration and protested their vulnerability" (106). Through communal wolf hunts, colonists restored their primacy while "reordering the biotic community" (114) and regenerating themselves through violence (see Slotkin).

6. Metaphors of Slaughter: Two Wolf Hunts:
Two stories of hunts seek to answer the question of why Euro-American colonists "felt so vulnerable" (122) in the face of wolves. One hunt took place in northeastern Ohio (the Western Reserve) in 1818; another took place in Nauvoo, IL, in 1844, and took as its context the precarious position of Mormon settlers in both the natural and cultural worlds of the West (this was not an actual "wolf hunt", but rather a possible massacre of Mormons by non-Mormons, which Coleman uses as a metaphor to show the way that the hunt worked to restore social order).

Part Three: The American West
7. A Wealth of Canines: Mormon Americans in the Great Plains:
Coleman continues to use the story of the Mormons and their relationship with the landscape and its fauna, this time to ask the question of whether this story could have ever ended a different way (could humans have adopted/domesticated wolves? etc). He talks a bit about the social structure of wolf packs, and goes into the biology behind their cooperation, seguing into the story of Lois Crisler and her fascination with wolf communication (and the sad end of that story - which I forgot - she ended up killing all of her wolves). Moving back to the nineteenth century, Coleman talks about the Mormon settlers and their wolf relationships, worsened by wolf predation on livestock as well as their habit of occasionally eating dead human bodies (an activity which made them look all the worse to the Mormons, who perceived themselves as a very threatened community whose ties to the past and future were tenuous).

8. Call It a Coyote: How to Exterminate Wolves in Colonial Utah:
Coleman makes the point that Mormon settlers very much wanted to leave the wolf-phase behind and enter into a civilized era. For this reason, they situated their wolf-stories in the past (and even changed the name of one species, the prairie wolf, to "coyote" in order to create the illusion of wolf extirpation).

Part Four: The Federal Government
9. Annihilation and Enlightenment: The Cultural Extinction of North American Wolves:
Here we have the meaty (sorry) modernity section. Aldo Leopold's "Thinking Like a Mountain" starts us off, as a handy link between wolf-killing and wolf-loving (he used to work as a professional wolf killer via the USFS). Coleman then describes the way the government, in the first half of the twentieth century, organized wolf hunts in such a way that the wolves were cleared from "every region in the temperate United States in which a human could grow a marketable plant or animal" (192). Most interestingly, during this time, "last wolves", which were often seen as the most strong or powerful or smart of their species, were made into heroes (but not so heroic that they didn't deserve to die). Here, wolves were made sympathetic for the first time, through such stories as those of Ernest Thompson Seton, and urbanizing and industrializing America began to feel sad about their disappearance. (But, see footnote about utilitarianism of animal control in the 1920s, and traveling exhibits of animal parts, p 221).

Ernest Thompson Seton.

A conclusion, based on contemporary wolf stories and conflicts between ranchers and conservationists. Some hopeful stories about the success of introduction into national parks, and Coleman's final assessment: "Wolves embody an unbroken history of conquest, worth pondering and protecting" (235).

The wolf-loving site I got this from,, had this pic animated so that the wolf's mouth was opening and closing and you could see steam coming out. Tragically, I couldn't figure out how to transfer the Quicktime.

Reviews: In the Journal of American History, Karen Jones wrote that the book effectively pointed out the need for an integration of animal stories into human history. She liked the beginning of the book better than the end - she wished that the contemporary story of the wolves' image rehab had been covered more extensively. I remember that I read a positive review of this book in the Atlantic - that's what made me get the book in first place, and, not incidentally, reading the book is what made me want to go to grad school. That review started off "This is a sick-making book." It's interesting to think that this project could be seen by some as so overtly political - I don't think of it as being an animals rights book, though it's very anti-colonial, but I guess if you wanted to deploy it for animal-rights purposes, you certainly could.

Books to follow up on: Secondary:
Carl Degler, In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought (1991); Patrick Malone, The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics Among the New England Indians (2000); Marion Schwartz, A History of Dogs in the Early Americas (1997).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Circus Age

Title: The Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the American Big Top (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002)

Author: Our own Janet Davis!

"This book argues that the turn of the century railroad circus was a powerful cultural icon of a new, modern nation-state" (10) - that the circus took shape in the way it did, where it did, because of the particular society in which it flourished. The circus represented the diversity and pleasure of the spectacle of a multitudinous America, but often in a way which reiterated cultural norms.


Circus Day:
Rich descriptions of the public spectacle that was a circus coming into town in "railroad circus" days, followed by a basic overview of the historical currents which fed into the phenomenon (immigration, "the search for order", racism, empire, expanding overseas markets, incorporation - see Alan Trachtenberg). Davis then describes the three largest railroad circuses upon which the book will focus (Barnum & Bailey, the Ringling Bros, and Adam Forepaugh & Sells Brothers), making a case for them as the three largest, most widely-traveled, and most influential of the circuses, and differentiating them from Wild West Shows (the circus was less historically minded, more eclectic in subject matter, and employed the definitive "big top" canvas covering).

This photo of Barnum & Bailey camels on a main street parade was found on a website called Cue the "I love the Internet" theme song.

The Circus as Historical and Cultural Process: This chapter dips back in time to the 1790s, describing the evolution of the circus during the 1800s as "a metonym for national expansion and infrastructural development" (12). (In other words, the railroad, Western expansion, and the circus were intimately linked.) This chapter also discusses, using cultural theory of Stuart Hall, Edward Said, and Judith Butler, how the different groups involved in the production of the circus came together to produce its "ideological content" (25). NB: On p 35, Davis discusses children's circus culture, including a circus toy set which modeled itself after TR's African safari of 1909.

These men were supposed to be "pearl divers from the Sandwich Islands" - an instance of American imperialism's absorption into circus-world.

Spectacular Labor
: This chapter "illuminates the thick, physical framework in which the circus produced its ideological content" (39) - in other words, how did it all get done, and how does this "how" help us understand what workers, supervisors, and spectators expected? Spectators who watched the circus were not only intrigued with the parts of the show specifically designated as performance. They also congregated to watch the set-up and strike of the tent, and were fascinated/repelled by the lives of circus performers. Davis argues that these performers created a social world apart from "regular life", and also that the tightly wound methods and processes of the circus (they had to be tight, to fit onto the railroad schedule) brought the industrial order of organization to small towns far away from factories.

Respectable Female Nudity
: Women were becoming more and more visible in the public sphere (see the "New Woman"), and the people who ran these circuses faced an interesting gender conundrum: what to do about their very visible female performers? In general, they tried to "reconfigure strong Euroamerican circus women into dainty, domestic ladies, and women of color into educational artifacts" (12). They did so with an eye to a subtle titillation of the viewer, playing with transgression, referring to sex obliquely, through "emphasis on female performers' lives, loves, and body-hugging tights" (85). Here is also a discussion of presentation of "untouched" tribes or "savages" in the circus context.

From the King of Beasts to Clowns in Drag: Masculinity in the circus and its contrasting meanings is the subject of this chapter, which holds that "performances...were sites of gender play that could provide audiences with liberating alternatives to disciplined lives of manly capital accumulation" (12). Although circus men were seen as exemplars of the athletic, "strenuous" ideal, they were also sometimes androgynous or dressed in drag - or, they were actually animals, dressed up as men. Here are examples of the animals' roles in particular tableaux, as well as the integration of evolutionary theory (chimpanzees used as examples of "Man, Previous to His Degeneration" [153]) and the emphasis placed on "ideal" or "alpha" specimens of megafauna (just like Carl Akeley and his Giant of Karisimbi). Men of color, even African-Americans, were often used as examples of apes or savages (182). Do hippos really have teeth that look like that?

Instruct the Minds of All Classes: Through the circus (and the Wild West show), American involvement in foreign countries was processed, naturalized, and contained. Episodes of foreign entanglement were re-broadcast in circus format, reenacted or dramatized. The overriding philosophy behind these representations was that circuses were "moral cheerleaders of expansionism" (194). Meanwhile, on a material level, animals and labor from overseas were used in performance, dramatizing the advantages of selective American extraction of talent and labor from foreign countries - however, Davis points out, the freakiness of these performers may have served to subtly uphold an anti-imperialist racial logic of exclusion (see Eric Love).

Looks like kind of a scary dream for a kid to have.

Legacies: From Las Vegas to the Bridges of Madison County: Contemporary analogues of circus culture, and some speculation as to what forms of culture may have taken its place.

In the Journal of American History, Don Wilmeth lauded the book for being "clearly written, persuasively argued, exhaustively documented", and wrote that it did an admirable job of completing its project of connecting the circus to the cultural history of the time. The book was also well-reviewed in non-scholarly pubs, including the NYT and the Times Literary Supplement.

Books to follow up on: Primary:
Peter Harkness, Andy the Acrobat; or, Out with the Greatest Show on Earth (1907); William Hornaday, The Minds and Manners of Wild Animals (1922); Harvey Root, Tommy with the Big Tents (1924).

Secondary: Harvey Green, Fit for America: Health, Fitness, Sport, and American Society (1986); Elizabeth Haiken, Venus Envy: A History of Cosmetic Surgery (1997); RJ Hoage and William A Deiss, New Worlds, New Animals: From Menagerie to Zoological Park in the Nineteenth Century (1996); Michael Kammen, American Culture, American Tastes: Social Change and the Twentieth Century (1999); Robert Kanigel, The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Engima of Efficiency (1997); Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (1990); Patricia Vertinsky, The Eternally Wounded Woman: Women, Doctors, and Exercise in the Late Nineteenth Century (1990).

Monday, June 25, 2007

Strange Weather

Poster for 1939 World's Fair.

Title: Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits (London: Verso, 1991)

Andrew Ross, of NYU's American Studies department (but called a "professor of social and cultural analysis"). Areas of interest are "labor and work; urban and suburban studies; intellectual history; social and political theory; science; ecology and technology; cultural studies." Lately, he seems most interested in labor and globalization. Ross' other books are multitudinous: No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (Routledge, 1989); the awesomely-titled The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life: Nature's Debt to Society (Verso, 1994); The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney's New Town (Ballantine, 1999); Fast Boat to China: Corporate Flight and the Consequences of Free Trade-Lessons from Shanghai (Pantheon, 2006; Vintage, 2007). Many of his books are published or co-published by non-scholarly presses.

After reading a couple of reviews of this book, I was happy to find out that I wasn't the only one who had a hard time discerning the overall argument. In general, it's something about the inherent contingency and mutability of Science and Technology. Also, "isn't it interesting when Science/Technology hit the public sphere?" I think that's basically it. The book's chapters also succinctly illustrate - at least, to me - the dangers of choosing extremely contemporary topics for academic study. Some of these are fairly dated now.

One: New Age—A Kinder, Gentler Science?:
New Age philosophies (of 1991 - see comment above) are antiscientific, in that they reject many of the accepted tenets of "Western" medicine, etc. However, they use Western scientific discourse in the way they present their ideas, showing that they still believe in the legitimacy of the inherent form. There is also a split within New Age between those who believe in the use of machines for New Age ends (like machines that re-calibrate brain waves, and the like) and those who believe only in the "body's energy". Also, new advances in physics, which bring the field closer to metaphysics, have narrowed the gap between New Age and "straight" science. Ross attends a New Age conference, and reads their magazines, but doesn't do any ethnography.

Two: Hacking Away at the Counterculture: There're people called hackers, and while they're nominally anti-establishment or maverick, they are actually usually white men who fit into a profile of the postmodern Protestant success story: "hacker culture celebrates high productivity, maverick forms of creative work energy, and an obsessive identification wtih online endurance (and endorphin highs)—all qualities that are valorized by the entrepreneurial code of silicon futurism" (90). Ross wants to open up the concept of "hacking" to include any form of technoliteracy (or literacy of other stripes) that challenges existing systems of rationality.

Three: Getting Out of the Gernsback Continuum: This chapter would be the most valuable to me, because it's historical, examining the convictions of Hugo Gernsback, "the father of science fiction" who believed that SF's role was to explain features of the fantastic new science and technology of the era to the public, and to recruit new scientists. Ross uses Gernsback as a touchstone to describe interwar faith in engineering and technology and the culture that sprang up around that faith, including describing the debates within science fiction fandom around the issue of scientific legitimacy. (Here is the discussion of the 1939 World's Fair and its futuristic idealism, as well.)

Cover of a Gernsback magazine.

Four: Cyberpunk in Boystown:
White male folklore of the 1980s, Ross argues, is embodied in novels by cyberpunk writers such as William Gibson (Neuromancer). He writes that these imaginings of radical urban decay, often penned by suburbanites, took the place of the frontier fantasies we all know and love so well. Here, the body has disintegrated into a machine or a system, which Ross juxtaposes to other 80s masculine pinups like Arnie and Stallone.

Neuromancer fan art.

Boy, was I confused by this Keanu Reeves movie, when I rented it at a sleepover in middle school.

Five: Getting the Future We Deserve:
This is a chapter about imaginations of the future, with brief histories of the interest groups who have parlayed futurology in the twentieth century. Departing from the technocratic ideals he discussed in the third chapter, Ross describes how futurism moved from being the business of those who would imagine socialist technological utopias, and into the hands of corporate or governmental interests, who would like to perpetuate the status quo.

Six: The Drought This Time: Another chapter that would be useful to me, about the effect of globalism on thinking about weather (though, once again, in light of events in the past fifteen years, this reads more like a primary source than a secondary one). Here's an overview of the previous theory of global cooling, and its effect on thinking about global warming, as well as short historical sections on previous populist weather observers, like James Pollard Espy. These briefly gloss changes in weather observation in the history of the United States, making brief contingent points about the history of nationalism (cue Anderson's Imagined Communities). The Weather Channel: Nationalizing, but corporatizing, weather information.

In Technology and Culture, Rosalind Williams opined that the book lacks a coherent development of argument but says that a more serious objection is that Ross wants to interdisciplinize to the point of mishmosh ("instead of any meaty research or analysis, we are served a salad of secondary references dressed with quotations from Marx, Foucault, Geertz and other usual suspects"). She also wrote that the book is political without offering any concrete solutions, and that it has no clear audience, besides other cultural critics. Howard Segal, in the Journal of American History, wrote that Ross, while refreshingly non-technophobic, for an academic, fell into the dreaded technological-determinist trap, seeing technologies as drivers of culture, rather than products of it.

Vocab words:
"negentropic" ("causing or accompanied by a decrease in entropy or an increase in order [sometimes with the implication that the second law of thermodynamics is being contravened]"); "mensuration" ("the action, process, or art of measuring; measurement").

More 1939 World's Fair publicity.

Things to look up:
Technocracy (see references). Joe Egressia, "blind eight year old who discovered the telephone company's signal tone while whistling" (84). US government attempts to waterlog the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War (203).

Books to follow up on: Primary:
Scifi mags from the 1920s/1930s: Frank Reade Weekly Magazine (cited in Michael Ashley, ed., The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, Part One); Science and Invention; Radio News.

Secondary: William Akin, Technocracy and the American Dream: The Technocrat Movement, 1900-1941 (1977); Stanley Aronowitz, Science as Power (1988); Henry Elsner, Jr, The Technocrats: Prophets of Automation (1967); Helen A. Harrison, Dawn of a New Day: The New York World's Fair, 1939/40 (1980); Raymond Williams, The Year 2000 (1983) and "Ideas of Nature", in Problems in Materialism and Culture (1980) ; Arthur Wrobel, ed., Pseudo-Science and Society in Nineteenth Century American Culture (1987).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Name of War

Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (note the text of the scroll the Indian holds: "Come Over and Help Us")

Title: The Name of War: King Phillip's War and the Origins of American Identity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)

Author: Jill Lepore, at Harvard in the Am Civ department. Her interests are in
"early America studies, cultural history of colonial, Revolutionary, and antebellum America, with a particular interest in the history of print and of race and violence." Her other books are Encounters in the New World: A History in Documents (1999); A is for American: Letters and Other Characters in the Newly United States (2002); and New York Burning: Liberty and Slavery in an Eighteenth-Century City (2005).

Argument: This, Lepore writes, is a "study of war before television, before film, before photography" (xi), a story about a short and vicious war and how the victors, the English, used language to construct its meaning. Meanwhile, the vanquished, the Indians, left much less of a historical record, but Lepore sets out to try to "see" what the Indians thought about the war through the record that remains.


Prologue: The Circle:
Here, using an English account of the torturing of one rebel Indian by other, English-allied Indians at the end of the hostilities, Lepore asks questions about why the account was told the way it was - why the English were so careful to distinguish themselves from Indian cruelties, but also so seemingly eager that the cruelties happen and be watchable. She sets up the background circumstances of the war: English anxiety about identity in the New World; fears of becoming "too close" to the Indians; fears that the Indians themselves had become "degenerate" from too much contact with the American wilderness environment, and that the same fate would follow for the English. The English also worried about the way they acted toward the Indians because they wanted their actions to be distinct from the cruelty of the Spaniards in South America and Central America (a history which had been used in England as incitement against the Catholic Church). Meanwhile, Algonquian Indians worried that the English influence was taking the lives of too many Indians, either through death by disease or through Christianization.

Part One: Language
Chapter 1: Beware of Any Linguist:
This chapter begins with the story of the death of John Sassamon, a Christianized Indian and a go-between for King Philip, which resulted in the (English) conviction and execution of three Wampanoags, an event which touched off the beginning of the war. Lepore holds that the traditional story of Sassamon's murder, which has him killed for being a traitor to Indians, does not exactly explain the circumstances of the death, and although she doesn't have a concrete explanation, believes that the most important lesson to learn from the murder was that Sassamon was killed by "literacy" - the ability to move between the two cultures (25). She then explores this concept - that literacy, and with it, advanced cultural obliteration - was "dangerous" to individual Indians, giving a history of the English involvement with Indian "education" and Christianization. Here is the story of the life of Sassamon's teacher and the translator of Christian literature into Massachusett, John Eliot.

The Massachusett Bible printed in Cambridge in 1663.

Chapter 2: The Story of It Printed: Between 1675 and 1682, twenty-one different English accounts of the war were printed. Why, Lepore asks, did people who experienced the war directly rarely write accounts, while ministers and wealthy people living far away from the battlefields wrote so many? The former, she answers herself, kept silent because of illiteracy, low position on the social ladder, or simply because their suffering was such that they couldn't bring themselves to write down what happened. Meanwhile, Indians were silent, according to colonists, because violence was their only vocabulary.

John Foster's map of New England, 1677.

Part Two: War
Chapter 3: Habitations of Cruelty:
Using Elaine Scarry and Mary Douglas, Lepore writes that Indian attacks on the English were understood as "attacks on bounded systems", damaging "bodies, possessions, and political identities" (74) through corporeal violence, destruction of property, and conversion of captives to Indian-ness. Here, Lepore discusses the meaning of clothes and houses to English-ness and their abject terror of Indian ways of dressing, eating, and sheltering. On the other hand, Indians who attacked settlements seemed to purposefully target the things which they perceived Englishmen to cherish the most - cattle and houses - though the English did not recognize the attacks as being calculated in this way.

Chapter 4: Where Is Your O God?:
"Was King Philip's War a holy war? And if so, whose?" (99) The English saw the war as a punishment from God, sometimes. The Algonquians would sometimes, apparently, attack Christianity directly (105). Lepore describes the current thought in English and European discourse about what would constitute a "just" war, concluding that the colonists were inconsistent in their assessments of whether or not what they were doing was "just". Ultimately, some English believed that what was going on between them and the Indians could not even be called a war, because the Indians were less than human and used inhuman tactics. Lepore looks at possible explanations for these tactics from inside the Algonquian culture and actions - were they trying to "disorder" the English world? Regardless, "English colonists were either unwilling or unable to place such practices within the broader context of Algonquian culture and to read them as partial explanations for what had provoked the Indians to wage war" (119).

Part Three: Bondage

Chapter 5: Come Go Along With Us: Beginning with the story of Mary Rowlandson, Lepore points out that an analogous story - the history of James Printer, a Christianized Indian made captive by an enemy group and forced by colonial authorities to bring in two Indian heads to prove his loyalty to the white men - shows that Algonquian Indians also underwent experiences of bondage during the war. Lepore also tells the story of the Christian Indians confined to Deer Island without adequate food or shelter.

Chapter 6: A Dangerous Merchandise: In this chapter, Lepore tells the story of the Indians who were sold as slaves after the end of the war: "More than any other story of King Philip's War, it suggests just how furiously the colonists had come to despise a people they had once hoped to convert" (154). Some colonists, however, warned that the Indian cargo being sold away on slave ships represented a "dangerous merchandise", or a moral burden of guilt that the colonists would find crushing in years to come.

Later, and bloodier, image of Mary Rowlandson about to be captured (1773)

Part Four: Memory

Chapter 7: That Blasphemous Leviathan: Cotton Mather's boyhood memory of seeing King Philip's head on a stick serves as the starting point for a story of how colonists saw the war in the century to come. To Lepore, the anxieties about English identity in the wake of engaging with the cruelties of the conflict continued in the story-telling about the events of the war: "The incompleteness of the colonists' victory meant that preserving the memory of the war, and preserving a particular kind of memory, one that depicted Philip as a barbarous villain, became as desperately critical to the colonists' sense of themselves as waging the war had been in the first place" (175).

Chapter 8: The Curse of Metamora: Later, in the early nineteenth century, the story of King Philip's War, especially as re-enacted in the play called Metamora; or, the Last of the Wampanoags, anchored by popular thespian Edwin Forrest, became a catalyst for contradictory national feelings about the Indians. Even as the Trail of Tears went on in real-time, white audiences thrilled to the story of the noble Philip. Lepore adds a twist to this old story of white affection for the vanishing Indian: real-life Indians of the time, including writer and intellectual William Apess and a group of Penobscots who attended a Boston performance of Metamora to plead their case for sovereignty, "turned such images to their own advantage, negotiating the tangled logic of the noble savage and the rhetoric of Indian removal to hold on to their tribal lands and even build momentum for a movement to found a new kind of Indian identity" (193).

Edwin Forrest in the title role of Metamora by John Augustus Stone - Engraving by T. Johnson after a photograph by Mathew Brady, ca. 1859

Epilogue: The Rock:
Lepore ends with an expedition into present-day popular memory of the war. For example, a monument in Rhode Island to the massacre of innocent Indians at the Great Swamp was erected in 1906, but since then has been an emblem of present-day Indian attempts to bring a memory of the more bloody events of King Philip's War to the public's attention.

The Great Swamp Monument, South Kingstown, Rhode Island

Well, it won the Bancroft Prize, so there's that. In the New England Quarterly, Zubeda Jalalzai wrote that the book manages to be "thrilling" while also "careful" and "astute". The one quibble: why, Jalalzai asked, did Lepore not explore further the reasons for this war's relative anonymity among the general contemporary public (as opposed to its celebrity in the nineteenth century)? In AQ, Phillip Gould pointed out that the book's greatest strength lies in its interdisciplinarity and its use of material culture, which, he said, allowed Lepore to do more with the minimal record of Indian historical documentation. But he faulted Lepore for re-inscribing what he saw as a fallacy coming from the work of Perry Miller and Sacvan Bercovitch - namely, seeing Puritanism as a caldron for all future American-ness. Finally, in the Journal of American History, Patricia Rubertone wrote that the "fascinating" book was satisfying in its investigation of individual motivations of captives, Indians, and ministers, but wished that there was more information about the Indians sold as slaves. Generally, though, Rubertone lauded the book for its ability to listen for native voices between the lines of the history written by the pens of the "winners".

Books to follow up on: Secondary:
Jack Greene, Imperatives, Behaviors, and Identities: Essays in Early American Cultural History (1992); Mike Featherstone, et al, eds, The Body: Social Process and Cultural Theory (1991); Calvin Martin, ed., The American Indian and the Problem of History (1987); Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (1985); Sue Scott and David Morgan, eds, Body Matters: Essays on the Sociology of the Body (1993); Judith Shklar, Ordinary Vices (1984), chapter on "the perils of writing about cruelty" (257) (Chapter One).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Primate Visions

Jane Goodall, the white-bodied stranger, with a baby from another species.

Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of Modern Science (London: Routledge, 1989)

The awesome Donna Haraway, professor in UC/Santa Cruz' departments of the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies. She has a PhD in biology, but has worked on the "humanities" side of things for years. It looks to me as though Visions is her first humanities book. She then wrote Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991); the awkwardly titled (surely on purpose! I have such faith in her prose) Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan
©_Meets_Oncomouse™ (1997); The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (2003). She's now working on a couple more books about dogs and people.

Argument: This is a big, long, complicated, important book basically dedicated to showing that the scientific discourses of primatology are culturally situated and infused with implications for (human) gender relations. Since the early twentieth century, at the beginnings of primatology, the observed actions of non-human primates have Meant Something about the human condition...and the results of these observations have shaped ideas of human society. Male and male-thinking scientists and anthropologists have traditionally structured their inquiries around the categories of sex and violence, and have invested time in observing male dominance hierarchies instead of female interrelationships. Meanwhile, female primates have been seen as resources in the lives of the males - there to be disputed, but not actors in their own rights.

Chapter-by-chapter: This could take a while.
1. Introduction: The Persistence of Vision:
Sets up major questions of the tome: "How do the terrible marks of race and gender enable and constrain love and knowledge in particular cultural traditions, including the modern natural sciences?" (1) (That move - naming natural sciences as a "cultural tradition" - gives you a clue about where this is going...) Haraway uses Said's idea of orientalism to describe primatology, pointing out that the dualisms of nature and culture, as well as sex and gender, that the science cares about, are ways of constructing a false "other"ness - and that this book will seek to deconstruct these dualisms. She points out that this project is especially significant and freighted because of the heightened popular presence of primatology: "The boundary between technical and popular discourse is very fragile and permeable" (14). Therefore, she hopes this book will find a popular audience (hm) and that it will help "readers find an 'elsewhere' from which to envision a different and less hostile order of relationships among people, animals, technologies, and land" (15).

Part One: Monkeys and Monopoly Capitalism: Primatology before WWII
2. Primate Colonies and the Extraction of Value:
Haraway considers the "psychobiological" origins of primatology in the US before WWII: "Primatology was overwhelmingly a laboratory and museum-based affair" (24) which was tied mostly to solving human health problems, not to figuring out new ways to think about human society.

3. Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden, New York City, 1908-36:
This chapter appeared as an article in Social Text before this book's publication, and I used that for my MA thesis. Here is a very good chapter-length description of the early twentieth-c's elite scientific investment in animals and the "wild" as a renewal of (white male) human possibility, perceived as threatened by modernity. The story of Carl Akeley anchors.

4. A Pilot Plant for Human Engineering: Robert Yerkes and the Yale Laboratories of Primate Biology, 1924-42:
Yerkes, who founded a laboratory that was "paradigmatic" in the field, was also paradigmatic in his outlook on science: "For him, the tap root of science is the aim to control" (61). He saw his laboratory as a "pilot plant, a demonstration project for rational re-design of human nature" (64) (go Progressive machinism!) Yerkes' emphasis on dominance, Haraway argues, was a symptom of the times and their obsession with analyzing social systems and human relationships.

5. A Semiotics of the Naturalistic Field, From CR Carpenter to SA Altmann, 1930-55:
The careers of these two scientists, Haraway argues, showcase the move in biological thinking between the vision of organic physiological organisms "ordered by the hierarchical divsion of labor and the principle of homeostasis" to a postwar emphasis on "cybernetic technological systems, ordered by communications engineering principles and a tightly associated principle of natural selection" (101). This sea change was part of other, similar research being done in the military, industrial, and corporate fields.

Part Two: Decolonization and Multinational Primatology
6. Re-instituting Western Primatology after World War II:
Primatology goes global in this chapter. The United States funded more and more research, creating more available money for projects. The concept of the all-important, culture-generating Male Hunter came about (covered in a gloss in this chapter and more in-depth in Part III). Using primates as human stand-ins, scientists searched for answers to human problems including changes in family structure. Haraway believes that underlying all of this is a deep anxiety about what western humans have done to the earth (nuclear war, and all a that).

7. Apes in Eden, Apes in Space: Mothering as a Scientist for National Geographic:
A great chapter that gets in the field with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, tracing the way that their work (and that of other white female scientists) gets appropriated by media such as National Geographic and corporate sponsors such as Gulf Oil. Here is Koko and her kitten, too. These women and their apes, Haraway argues, were deployed as surrogates to help white men get back in touch with a "lost" postnuclear nature. Their scientific efforts were not seen uncolored by the particular cultural encumbrances of their gender. I loved the part of this chapter in which Shirley Strum, baboon researcher, tells about how difficult it was to work with the Geographic on a story she wrote for them...they wanted far more pictures of her, made up anecdotes about the animals, etc. There is also an extensive analysis of the social dynamics at Goodall's Gombe research station, and of the filmic representations of her work. Haraway writes of these representations, "The lesson offered in all the versions of the narratives about Gombe's chimpanzees has been different: The world is given, not made. It's no wonder Gulf Oil was proud to sponsor that message" (185).

Koko and All Ball.

8. Remodeling the Human Way of Life: Sherwood Washburn and the New Physical Anthropology, 1950-1980:
Haraway associates physical anthropology during this time period with UNESCO's Universal Man, which was a program conceived to try to strip science of its racism. Despite this, Haraway says, this kind of anthropology, exemplified by Washburn's influence (he had a ton of students), succeeded in creating a very distinct set of gender roles by codifying a narrative of Original Family. Haraway looks at the discovery of Lucy's bones and those of the Taung child, who's on this hologram on the cover of the Geographic (November 1985). Through the creation of these images of family, Haraway argues, technology became associated with man, and sexuality/reproduction with woman. Thus, the responsibility for the creation of Culture lies with man - and in the elimination of racism from this equation, women lose.

9. Metaphors into Hardware: Harry Harlow and the Technology of Love: Dr. Harlow, working at a lab at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, invented the fake mother, designed to help monkey infants live without their real mothers (if they stayed in dyads, they were apt not to want to be separated for purposes of the experiments desired by science). Haraway calls Harlow a sadist, and it's hard not to agree when reading some of the stories of experiments run on infant depressed would you get if you were raised without contact for the first couple months of your life? (It's the monkey version of "the forbidden experiment".) He also re-inscribed ideas of the nuclear family by setting monkeys up in apparati designed to enforce them, and then using data about how monkeys thrived in them in order to make points about human society (just about now, thinking about letting [white] women work more often...)

10. The Bio-Politics of a Multicultural Field:
Haraway talks about differences in Japanese primatology, including the Japanese scientists' interest in concepts of self and society, and the science's diminished fear of "contaminating" monkey sample subjects by too much interaction. Although Japanese primatologists were more holistic, intuitive, and less dualistic, Haraway wishes to point out that all of these qualities, added up, don't necessarily mean that the assumptions or conclusions of said science were not "masculinist". There is also a discussion of primatology in India, where monkeys and men are more daily imbricated in each other's lives (but, Haraway points out, it cannot be said that Indians are inherently more reverent of the monkey...) Then to Africa, where the politics of the creation of national parks (see Dian Fossey's story, in which she was probably killed by poachers) is an international miscommunication. Finally, to the Malagasy Republic, where Allison Jolly, primatologist and field researcher, has worked for years, with a higher degree of cultural sensitivity than most least, Haraway points out, Jolly is aware that Westerners coming in to study the animals of non-Western countries without collaborating with the scientists of those countries are causing a reinforcement of the dynamics of colonization.

Part Three: The Politics of Being Female: Primatology is a Genre of Feminist Theory
11. Women's Place is in the Jungle:
An overview of the re-thinking of the field by feminist/female practitioners. Haraway writes that cultural movement - "the worldwide reworkings of what the differences and similarities within and among women might be" (285) - have changed primatology, requiring that an entirely new set of descriptive practices be constructed. This construction, she argues, is "a serious form of feminist practice" (287). Occurring, as it has, mostly in the context of white Western female primatologists, however, it cannot completely universalize.

12. Jeanne Altmann: Time-Energy Budgets of Dual Career Mothering :
Explorations of the careers of four female primatologists make up the third section. Altmann, most interested in methodology, nonetheless practiced a feminist intervention, according to Haraway, in her very questioning of the questions behind the science - she re-set the priorities of the field, thereby creating room for more nuanced studies of female primate lives.

13. Linda Marie Fedigan: Models for Interventions:
Fedigan, an anthropologist, is most noted by Haraway for her carefully subjective language in field reporting, creating a more "semiotically open text" (319) in the interest of honest acknowledgment of bias.

14. Adrienne Zihlman: The Paleoanthropology of Sex and Gender:
Zihlman, one of the major proponents of the "gatherer" thesis ("original" women were not just passive sexual beings, but have active functions within the survival picture, often using technology), has faced opposition and accusations of being a "bad" scientist. Haraway looks at these accusations and makes some points about bias and the denial of bias in scientific circles.

15. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy: Investment Strategies for the Evolving Portfolio of Primate Females:
A sociobiology believer, Hrdy creates a vision of women who are competitive, even with each other, and whose lives are based around sex - but in a feminist way. Here is a discussion of the importance of female orgasm in female agency, and the way in which female orgasm in monkeys and apes came to be studied by primatologists, reconstructing said agency.

16. Reprise: Science Fiction, Fictions of Science, and Primatology:
A concluding chapter focuses on Octavia Butler's Dawn (1987), reiterating questions of agency, subjectivity, and citizenship.

Goodall and friend.

In Isis, Gregg Mitman called the book "brilliant, but at times impenetrable" (witness my difficulty penetrating it, above). He believed that the book was a significant step forward in integrating the history of science and the history of gender relations, but thought that the book's sometimes jargon-y tone would render it inaccessible for the popular reader. After describing the project, Lakshmi Bandlamudi, writing in Gender and Society, actually ejaculated "Yes!" in excitement. Bandlamudi saw the book as an excellent example of poststructuralism, and took issue with a New York Times review which apparently wrote that scientists might find Visions frustrating to read - a good scientist, she felt, should welcome the opportunity to dig deeper into the assumptions behind his or her work. In Current Anthropology, Peter Rodman was upset: "I cannot accept this vision of primatology." He angrily pointed out that it was a FACT that organisms compete for things, and not a made-up male paradigm. He seemed not to really have gotten point one of Haraway's analyses of the formation of scientific "objectivity" (he refers to "the cold eye of science", for example).

Vocab words:
"interdigitate" ("to interlock like the fingers of the two hands when clasped"); "instaurate" ("to restore, renew; to erect; to supply"); "allochronic" ("of species, populations, etc.: existing at different points in (geological) time; breeding or flourishing at different seasons"); "protean" ("of or relating to Proteus, like that of Proteus. Hence in extended use: adopting or existing in various shapes, variable in form; variously manifested or expressed; changing, unpredictable"); "brachiation" ("lit: having arms; in Bot. having branches in pairs running out nearly at right angles with the stem and crossing each other alternately"; with apes and humans, the common feature of having arms placed like we do).; "alalia" ("loss of the power of speech").

Things to follow up on: Carl Akeley's book for kids: Lions, Gorillas, and their Neighbors (1922). P 163: References to 1950s films made for social studies curricula by primatologists. P 52: The Akeleys on their belief that highly effective black porters were motivated by the spirits of their masters (use for revision of agency essay). P 56: The AMNH's education extension programs. P 121: India's refusal to give us monkeys for nuclear research (1955). P 127: Time-Life Books' theories of male dominance and hunting at the origination of man. P 223: Stanford's undergrad Hum Bio major in the 1970s focused on solving problems of a biosocial nature (cf MACOS).

Movies to see:
"Gorillas in the Mist"; "Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees" (1965) (narrated by Orson Welles); "The Gods Must Be Crazy" (1984); "Project X" (1989) (stars Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt); "Primate" (1974) (dir. Frederick Wiseman).

Books to follow up on: Primary:
Toni Cade Bambara, Salt Eaters (1980); Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (1976).

Secondary: Gillian Beer, Darwin's Plots (1983); Teresa de Lauretis, Technologies of Gender: Essays on Theory, Film, and Fiction (1987); John Michael Kennedy, "Philanthropy and Science in New York City: The AMNH" (1968, diss.); Karin Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay, eds, Science Observed: Perspectives on the Social Study of Science (1983). This book has an amazing bibliography, for future reference.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Machine in the Garden

A 1983 photo by Richard Misrach of an abandoned swimming pool at the edge of the Salton Sea (itself a product of man's failed earth engineering, as I saw in the awesome documentary film "Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea"). Neither the photograph nor the film nor the sea itself are discussed in this book, but they all could be.

Title: The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (London: Oxford UP, 1964)

Leo Marx, professor emeritus at MIT in the program in Science, Society, and Technology. Marx has been the head of the ASA and the head of the American Lit section of the MLA. He simply lists his interests as "the relationship between technology and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries", and his other book is The Pilot and the Passenger: Essays on Literature, Technology, and Culture in America (1988). He has also produced two edited volumes, one with Merritt Roe Smith - Does Technology Drive History?: The Dilemma of Technological Determinism (1994) - and the other with Bruce Mazlish - Progress: Fact or Illusion? (1999). Here is a page with links to articles by him in the New York Review of Books.

Argument: America, more so than other places (here's that American Exceptionalist mode of thought), is afflicted with a "soft veil of nostalgia that hangs over our urbanized landscape", the result of the conflict between our ideals of pastoral perfection - "an undefiled, green republic, a quiet land of forests, villages, and farms dedicated to the pursuit of happiness" - and the actuality of our technologized, urbanized landscape (6). While these impulses toward agrarian regression, when translated into the popular, are "the starting point for infantile wish-fulfillment dreams", American canonical writers have managed to translate this peculiarly American mode of thought into "writing that is invaluable for its power to enrich and clarify our experience" (11).


I. Sleepy Hollow, 1844
: Marx sets up his argument, then describes an incident in the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne by way of an object lesson. Sitting and recording his impressions in a supposedly "wild" spot (the "sleepy hollow" of the chapter's title), Hawthorne's reverie was interreputed by a train whistle. The use of this sound, or its thematic equivalent, Marx argues, is omnipresent in American literature, lending a dissonance that moves plots along and creates vital contrast. Referring to Virgil's Eclogues, Marx historicizes Hawthorne's mode, then describes what he will call the "pastoral design" - a complex mode which embraces "some token of a larger, more complicated order of experience" (25) - and which he distinguishes from earlier pastorals by the presence of a heightened technological power which will integrate country and city.

II. Shakespeare's American Fable: In order to understand Hawthorne's response to the whistle, Marx says, we must understand the pastoral mode "as it had been adapted, since the age of discovery, to New World circumstances" (33). To that end, this chapter looks at "The Tempest", written three or four years after Jamestown. Dealing, as it does, with "an unspoiled landscape suddenly invaded by advance parties of a dynamic, literate, and purposeful civilization" (35), Marx sees the play as a direct response to events of New World colonization. Marx sets up the two paradoxical, bifurcating ideas of American landscape ("the hideous wilderness at one end and the garden at the other" [42]), using travelers' accounts to do so. He then makes the point that "The Tempest" contains the same contrasts within it: the initial glorification of the untouched island's environmental beauties, set against Prospero's eventual triumph using the tools of Western intellectual thought and control. Shakespeare, he argues, resolved these contrasts by employing a pastoral ideal: creating a comedy which is "in praise neither of nature nor of civilization, but of a proper balance between them" (65), signified by Prospero's renunciation of his staff and book (signifiers, for Marx, of his inhuman technological prowess). Finally, he concludes, "'The Tempest' may be read as a prologue to American literature", containing elements of the heroic withdrawal from society and eventual construction of an ideal "landscape of reconciliation" (72).

An engraving of a 1776 production of "The Tempest", mounted in London at Covent Garden.

III. The Garden: Here Marx tells the story of how the pastoral ideal for America was articulated before the end of the eighteenth century, describing how the literary device was turned to "ideological" or "political" uses (73). He discusses Robert Beverley's History and Present State of Virginia (1705), describing the contradiction inherent in the text between Beverley's respect for the way of life of the Indians and the sadness or disgust he displays at seeing the land's effect on the English (dissipation, decadence, etc). Marx then jumps back over the pond to describe how the way in which Enlightenment ideals developed during the eighteenth century, between the publication of Beverley's book and that of Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), "helped create a climate conducive to Jeffersonian pastoral" through the emergence of "the general notion of 'the middle state' as the desirable, or at any rate the best attainable, human condition" (88). Here is a discussion of Crevecoeur's Letters, which Marx sees as an example of pre-industrial American pastoral. Then, Marx moves into analyzing Jefferson's book, which he sees as moving the pastoral ideal beyond the literary design and into "thinking about real life" (130) and embodying in the inherent push-and-pull in Jefferson's thought: he wanted agrarian life, but in his heart of hearts understood the need for industrial progress.

IV. The Machine: What of technological progress, then? Beginning again with Jefferson and his confusing attitude to industry (he wants the new machines to come to America, but doesn't seem to connect them with the industrial cities he deplores in England [147]), Marx then describes the dawning consciousness in America that technology could bring major change. Tench Coxe (sweet name), a manufacturer who assisted Alexander Hamilton at the Treasury Dept, is an example of one who advocated industrial development, arguing that the particular landscape of America and its natural amenities rendered it perfect for manufactures (a rhetorical strategy which Marx argues drew upon the American affection for landscape [158]). Marx then describes how English thinkers such as Locke moved toward "mechanistic" thinking (describing the mind, for example, as a machine), while others, such as Carlyle, opposed this turn in thought on the basis of its denigration of the spontaneous and imaginative aspects of human life (175). Returning to America, Marx describes how the debate over mechanism played out in elite intellectual circles, with the accepted point of view holding that technology could be "the instrument appointed to fulfill the egalitarian aims of the American people" (187). By 1844, Marx says, the machine had become a public symbol, embodying all of the meanings of progress in its physical body, symbolizing the special-ness of America. Analyzing a speech by Daniel Webster (he whose virtue came from his Granite provenance), Marx shows how Webster used a rhetorical device of acknowledging his own uncertainty about technology (in this case, a railroad) in order to "reduce the psychic dissonance generated by industrialization" (213), associating such uncertainty with unseriousness and irrationality. Marx compares this speech to an article written by a pseudonymous author who was probably actually John Orvis, a "socialist lecturer" (215) and one of the only anti-technological voices apparent around this time.

George Inness, Lackawanna Valley, 1855 - a painting which Marx uses as an example of American reconciliation of the pastoral and the technological.

V. Two Kingdoms of Force: Marx explores the "Sleepy Hollow motif" in three separate works of literature, which he says embody the "transcendental, tragic, and vernacular" versions of the mode (229). First up: Emerson, who, he says, believes that geography ("the incalcuable effect of place upon the native consciousness" [236]) will mitigate technology's possible bad influence. Moreover, Marx points out that Emerson's philosophy of the alliance of man and nature holds that man, as a product of nature, cannot have produced something else natural (technology) which will represent an "unresolvable conflict" (242). Next: Thoreau, who believes, as shown in Walden, that the pastoral way of life is doomed - "he removes it from history, where it is manifestly unrealizable, and relocates it in literature, which is to say, in his own consciousness, in his craft" (265). Finally: Hawthorne and Melville, in whose work the pastoral design "conveys a sense of the widening gap between the facts and ideals of American life...the implications are more ominous" (265). Marx uses Hawthorne's "Ethan Brand" (1850) and Moby-Dick as illustrations. In the latter, for example, Ishmael feels a sense of transcendence in "The Mast-Head", only to be brought back to earth with the butchering of the whale, which, as Marx says, Melville "uses machine imagery to relate the undisguised killing and butchery of whaling to the concealed violence of 'civilized' Western society" (296). Finally/finally (he said three, but used more!) is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), which Marx sees as the first time the pastoral mode is "wholly assimiliated to a native idiom" (319), and The Education of Henry Adams (1907).

VI. Epilogue: The Garden of Ashes: Using The Great Gatsby's ending as case in point, Marx holds that "American writers have seldom, if ever, designed satisfactory resolutions for their pastoral fables," and that the reason we love these stories so much has to do with the intensity of our confusion about how to feel about the machine. These writers have not been able to create a "surrogate for the ideal of the middle landscape", but they have been able to "clarify our situation" and thus have "served us well" (365).

Charles Sheeler, American Landscape (1930)

Reviews: This is one of those AMS books that seems like it was part of the original firmament, and not just because its name provides the moniker for our departmental softball team. So many books cite it (for example, almost every environmental studies book I've read so far) that it's hard to imagine a time when it was new. I think a more important question for this one (rather than "What did people think of it when it came out?") would be "What have people done with its thesis since its publication?" I have one example so far, Annette Kolodny's The Lay of the Land, of a book which questions or revises part of Machine's thesis (Kolodny thought Marx didn't do enough with connections between the pastoral mode and actual actions of the settlers or other Americans). I will continue to add criticism in this space as I go along.