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ROOP KUMAR BALASINGH - RECYCLING AND REVIEWING RELATIONSHIPS IN DAVID WILLIAMS' 'THE BURNING WOOD' - AN ECOFEMINIST PERSPECTIVE

ROOP KUMAR BALASINGH - RECYCLING AND REVIEWING RELATIONSHIPS IN DAVID WILLIAMS' 'THE BURNING WOOD' - AN ECOFEMINIST PERSPECTIVE

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Published by Sukla Ananta Charan
Published in the Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics 2006.
Published in the Journal of Comparative Literature and Aesthetics 2006.

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Published by: Sukla Ananta Charan on Feb 04, 2013
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09/21/2013

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RecyclingandReviewingRelationshipsinDavidWilliams'
TheBurningWood:
An
Eco-fe~inist
Perspective
ROOPKUMARBALASlliGH
OneofthetopicalfmdingsthatH.G.Wellshaddealtwith,acenturyago,inhis
TheTUJJ£Machine
(1895),presentstheargumentthattoomuchcomfortandaffluenceandanuncaringselfishheartthathasnoconcernfortheotherleadstoindolenceandretardationofhumanprogresstothepointofself-annihilation.Wells'sciencefictionmaybecomepropheticinmodemtimesfromtheunmitigatedstepsofdestructionoHheplanet'slifesystembytheso-called"rational"mankind,buttruly,asavageofcivilization.Theendingofhistime-travelevokesasenseofdismay,trepidationandhorroroverwhatourfuturegenerationsaregoingtohavetolivewith,ifeachoneofusisnotwatchfulandworthytoday:Thedarknessgrewapace;acoldwindbegantoblowinfresheninggustsfromtheeast,
...
Beyondtheselifelesssoundstheworldwassilent.Silent?Itwouldbehardtoconveythestillnessofit.Allthesoundsofman,thebleatingsheep,thecriesofbirds,thehumofinsects,
thestirthatmakesthebackgroundofourlives-all
thatwasover...Isawtheblackcentralshadowoftheeclipsesweepingtowards,me...
Thehorrorofthisgreatdarknesscameonme(emphasismine)
(Wells86).Thesinisterandgrimpicture<;>falifelessand"natureless"future,makingoneruminatedeeplyontheneedforeco-preservation,gainsgreatervalueastherecentpublishersofWells'bookconveytheominousfactthat"thisbookhasbeenprintedonre-cycledecologicalfriendlypaper.WhatWellsattributestoevolutionarysocialdisenchantmentcanbeextendedtotheplanetaryworldofmarginsandexploitationofthe"other;"thedangersofcorruptingtheearthanditsenvironmentisnodifferentfromthatextendedtomanandhishumanrelationshipsthatthreatenstodarkentheearth'scivilizationwiththethreateningpowerofself-generatedevil.Darknessisanarchetypalforce,anintimidatingand"phenomenally"destabilizingspiritualphenomenathatgivesgreatermeaningtolight.Darkness,paradoxically"illuminates"ourlimitations,whichwefailtosee,refusetorecognizeorevenworse,ignoretobeinstructeduponinthelightofday.Thepatriarchalprovidentialpowerofcreationhadoncesaid,"Lettherebelight;"hencedarkness,metaphoricorliteral,couldneverhave
J01tr1wl~fComparative
LiteraturesandAesthetics
VolXXIX'Nos1-22006
 
beenanagentofprogress.ButGod,nodoubtan"authority"onprogressbyparadox,inplacingthe"untouchable"amidstthe"touchables"inthe"paradiseofEden"neverwantedmantobeself-complacent.Eden,likeXanadu,wasinevitably,aplaceofmarginslikethe"promisedland"ofCanadato'immigrantsacrosstheoceans.AsevincedbyCanadianliteraryhistorianslikew.H.NewandR.F.Klinck,thelandofCanadaisamosaicof'wanton'wilderness,climaticextremes,painfulparadoxesandanassortmentofambivalences.TheCanadian'sviewofnature,bothhumanandelemental,isratherdifferentfromthatacrosstheAtlantic.AsimpliedbyMargaretAtwoodinher
Survival
(1972),caughtinthewebofanunfriendlynaturetheaverageCanadianmindrefusestoseeNatureasbenevolentandGodasaprotector,evenasitwantonlywishestoperceivebothas"tricksters."Thoughfeminismhasbeenaconsiderablypopularandmuch-discussedtopicontheliteraryagendaofallnations,theterm"eco-feminism"hassofarbeenassumedtobeanexotic,andpeculiarlyunrelatableareaofliteraryinterest(andsometimesanunpalatablenonliterarytopictosome)ofrecentoriginandrareinsight.Thebirthofeco-criticismfindsitsrootsinthebirthofenvironmentalliterarystudies,asmentionedbyCherryllGlotfeltyinhereditorialintroductiontotheanthology
TheEcocriticismReader:LandmarksinLiteraryEcology
(1996),inthemid-eightiesthroughFrederickO.Waage'seditorialcollectionofessaysentitled
TeachingEnvironmentalLiterature:Materials,Methods,Resources
(1985),basedonBarryCommoner'sfirstlawofecologythat"everythingisconnectedtoeverythingelse."Glotfeltygoesontoemphasizethat"varioussub-fieldslikeenvironmentalethics,deepecology,eco-feminismandsocialecologyhaveemergedinanefforttounderstandandcritiquetherootcauseofenvironmentaldegradationandtoformulateanalternativeviewofexistencethatwillprovideanethicalandconceptualfoundationforrightrelationswiththeearth"(xxi).JanisBirkeland,inheressay"Ecofeminism:LinkingTheoryandPractice,"appearingintheanthology
Ecofeminism,Women,Animals,Nature
(1993)editedbyGretaGaad,discoverseco-feminismtobe"feminismtakentoitslogicalconclusion,becauseittheorizestheinter-relationsamongself,societiesandnature"(17/18).Shedefmeseco-feminismas"avaluesystem,asocialmovement,andapractice,butitalsooffersa
politicalanalysis
thatexploresthelinksbetweenandrocentricismandenvironmentaldestruction[itbeginswith]...therealizationoftheexploitationofnatureandintimatelylinkedtoWesternMan'sattitudeto",:ardwomenandtrib~1cultures"(18).DavidWilliams'
TheBurningWood
(1975)isanovelofsuchconflictsbetweenMan,MatterandSpirit;betweenFundamentalistPuritanismintheformofGrandpaCardiffandthevitriolicAuntieBee,andtheprofaneandmarginalizednature'ssonsofthesoil,theCreeIndians,forcedtoapeandadoptawhitewayoflife.William'snovelpleadsfortheneedfortrust,acceptanceandaccommodativeinterrelationswiththeotherinaworldofinevitableinterdependenceandmultiplicitiesandrelativetruths.Thecentral~deais"caringfortheotheriscaringforself;anotionthatlendsreligiousconnotationstohumancoexistencewithhisenvironmentbothphysicalandspiritual."..8
 
Eco-feminism,atermthatWilliamswasprobablyunawarewhenhewrote
TheBurningWood,
isanareaofrecentinter-relatedliterarystudygainingcurrencyinthemodemglobalizedworldofwastesandwantonnessandisgreatlyconcernedwiththeexpositionofthemindlessmisuseandheartlessexploitationoftheearth'shumanandbiologicalresources.ItdemandsdignityanddiscretioninthetreatmentofNature,withwhichtheveryexistenceofmankindisintimatelybound.Thefeministictagtothetopicismoretoremindoneofthedomination,marginalizationandthepowerofpoliticsofdispossessionencounteredinthegenderbiasedhumanorder,andextendedtothenaturalorder,wheretheearthisenvisionedas"woman,"thefemalecreativeprinciple,thewomb,andverymotherhood.SusanGriffinin
EcofeminismandMeaning
emphasizesthefactthat''womenarenotbiologicallyormetaphysically
closertonature
(emph.mine)"(Warren213)notequaltonaturebut"essentially"theproductivepartofnatureevenasmanshouldhavebeenitsprovidingpart.Ecofeminismingeneral"beginswiththefactofnaturalexistence...[aiming]towardsnatureasareality...thatthesocialconstruction(exploitation,destruction)ofnatureisimplicitinandinseparabletromthesocialconstructionofgenderpointsouthowuncaringmanplaysthedominantanddestructiveroleofthepatriarchalpowerofdominationandexploitationofthe'other'inaworldofinterdependentrelationships.Eco-feminismisthereforethevoiceofacombinedhumanandnon-humanminorityprotestingagainsttheabuseoftheessenceoflifeinthepainfulrelationshipbetweenmanandhisenvironment.Itstressesmoreonthewaysandmeansofstabilizingandsustainingtheearth'sfastdepletingliferesources.Careshouldbetakenagainstanyaffectivefallacythatshouldmisleadtheliterarycritictolookoneco-feminismasdirectlyandmerelyrelatedtogenderstudies.Thereforeinthestudyofeco-feminismcareshouldbetakennottobackgroundthechallengesoftheearthatthecostofafore-groundedmerelyfeministicfacyadethatfloutsandfightsagainstalldominatingandthreateningsourcesofauthority.Derrida'sbrilliantinsightthatneithermeaningnordefmitioncanresideinonewordalone,that"senseofthewordreliesonotherwords,allcontaininghistories,tracesofaself-containing,self-sustainingsystemresemblestheideaofanecosystem"(Warren216).TheworldviewofWilliams,andhispluralisticworldofinterdependentandconnectedmultiplicities,isnodifferent.AuthorityinthenameofthepatriarchalusurpationofleadershipandpowerhasbeenarecurrentmotifinCanadianfictions.Forexample,GabrielleRoi's
TheRoadPast
AltamontMargaretLaurence's
TheStoneAngel,
EthelWilson's
SwampAngel,
HughGamer's
TheSilenceontheShore"
HughMacLennon's
EachMan:SSon,
JamesReaney'splay
ColoursintheDark
andDavidWilliams's
TheBurningWood
and
EyeoftheFather
areafewamongmany.Manysuchwritingsspeakoftheexerciseofpowerwithinandacrossgenderandculture,andtheirmonopolizingandmarginalizingimpactinhumanrelationshipsbothpersonalandpublic.Ofthese,DavidWilliamsisawriterwithadifference.HisprimaryconcernisinestablishingtheparadoxoflifeespeciallytheCanadianprairielife,onanationalandglobal9

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