Comparative Literature: Ecocriticism

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Indigenous peoples, Leslie Marmon Silko Pages: 11 (2776 words) Published: June 17, 2014
Ian Tsai 00121145
Professor Yauling Hsieh
Comparative Literature: An Introduction MEN60102
17 June 2014
Ecocriticism: Reconstruction of Indigenous Identity in
Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Syaman Rapongan’s Old Men of the Sea Impacted by Western cultures, Native American’s traditions gradually disappear. Similar to Native American, The Tao (達悟 Dawu) traditions are threatened by Han influences. To preserve indigenous customs, native writers either portray how dominant cultures impact aborigines or portray how native traditions do good for their lives. In Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and Syaman Rapongan’s Old Men of the Sea (老海人 Laohairen)1, both indigenous writers depict characters who confuse their identity when they are impacted by dominant cultures, that is, Western culture and Han Culture. However, when they reunite with nature, their traditions, and forsake main culture, their aboriginal identities reconstruct.

I. Ecocriticism: Definition of Culture and Nature
Ecocriticism is a critique of binaries such as man/nature or culture/nature, viewed as mutually exclusive oppositions. Concern the crucial matter of the relationship between culture and nature, ecocritics advocate the notion that nature really exists. Although nature is out there beyond ourselves, it actually present as an entity which affect us, and which we can affect, perhaps fatally, if we mistreat it (Barry 243). One related issue, which is discussed by ecocritics, is whether a distinction is deconstructed into self-contradiction by the fact that (like the nature/culture distinction) it is not absolutely and clear-out. As Wendell Berry wrote in The Unsettling of America (1977), “We and our country create one another, depend upon one another, are literally part of another…Our cultures and our place are images of each other, and inseparable from each other.” Our identities, or sense of self, for example, are informed by the particular place in which we live and in which we feel belong and are at home (Abrams 73). The other is growing interest in the animistic religions and of so-called “primitive” cultures, as well as in Hindu, Buddhist, and other religions and civilization that lack the Western opposition between humanity and nature, and do not assign to human begins dominion over the non-human world. Ecocritics in the United States concern themselves with the oral traditions of Native Americans and with the exposition of these cultures by contemporary Native American writers. The common view, it is point out, envision the natural world as a living, sacred thing, in which each individual feels immediately bonded to a physical “place,” and where human beings live in interdependence and reciprocity with other living things (Abrams 74).

II. Leslie Marmon Silko and Ceremony
Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. She is one of the important writers of the first wave of Native American Renaissance. Her important novels are Ceremony (1977), Almanac of the Dead (1991), and Gardens in the Dunes (2000).2 In Silko’s first novel Ceremony, the protagonist Tayo, a veteran who suffers from Posttraumatic stress disorder after fighting against Japanese in Philippines in World War Two. The trauma of watching his cousin Rocky dies, and of thinking he sees his uncle Josiah’s face among a crowd of Japanese soldiers he is ordered to shoot. Tayo also feels guilty about praying against the rain he utters in the forests of the Philippines, which he thinks is responsible for the six-year drought on the Laguna reservation. Although he accepts to be cured in a Veterans’ Hospital, he does not heal. Therefore, his grandma asks him to visit the traditional medicine man, Ku’oosh. However, the ancient ceremony that Ku’oosh performs for Tayo for warriors who have killed in battle are not applicable to his situation. Thus, Ku’oosh sends Tayo to the town of Gallup to...

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Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory. Great Britain: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.
Berry, Wendell. The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977. Print.
Chen-Hsing, Tsai 蔡振興. Shengtai Wenxue Gailun《生態文學概論》[An Introduction to Ecoliterature]. Taipei: Bookman. 2013. Print.
“Leslie Marmon Silko.” Wikipedia:The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 30 May. 2014. <>
Mei-Hsiu, Liu. “Syaman Rapongan.”Encyclopedia of Taiwan. 09 Sep. 2009. Web. 30 May. 2014
Silko, Leslie Marmon.Ceremnoy. The United States of American: Peuguin Books, 1986. Print.
SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Ceremony.” SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 30 May. 2014.
Syaman, Rapongan夏曼.藍波安. Laohairen《老海人》[Old Men of the Sea]. Taiwan: INK, 2009. Print.
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