Writing the Natural State

Final Projects: Part Three
November 30, 2012, 7:24 pm
Filed under: Further Reading | Tags: , , ,

I’m asking once more for a round of applause–do it! Right there where you sit! I know I will. I am deeply appreciative of all the creativity, intelligent interpretation, patience, and honesty that went into each of these presentations. Thank you, English 395!

Here, without further delay, you will find the last five videos in our series:

Cabin, House, Home, by Rachel

Rachel writes: “Living in a log cabin during an ice storm might be the closest I’ll ever get to the mingled wonder and wariness that the first settlers in the Ozarks felt. That’s why I chose to create a digital story about that experience. Not just because I experienced psychological insulation, but also because I experienced some of the same awe and fear of nature that Harington’s Ingledews experienced.”



Racing Clocks, by Macrina

Macrina writes: “Since I have lived in a time where I have always known that faulty modern clock, I was curious to examine its effect on my life. It was not hard to think of the way that college imposes this distorted chronology on my life. When I thought about the times that I didn’t have anything to do besides provide food and shelter for myself, as the Ingledew brothers had to do, I could only think of summertime.”



Finding Place In Arkansas, by Cole

Cole writes: “My digital presentation is titled ‘Finding Place Within Arkansas.’ I wanted to create a presentation full of personal images of a place within the state that is very personal and connected to me. The video and photos in the piece are from a family parcel of land in southern Arkansas that we have had for over ten years. Seeing one section of the land grow and change over ten years has been a humbling experience. I’ve seen trees sprout up and grow and individual deer as they grow into adults. Having this intimate connection with a piece of land is a realization that we have not drifted so far from our ancient roots within nature.”

A Narrative of Cadron Creek, by Julia Lee

Julia Lee writes: “My project focused on the preface of Junas’ photographic narrative, and the disingenuous portrait painted of the Cadron. While I believed that Junas had colored the Cadron all wrong–as something delicate and romanticized, I began to ponder how exactly I would convey the Cadron, and whether or not I was even entitled to do so. I am going to indulge myself in regards to my entitlement and say that the Cadron is less than ideal–it is something real. This realness, above everything else, is what I hoped to reveal.”

Final Projects: Part Two
November 28, 2012, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Further Reading

Six more fine presentations from our class archives. Enjoy!

What Is Nature?, by Travis

Travis writes: “My goal was to engaged the viewer and make them examine what it is that they define as nature. It is a concrete definition or is it more of a ‘I know it when I see it’ type of definition? Does nature exist everywhere or just in secluded pockets around the world? And what about those pesky humans, do we have a place in nature?”



Walking with Thoreau, by Kathryn

Kathryn writes: “I based the script off an experience I had walking on the trail behind the Village last spring, so the story I tell in this video is not the story I actually experienced while filming. Even though I took much the same route, the experience was quite different to the one I had last spring–colder temperatures meant less people on the trail, the fall colors were out in all their splendor, the bridge we crossed had washed away, a fox crossed our path (the first fox I’ve ever seen in real life!)–plus last spring I walked with a group of friends, whereas this time I was completely alone in nature, for the first time in a long time, and I realized I had forgotten what it felt like. In all the sounds and silence, I felt a certain sort of peace, and then immediately after, a dose of worry in regards to this project–what if, because I was so focused on telling the story I had already scripted out, I was missing out on the story unfolding before me…Of course an even it changed just in the act of recording it, but is that change for the worse? If it is, is it worth it?”



Natural Beauty, by Katey

Katey writes: “I had only been forced to rock climb approximately twice before, and all I knew was that heights terrified me…However, I watched as my body began to work in unison with my environment. With every pull upwards, my hand gripped a boulder and depended on its sturdiness to support my weight. My imperfections began to decrease in importance as I realized the perfection in the hardship I endured. I came to know true beauty not from a sunrise, or a picturesque mountain range, but rather from my ability to overcome fear, and from allowing myself to surrender to the relationship formed between my body and gravity.”



Turtles and Slugs, by Elizabeth

Elizabeth writes: “I tend to like spending a great amount of time on texts that force me to read them again because of some sort of emotional reaction that I had the first time reading it. I also decided to pick this story because it forces you to call yourself into question. Dana doesn’t hid the fact that she enjoyed shooting those turtles, and because she so forcefully reminds you of her enjoyment, and then describes her remorse later in life, you start to wonder, ‘Have I made the same mistakes?’”



Nature Storybook, by Katie K

Katie writes: “My digital story walks the viewer through my unfolding consciousness for nature. In the beginning, i was a small child enamored with the beautiful scenery, but that was it: I saw ‘scenery,’ not a storybook waiting to be read and understood. As I got older, I did start to see connections, through the arrowhead especially, but also through everyday occurrences in the forest (and on the river, though I was there less often). Finding an arrowhead was not uncommon with my mom, who has hawk eyes for those types of things. The particular experience I touched on in my story, though, is probably when I began to see the world as Susan Morrison does. ‘Leaves rustle with stories / from a past known only to the land’ (lines 6-7) is my favorite line from the poem and it is also the most descriptive of the new view on nature I had taken on. Previously, leaves just rustled, but now they had stories!”



Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks, by Elsa

“In class we have been focusing on environment, and the first thing that comes to mind at the hearing of that world is the outdoor environment, not the indoor one. The theme of the creation of that duality, the progressive divorce of indoor and outdoor environments, is the overarching (get it?) theme in Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks. The process of building creates that division, but the division is greater for the settlers than it was for the natives.

Dr. Hagood speaks on Jane Goodall
November 28, 2012, 3:38 am
Filed under: Further Reading

I’ve been meaning to upload this PDF of Dr. Hagood’s article on Jane Goodall in this month’s issue of The Profile. She brings up a lot of great points and offers a great deal of insight on the work Goodall does. One of my favorite quotes from the article:

The heart of Goodall’s message seemed to lie in the need to understand our kinship with living things—human and otherwise. If we share with chimps the destructive tendency to pursue personal power above the good of our communities, we can also work to change that behavior.

See page two of the PDF for full story. Jane Goodall_Hagood

Yet another tangent off of “Thinking Like a Mountain”
November 26, 2012, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Further Reading | Tags:


This is a link to a possibly controversial issue within our class since we have just recently covered Aldo Leopold’s chapter “Thinking Like a Mountain.” Grey Wolves have been redeclared fair game in wyoming. Also, I have read that wolves within protected areas like Yellowstone would not be able to be shot, but any outside of that artificial boundary is considered legal. Is this artificial population fluctuation a possible alternative to the natural regulation? I’m curious to see what complications people think could possibly arise from this type of precedent.

The Trouble with Demonized Animals

Since I felt that our blog conversation was so productive, I’d like to continue it on this blog post.

The first point I wanted to touch on was the ecological and biological changes presented by both the destruction and reintroduction of the wolves. The ecological changes experienced by Yellowstone by restoring the wolves, as Katie said, was dramatic: the vegetation was restored because the deer and elk population was now being regulated and the beavers and other river wild life were back also because of the restoration of the vegetation. I am currently taking Microbiology, and we just finished studying the effects of ecology on disease. To sum it up, whenever one piece of the ecological web is removed (such as the wolf), and other species are allowed to over populate, the bacterial diseases these animals carry, which would not normally infect humans, are now at such a concentrated dose that these bacteria can now infect humans. This has been seen in such diseases as the Four Corners Disease or other rare neurological diseases.

This ecological effect, as well as biological effect, is very detrimental to us as a society. However, I feel that our knowledge of these effects is very limited. If we advertised these effects to the general public, would this cause people to become more environmentally friendly? Would it be better to advertise the medical effects of cutting out pieces of the food chain, or would a more ecological approach be more effective? Or would it be pointless to tell people these effects and there is another option besides educating the population?

One other topic during our discussion I thought was interesting was the view of the wolf in movie culture. This reminded me of our discussion the other day in class about the portrayal of misunderstood animals in mainstream society (such as the shark or a giant squid). This makes me wonder who should be held accountable for the misrepresentation of such animals. Should Hollywood be held accountable, and for every misrepresentation they produce, they should produce a factual documentary about the value of that animal to the ecosystem, or is the lack of education within society and our “quick-to-judge” mentality of things we associate with danger or evil? Also, it makes we wonder what other animals are shown negatively by the mainstream media, and are then effected within their own ecosystem. Do snakes experience the same problems as wolves? If not, then why?

A pack of wolves found in Yellowstone National Park.

Final Projects: Part One
November 26, 2012, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today in class, we watched the first of our student-created digital stories. Each in its own way, these presentations addressed the texts we have read and the issues we have discussed. The conversation that followed was a great mix of thematic questions–what are the ethics, for instance, of speaking for subjects that don’t use words in the same way you do?–and explanations about how our student-storytellers brought their ideas into focus. Though I cannot reproduce the entire conversation here, I was impressed by many of the things students wrote about their experiences in the reflections they turned in with their projects, and I’ve included a few comments from these letters with each video below. So that we might keep this conversation going,  and so that we might be continually inspired, I offer these videos for your viewing pleasure.


The Big Bear of Arkansas: An Internal Dialog, by Molly

Molly writes: “I chose Thorpe’s essay without much debate. Here was a author who captured an intimate snapshot of a memorable, loud character, yet was limited to a superficial manifestation due to the first-person perspective…Thorpe, in his creative fashion, presented Jim as a caricature of the expected attitudes a stereotypical Mountain Man held at the time of his writing…I decided it was time for someone with a lesser-prejudiced mind–or at least a mind disengaged from the attitudes of that time-period–to revisit Jim’s character and explore his awareness unrestricted.”


Ancestral Roots, by Ashley

Ashley writes: “What finalized the use of a “tree” [in this video]  was the handy-dandy tree sitting outside of your office. When I think about a tree, I not only think about the ways in which it can help our society, but I also like to think of the interconnectedness within the tree. The way that the leaves rely on the roots; each relying on the insides of the trunk for transportation of nutrients back and forth throughout the tree, making the different aspects of the tree unified for the overall benefit of the tree.”


The Big Fish of Arkansaw, by Kim

Kim writes: .”The challenge of mastering southern dialect was extremely daunting for me. I had to put myself in the shoes of people I have often overheard in rural Arkansas towns, which was a new experience for me. In doing so, I saw the beauty and uniqueness of their speech.”


To Bear Witness, by Katie C

Katie writes: “Most compelling to me about Steward’s story is that she find answers to deeply personal questions through opening them up–I picture literally an opened book–to questions asked by others. Her emotional response to a dream dealing with the grief over her deceased mother becomes an intellectual endeavor in which she examines the bear as the archetypal depiction of wilderness. Though this transition is clear to the reader, what motivates “Dreams of Bear” is that the journey of discovery works in reverse for Steward. She begins by researching the biological, cultural, and ecological significance of bears in order to understand why one might appear to her in an unshakable dream. I thought that her search for a context by which to understand the bear–other than her own immediate and intimate context of bereavement–is similar to the search for friendship according to the definition given by C.S. Lewis: ‘Friendship begins at the moment when one person says to another: What? You too? I thought I was the only one!’”


Truth and Lies, by Forest

Forest writes: “I would have liked to have been able to address other issues with Harrington’s narrator, such as his presence as a physical being in the real world (supported by the fact that he claims he chooses the images in the novel and the ‘word of mouth’ descriptions he references on several occasions), and his relation to the audience as a character, as well as his relation to Harington himself. There was just no way that I could have found a way to portray all of these elements in a 2-minute video without it become super cryptic and confusing. But in the end, it’s a positive skill to learn to be able to refine an argument to its core for clarity’s sake.”


Thinking Like a Wolf, by Jonas

Jonas writes: “Leopold’s experience becomes the reader’s experience. The dying fire is then a reminder of what the reader has done either by killing the wolf, or by not acting to change or prevent the circumstances from becoming so dire that the death of a species was the chosen option. This is how Leopold’s story becomes a blanket statement over everyone that lives in an unsustainable manner. This is why, in my digital interpretation, the wolf’s judgment of the hunter’s ignorance is passed onto every person by my questioning the sustainability of his or her or my existence.”

A Closer Look at Winter’s Bone
November 17, 2012, 3:37 am
Filed under: Weekly Field Reports | Tags: , ,

The visual narrative, Winter’s Bone, intimately reveals the characters’ internal conflicts that manifests as a product of the disintegration of their environments. We follow Ree as she bravely steps beyond her limitations as a young adult and low social status to overcome her father’s mistakes and restore stability within her home. Ree’s desire to ensure the survival of her family drives her motivations to protect her household and their land. Her struggle against the social climate, portrayed by the shockingly aggressive and enigmatic familial hierarchy, is contrasted by her nearly animalistic drive for truth that embodies Ree’s character.

Winter’s Bone stimulates an intriguing contrast between the social and natural environment. Human nature, and indeed eco-criticism itself, is delineated through the weaving of cultural and environmental dependencies to define a state of well-being. While we may depend on social constructs to guide our choices and ideals, we cannot deny our reliance upon the natural world and its significant influence upon our behavior.  In modern day, the divide between culture and the environment is portrayed as vast. Ree’s story, however, highlights the importance of attaining navigational expertise both within her social environment, as well as her physical setting. It is the integration of the two worlds, her family and the woods, which ultimately defines Ree’s identity, and allows her to maintain the strength necessary to endure hardship.

Ree’s mission to find her father, dead or alive, can be compared to that of a pioneer’s quest. Rather than take the traditional highway to reach her destinations, Ree often chooses to walk through the woods, which is symbolic of her willingness to stray from the expectations of her patriarchal, extended family. Undaunted by her own lack of experience, or in-superior sex, Ree demands the support of her relatives and thus navigates unfamiliar and arguably uncharted territory of her social environment.

Towards the beginning of the film the visual transition of Ree’s search for her father highlights both the pioneer qualities of the film, as well as the hierarchal structure of her family’s influence, and Ree’s place within it. Although she is met with resistance and aggression in every instance, Ree requests help and viewers find that as she ascends the mountain, she is met with thickening distain and an unwillingness to engage with Ree. Much as a pioneer may encounter intensified foreign dangers as they persevere farther from home, Ree’s determination to reach her goal brings her closer to danger. Yet, the continual images of the forest and her interaction with the land reminds both Ree and the viewer of the support her own environment lends Ree as she struggles to help her mother and siblings.

Indeed, Ree’s relationship with the land is portrayed as crucial to her family’s survival, as Ree’s “downtime” is often depicted as teaching her younger siblings how to hunt and, ultimately, how to feed themselves. Understanding Ree’s dependency on the natural landscape, her fear of losing their home is legitimized.

We might wonder how Ree would classify her relationship to the environment. Or conversely, is her connection so innately intertwined within the construct of her survival that she is unaware that it exists?

The film ends with the dramatic, and admittedly traumatic, conclusion of Ree’s bravery at its finest- retrieving her father’s hands as proof of his death from the depths of the lake. One might consider this finale to be the convergence of Ree’s ultimate struggle, facing at once her social fears, (acting as the caregiver within her family, being forced to making financial decisions, and worst of all, caring the weight of her fathers murder upon her shoulders) as well as delving into the ambiguous and terrifying environment that concealed the proof she so desperately needed. While most heroic idols of our generation are depicted as transcending hardship, Ree’s struggle illustrates the very opposite; the act of digging deeper into the depths of despair and mortality, and indeed into nature itself, to triumph her demons.

As Ree must disfigure her father in order to achieve her emancipation from him, we are left to ponder the significance of interdependence, and its benefits or possible negative influences (both in our social and natural environments).

Please Don’t Shoot the Sasquatch
November 9, 2012, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Weekly Field Reports | Tags: , , , ,

The Legend of Boggy Creek was definitely an…interesting few hours of my life, to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Megashark vs. Giant Octopus. But I think it’s safe to say that before too long, it will probably be up for a re-release in 3d. The film has a fantastic cast, featuring…

Matt Damon, from his glory days.


That girl from Twilight.

And a walking Wonder Bread advertisement.









On a more serious note…

The day after the screening of The Legend of Boggy Creek, I happened to be shopping in a thrift store for a tie for some reason or another (Halloween!), and I heard the lady behind the counter say something about growing up in Fouke, AR. After finally finding a tie to my liking after a tedious 7-9 minutes of searching, I asked her if she had any experience or knowledge about the mystical Fouke Monster. At that point, she pretty much went to town on that conversation. I have no idea how long she talked for, but I can say that my ankles were sore by the time her recounting ended. I’ll spare the pages and just say that during her childhood, everyone she knew was terrified of the possibility of the existence of our new friend, the FM. According to Lady-Behind-the-Counter, the students in her middle/high school had a pact to walk home from school at the same time every day together to avoid being caught alone by the beast, and there were nights she wouldn’t sleep at all for fear of being mauled in the early hours of the morning. Even when recounting all of these experiences, years later, she seemed genuinely disturbed.

But I’m not sure how well this emotion is captured in the film. While it has some aspects of a horror flick, IMDb calls it a “documentary-style drama,” and the film definitely has some comical aspects to it, such as the magnificent soundtrack. It makes me wonder how the plethora of genres that this movie can fall into effects our viewing of it. Even though it’s based on true accounts and features a lot of the characters as themselves, the campiness of the horror aspect and the unnecessary comical additions make The Legend of Boggy Creek a b-movie. If only one genre had been focused on, would it make this movie more effective, or would we lose a vital chunk of the message of the film?

I also wonder how we’re supposed to receive our good friend FM. In some regards, he seems to be simply a misunderstood animal/man that seeks nothing more than human contact (narrator constantly says that FM can’t avoid civilization). On the other hand, sometimes the movie portrays him as actually having cruel intentions.

FM really Fouked this guy up.

If I remember correctly, Dr. Hagood touched on this during her introduction to the film (“What is the Fouke Monster trying to tell us?”). The actual characters in the film seem to have a pretty steady response to the “monster”, which is to either run and scream, or to shoot, then run and scream. If we’re lucky, occasionally someone will pass out. (Include here a shout-out to whoever asked Mark Spitzer this question, which he didn’t seem to answer particularly well…) Why would this violence be the go-to response? Is it included simply for the cinematic effect, or would people actually respond this way?  We spend a lot of time in ENGL 395 talking about conservation – normally the disregard for the environment comes from a monetary gain for those that hold power. It seems as though the people of Fouke would receive more publicity and money from not trying to kill the monster. I understand in some situations, when they thought their lives were in danger (such as it reaching its arm through the window to snag the guy off the toilet) that they might react violently. But there was a point in the movie when there was a full-on man(well, not quite)hunt for the FM, where all the menfolk and their dogs were literally scouring the woods with the intention of killing the great Monster of Fouke when (up to this point) he hadn’t done anything wrong – there was never an instance of a body being found. Maybe some livestock were slain, but if a coyote kills a few calves, does the whole town band together to destroy it?

Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to ask my newfound buddy Lady-Behind-the-Counter whether or not hunting the Fouke Monster was an actual reaction people had during his reign, or if she would have reacted in violence had she ever actually had an experience with him. Judging from her fear and fear of the unknown in general, maybe violence is the natural response to such a phenomenon.  We see it in all kinds of media nowadays – if the world gets visited by aliens, our movie-selves generally try to kill them rather than trying to find out if they were just stopping by for one of those famous Earth-burgers they’ve heard so much about. My general advice is if you see a sasquatch coming at you from a heavily wooded area, start by giving out hugs before moving on to bullets. (Actually, you probably shouldn’t hug the wildlife. But please don’t shoot it).

All he needs is a hug.

Fiction and Climate Change
November 8, 2012, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Further Reading

You might enjoy this wonderful interview on today’s Dianne Rehm show: Barbara Kingsolver talks about her new book, Flight Behavior, and the role of fiction in talking about climate change. In the book, a swarm of monarch butterflies, whose migration patterns are altered by changes in the climate, descends upon a town in Southern Appalachia. Some see it as a miracle, others a symptom of a diseased ecosystem, and others as an opportunity to attract tourists.

It came from the swamp…
October 27, 2012, 12:32 am
Filed under: Further Reading | Tags:


Please read on past this post to the excellent take on Spitzer, Leopold, and the recovery of gator  gar, brought to you by Elizabeth and Jonas. But, for those of you curious about the film we’ll be screening on Monday, here’s a sneak preview: featured on today’s edition of KUAR’s Arkansongs was a piece about The Legend of Boggy Creek‘s soundtrack. (Scroll down to find the Podcast). Enjoy!