Journal Articles

December 2020 - Vol.51/No.1
Plant Performance: War, Ethnicity, and the Japanese Garden in Patricia Grace’s Chappy
Author : Iping Liang
Keywords : Patricia Grace, Chappy, Maori, ethnicity, plant performance, Critical Plant Studies
This essay investigates the representation of the Japanese garden as a site of “plant performance” in New Zealand writer Patricia Grace’s Chappy (2015). By drawing on critical plant studies publications by Patricia Vieira et al., John Ryan, Alan Read, Brendan Doody et al., and others, I examine both the material and metaphor of the Japanese garden in Grace’s novel. Planted in New Zealand by Chappy, the garden represents a human-made and ethnic landscape, bearing a specific politicized aesthetics and coding of Japan and embodying an “ecological poesies”—a performance site that in the words of Vieira et al., is one of “bearing seeds, irrupting in flowers, sprouting rhizomes, uncoiling leaves, attracting pollinators, garnering human attention, and mobilizing transnational networks” (viii). Focusing on the ethnic and botanical “performance” of the Japanese garden in Chappy according to the given critical perspectives, I explore the connection between the garden and other content that addresses war, ethnicity, and transvegetal interconnectedness. I argue that the Japanese garden in Grace’s novel creates and calls for a “poetics of inclusion” that centers on peace and interconnectedness rather than war and exclusion.
Body and Trunk: Henry Kendall, the Trees, and the Un/makings of Lives
Author : Barbara Holloway
Keywords : Henry Kendall, Lyricism, Wiradjuri, Dispossession, Eucalypts, Ringbarking, History of NSW Forests
A great many eucalyptus trees and their understory of shrubs, grasses, and forbs have been destroyed across central New South Wales during non- Aboriginal occupation. Survivors are dotted across paddocks, along roadsides, in clumps on rocky outcrops, in small national parks and at times in generous areas on private land. Arguing for the ongoing power of historical presences, this case study of their background moves between the continuing presence of ancient trees in a small area of land, and the bodily presence, writings, and activities of Henry Kendall (1840–1882), inaugural State Inspector of Forests and most substantial and renowned of colonial Australian poets. This essay explores Kendall’s changing lyrical expression— from representing European activities as bringing devastation and sacrifice to environment and Australian Aboriginal people alike—to a discourse of Europeanized agri-pastoral productivity, heroism and nation-building vision. It engages with Kendall’s political and aesthetic sensibilities to end with the ambivalent non-literary presence he left as State Inspector, celebrity and semi-invalid as he travelled among the trees and European communities of south-western NSW.
“That Tree E Listen To You”: Bill Neidjie’s Story About Feeling as Literary Ethnobotany
Author : John C. Ryan
Keywords : Aboriginal Australian poetry, Bill Neidjie, Gaagudju, literary ethnobotany, phytocriticism, vegetal affect, human-tree communication
This essay theorizes the concept of literary ethnobotany through a phytocritical, or plant-focused, reading of the work of Kakadu Elder “Big” Bill Neidjie. As a genre, on the one hand, literary ethnobotany comprises poetry, prose, scripts, verse-narratives, and other creative writing forms that engage cultural knowledge of plants as food, medicines, fibres, materials, ornaments, decorations, totems, teachers, agents, and personae. As a critical reading optic, on the other hand, literary ethnobotany illuminates the cultural-botanical dimensions of a text, such as Neidjie’s Story About Feeling, published in 1989. Transcribed by ethnographer Keith Taylor, Neidjie’s verse-narrative comprises eleven thematic chapters on, inter alia, the traditional botanical knowledge of the Gaagudju people whose ancestral country encompasses World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. Story About Feeling represents the potentialities of Aboriginal Australian poetry as a medium for preserving traditional botanical knowledge increasingly under threat in neocolonial Australia. More specifically, Neidjie’s work hinges on the possibility of human-plant communication—that plant life announces itself, through a variety of means, to kin but also to members of other species, including animals and humans. For instance, the chapter “Tree” from Story About Feeling discloses a complex view of plants as responsive and expressive agents within Gaagudju cosmology, or Dreaming. Respect for—and dialogue with—the botanical world is integral to Neidjie’s poetics of place. My application of a literary-ethnobotanical lens to Neidjie’s verse-narrative elucidates the role of intercorporeality, affect, and voice in mediating human-plant communication. Once regarded as esotericism, the idea of plant communication has gained scientific traction of late as essential to the fitness of ecological communities. In an integrative and inclusive manner, literary botany facilitates a rapprochement between Indigenous, poetic, and scientific epistemologies of plants.
“The Most Formidable Teeth”: Gardening, Collecting, and Violence in Nineteenth Century South-West Western Australia
Author : Jessica White
Keywords : Georgiana Molloy, Indigenous ecology, Noongar, nineteenth century, botany, gardening, ecology, violence
“I wou’d be particularly oblig’d by you procuring me a Garden Rake, fit for a Lady’s use, as I am oblig’d to borrow one of Captn Molloy’s with the most formidable teeth, spreading destruction and next to annihilation wherever it is applied” wrote Georgiana Molloy, who emigrated to Augusta in south-west Western Australia with her husband in 1830. Her correspondent was Captain James Mangles, a botanical connoisseur living in London who had connections to British horticulturalists. He requested that Molloy collect Australian seeds and specimens for him, and in return he sent her gifts of silk, seeds, and gardening implements. Gardening and collecting were thought to be polite activities for ladies, but for Molloy they became essential to her wellbeing. She established a garden because she loved flowers and needed to keep her family from starvation, while collecting for Mangles was initially a respite from her grief following the death of her son, as well as an intellectual boon for an intelligent woman in an isolated location. Yet through these activities Molloy contributed to what scholar Kate Wright describes as a “crime scene” in which “almost all places [in Australia] are stained with social and ecological violence and trauma” (2018). This essay attends to these relationships in south-west Western Australia and demonstrates how, using the metaphor of Molloy’s ‘Garden Rake,’ the small scale of her gardening was replicated in the unsustainable transformation of the Australian environment through European agricultural practices, as well as the violence, both ecological and human, which accompanied these practices. The chapter closes with a discussion of gardening practiced by Aboriginal Australians, described by Bruce Pascoe in Dark Emu (2014), and continued today through businesses owned by Aboriginal people that promote Indigenous horticulture. It maintains that against the backdrop of the bushfires of 2019 and 2020, attention to Indigenous land management, knowledge and sovereignty is critical for the survival of Australia’s ecosystems and the humans and other-than-humans which these support.
“The Mosquito’s Kiss” and “Mid-Autumn Moon (Taiwan)”
Author : Catherine Diamond
Keywords :
“Immortelle” and “Variations on the Theme of Gorges”
Author : John C. Ryan
Keywords :
Climate Change Scepticism: A Transnational Ecocritical Analysis
Author : CA. Cranston
Keywords :
Notes from the Cli-Fi Center Social Distancing with Dan Bloom in Taiwan
Author : CA. Cranston
Keywords :
Mothers at Cards: Motherhood and Gaming in Two Late Georgian English Novels
Author : Po-Yu Rick Wei
Keywords : eighteenth-century English literature, gaming, Faro Lady, motherhood, eighteenth-century English women
Gaming is a significant and recurrent theme in eighteenth-century English literature. Often a target of criticism, gaming includes female gamesters, who are especially censured. In the eighteenth century, English society also witnesses the birth of maternal ideology and demands that women be responsible and sentimental mothers. Gaming mothers in eighteenthcentury literature conflict with that demand; yet, through these figures, their authors also suggest an alternative idea of maternity and motherhood. In exploring this subject matter, this essay studies two late Georgian English novels, Anna Maria McKenzie’s The Female Gamester; or, the Pupil of Fashion (1796) and Charles Sedley’s The Faro Table; or, the Gambling Mothers (1808). The essay’s argument is twofold: it is first that the characterization of gaming mothers in the two novels ostensibly warns readers against the danger of gaming and reminds women of the importance of domestic responsibility; and second that eighteenth-century fictional gaming mothers, gaming culture, ideas about motherhood, and the discourse of so-called unnatural mothers, reflect English social anxiety about female virtue and positive motherhood. In other words, gaming mothers are figures who deviate from the common concept of natural maternity, reflecting the rise of a feminist consciousness, and function as a comment on a patriarchal hierarchical order. Such critical understanding of mothers at cards widens understandings of so-called monstrous or unnatural mothers in eighteenth-century literature.
“There is another, and a better world”: Crafting Female Authorship in Mary Robinson’s The Natural Daughter
Author : Yi-cheng Weng
Keywords : Mary Robinson, The Natural Daughter, female authorship, Thomas Mathias, Priscilla Wakefield.
As a novelist, pamphleteer, and poet, Mary Robinson (1757-1800) provides an example of women who contributed in various ways to the world of letters and to the broadening of definitions of femininity. The Natural Daughter (1799), Robinson’s last novel, centers on the outcast heroine Martha, who is forced to leave home and seems doomed to replicate the tragic fate of “the fallen woman,” a figure commonly found in works authored by women in this period. In The Natural Daughter, Robinson also turns away from the conventional domestic setting, which corresponds to the domestic spheres in real life that women were expected to inhabit. My claim is that Robinson actively participates in the negotiations for women’s positions in the marketplace, and that she attempts to unsettle discursive assumptions about the public-private model through an emphasis on women’s presence in professional spheres of activity. This paper addresses that claim first by considering the rise of female authorship and the accompanying debates about gendered roles and responsibilities through a discussion of how Thomas Mathias’s satirical poem The Pursuit of Literature (1794- 1797) and the Quaker philanthropist Priscilla Wakefield’s Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex (1798) are a response to women’s public engagements. This paper then places The Natural Daughter in relation to Robinson’s autobiography, Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson (1801), and thus turns to the critical connections that one can make between Robinson’s experience in real life and her fictional creation in The Natural Daughter. This paper thus argues that Robinson’s response is more nuanced and also more historically significant than previously understood. A consideration of the ways in which The Natural Daughter extends codes of femininity will also point to in effect women writers’ awareness of the importance of issues of self-assertiveness and the rite of passage to self-authorization in Robinson’s time.